Cryptic has finally announced the date on which Champions Online will be going free-to-play, after a few months of “some time in Q1” being the only official word. That date is January 25th.
I figure the move to F2P was prompted by three things: continuing competition from the excellent City of Heroes, the impending launch of DC Universe Online, which hit today, and most importantly CO’s own underwhelming numbers. But the news breaking today was certainly an effort by Cryptic to steal away a little of DCUO’s thunder.
In any event, CO is a game worth playing, in my opinion. It’s not as mature or as feature-rich as CoH, but the gameplay, for my money, is a lot more fun, and it feels less grindy overall. And for the low, low price of free, you can’t go wrong.
Champions’ F2P plan is set up in two tiers, one for free players and one for subscribers (or Lifers.) Free players (Silver accounts) will have a number of limitations: only two character slots, no access to the Adventure Pack content unless they buy it in the store, only one costume slot per character, AH and resource caps, and one inventory bag slot. They’ll still have full access to CO’s very nice character/costume designer, although new costume pieces that can be unlocked by subscribers through play will need to be purchased via the store. The most important difference, though, is that free players won’t have access to CO’s customizable power sets. Instead, they’ll choose an Archetype, which is essentially a preset build and progression. This keeps free players out of one of CO’s best and most central features, but on the other hand, it increases accessibility by keeping players out of suboptimal builds.
Subscribers (Gold players) have all this stuff unlocked already, have more of all the limited stuff like character, bag and costume slots, and get access to Adventure Pack content included in the cost. Plus they get (and I’m very happy to see Cryptic doing this,) a stipend of 400 store points per month to spend on whatever. This was one of several looming gaps in SOE’s implementation of F2P in EQ2X – an incentive for people to actually subscribe and stay subscribed, despite an option to play for free. The whole arrangement strikes me as slightly less attractive than Turbine’s scheme for LotRO and DDO, but much more so than EQ2X.
Lifetime subscribers, by the way, are automatically Gold. As one of those who hasn’t actually logged in to CO for a couple of months, I will most definitely be checking things out as soon as F2P goes live to see how the population is doing and how the new, revamped store looks. And hell, it’s a fun game anyway, so I may as well get in some play while I’m at it – I left a couple of characters in the neighborhood of level 20, and it’s past time to move them upward and check out the Adventure Packs. Hopefully the move to F2P will revitalize Champions Online and make a minor player in the MMO market into a much bigger one, as a similar transition did for DDO.