Yesterday morning’s post pretty much covered my concerns about Age of Conan’s upcoming conversion to a free-to-play hybrid. This one discusses what I like about the change. The last post may not have made it apparent, but I think this is going to be a big and positive shift in the trajectory of Age of Conan. Here’s why.
- I’m a supporter of the current free-to-play movement in general; not of the Asian freebie grinder/moneysink model, but of the high-quality western MMO that you can play at your own pace and throw a few bucks at when needed. Yes, there’s some truth to the idea that these games are high-quality because they were developed under subscription-only models, but I dismiss that as irrelevant, since I’m not going to argue that the subscription thing is dying.
- In every case the conversion of a traditional MMO to free-to-play has increased populations… in most cases dramatically. The boost it’ll get will do a lot of good even if it’s a modest one.
- Going by Elementalistly‘s tracking effort, Age of Conan’s current numbers are good but not spectacular – comparable generally to the already free-to-play DDO, However, some servers have low population, and this will help with that.
- Alongside the F2P change we’re getting a server merge to six servers: one each of PvE, PvP and “hardcore” (Blood & Glory) for each of NA and EU. This is a unique server merge, though, in the sense that it’s being done in anticipation of increased player numbers rather than in response to decreased population. Funcom’s improved Dreamworld architecture allows for much high overall population caps per server, so servers are going to be segregated by ruleset rather than arbitrarily dividing the player base that wants to play under each ruleset.
- Personally, I think last year at this time would have been the best time for a F2P launch if all other factors were equal. But they’re not – because the movie is coming in August, the couple of months surrounding its release becomes the opportune time. Funcom is not generally thought of as good at maximizing things like product exposure, but this summer will see a genuinely massive push – and now we know why they’ve been so quiet for the better part of a year. We already have a content patch that went up a couple of weeks ago with new instances, and this summer we’re getting free-to-play, a movie tie-in, a huge “Adventure Pack” that’s pretty close to a full expansion, and the launch of the Blood & Glory “hardcore PvP” ruleset. It’s not guaranteed, but don’t be all that stunned should AoC suddenly seem to be in competition for EVE or LotRO numbers in the second half of the year.
- The specific model that Funcom seems to be going with is kind of a blend of the established LotRO/DDO type and the much less well-received EQ2X model. I am not enamoured with all the various points of it, but gameplay under it will be much less hampered than it is under EQ2X, where you begin to become crippled in the level 30-40 range due to the gear and bag limits.
I should point out one last thing in the interests of full disclosure. I will not be playing under the AoC free model. As I discussed previously, Age of Conan is my go-to subscription MMO at least until Guild Wars 2 comes out, which won’t be until next year. And I have a stack of time cards worth more than a year of premium time. So I’ll be subscribing and getting full access.