Turbine announced today that since the move to free-to-play, D&D Online has gained over a million new players and doubled the number of subscribers paying $15 a month. Revenue has apparently increased 500% since the relaunch. There’s a story on it HERE at Massively, and Syp over at BioBreak expressed admiration; even Syncaine made some backhanded compliments.
Up until relatively recently, there’s been substantial reason to trust in the “you get what you pay for” maxim in the world of MMOs. As Syncaine bluntly implies and which I will state outright, the vast majority of free-to-play titles are almost unbelievably wretched, and those which aren’t tend to not strictly stick to the free-to-play model (in the case of Guild Wars, for example, you still need to buy the box to play.) For other examples of non-terrible titles you need to reach into the ranks of games targeted at young children – the Wizard 101s of the MMOGiverse.
FTP games which aren’t festering piles of excrement are a relatively recent development, and I think you have to credit Runes of Magic for being the first FTP title marketed in North America that compares favorably to subscription titles, most of which in contrast seem to be fairly good at least somebody’s definition. Anarchy Online should maybe get some credit, but that seems to be be flying well under anybody’s radar, and doesn’t seem to have inspired emulation when it went FTP in 2004.
Now we have a new title in Allods Online, which is also of comparable quality to western subscription MMOs. But it’s suffering from serious monetization issues that may cripple it in this market, particularly when we have the expertly managed example of DDO to compare it to. So rock on, Turbine. Keep showing the rest of the industry how to do FTP games right for the western market.