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Sci-fi MMORPG WildStar is going free-to-play. Soon all players will be able to download and play the game without spending a dime.
"We place no restrictions on any of the game’s content," Carbine Studios said of the new business model. "Every zone, every dungeon, every raid, every battleground... they’re all available. All players will be able to create characters of every race, class, and path while choosing any tradeskills they like. Characters can achieve level 50 and path level 30, just as they can under the current system."
The previously mandatory subscription will become an optional Signature service. If you have any remaining game time, it will be applied toward this premium membership. Signature players will enjoy several perks like priority for server queues, higher caps on Auction House and Commodities Exchange activity, and faster progression. They'll be able to create and invite other players into Guilds and Warparties as well.
Carbine plans to sell optional "player services, convenience options, and cosmetic offerings" for money in time as well. They said in the FAQ for free-to-play that paid expansion packs are also being considered.
If you're a WildStar veteran, you'll get a few rewards after the free-to-play transition. Anyone who bought a copy of the game will have more costume, player and bank slots than a fresh F2P player. They'll also be able to play twice as many decor items at their character's home. Anyone who subscribes by June 15th and maintains that membership through the F2P transition will get the DJ Caretaker housing décor item, the Disco Snoglug companion pet, the new housing music track, four months of Signature service, and the "Nexus Loyalist" title. Players who have subscribed since launch will get those rewards along with an exclusive Ikthian Crawler mount and a "Living Legend" title.
Furthermore, active accounts will get Loyalty Points based on what version they purchased (Standard or Deluxe) as well as how many months of game time they bought. These points allow players to earn special items and perks. These rewards include progression bonuses that stack with the bonuses from Signature membership. You can find the full breakdown of rewards here.
Many subscription-only MMOs switch to free-to-play in order to increase the player count. That's the case with WildStar as well.
"Since launch we’ve listened to all of your feedback and worked hard to improve your game experience. Part of that goal has always been to bring more players in to experience WildStar, and that's what Free-to-Play is all about."
WildStar is built around group activities like raids and 40v40 War Plots. If players have trouble finding enough companions for these activities, they're less likely to keep playing. The free-to-play transition ensures an infusion of new players that will make large group endeavors more viable. This, in turn, makes the game more appealing to those willing to pay.
I enjoyed my initial time with WildStar but I can see why it had a tough time retaining a lot of subscribers. It seems like a game designed to peel away hardcore players from World of Warcraft but a lot of the folks who sank uncountable hours into WoW in its early years have grown up and started families. They're more inclined to play an MMO that either requires less time or doesn't require a monthly subscription. Meanwhile, WoW received an expansion pack in the fall so many of the players who defected to WildStar may have returned.