In a move surprising to some (and even me for a different reason,) SOE is electing to grandfather existing EQ2 characters who are currently locked down by the race and class restrictions of Silver accounts. (Link, Discussion & Massively news item.)
The details: Any character created before 12:01AM on 12/06/2011 will get race/class restrictions lifted, and former subscribers who purchased race or class unlocks between 12:01A< on 12/06/2011 and before 4:30PM on 12/08/2011 will get their purchases refunded. This does include me, so I am happy with the call. Not mentioned are character slot restrictions, so I assume that means that those restrictions will not be lifted. This is not live yet (as far as I can tell on my account) but word is it will be in place as of tomorrow’s patch.
There has been a great deal of sound and fury over the last few days on this issue; returning vets wanting to check things out under the new regime logged in only to find every character locked and left pissed off. I don’t endorse the worst of the entitled whining that ensued, but I do understand how the way it was working was a powerful disincentive to coming back. In other words, if the subscription plan wasn’t working for you before, nothing has changed about it, and so it will likely continue to not work for you. And the free/Silver plan might require you to shell out a significant amount of money just to get logged in and check things out.
I myself was in a semi-fortunate position, in that the two characters I had spent the most time with are in free races and classes. As it stood before the announcement, I would have had to spend quite a lot of money to free up all my characters and still get upgrades and the like. Assuming that the number of character slots I have today will carry forward, I am happy with this outcome. There are still issues with the way things are playing out with established accounts, but this is an equitable step and a good example of SOE trying to do the right thing.
As for the reason it’s surprising, SOE is a weird company sometimes. One moment they seem incredibly torpid, and the next they’re reacting to player demands with immense agility. One month they seem to ignore near-universal feedback and the next they’re paying too much attention to what players are telling them. It’s like the best company in the MMO business and the worst are both operating out of their offices.
Regardless, though, this is the right thing to do. The subscription remains as attractive as it ever was, and the whole idea behind freemium is to get people in and playing and spending a little bit here or there that they would otherwise have been prohibited from spending under the sub-only model.