DC Universe Online, the MMO from Sony Online Entertainment, will become free-to-play on the PlayStation 3 and PC in October.
Sony Online Entertainment, the game’s publisher, made the announcement today. DC Universe will go free-to-play sometime late next month. The exact date wasn’t announced. For PS3 users the game will be a free download from the PlayStation Network Store.
John Smedley, president of Sony Online Entertainment, said the new business model isn’t in response to declining subscription rates but the way the company originally wanted to focus DC Universe Online, according to IGN. In August the game was reduced to only four servers so players would have an easier time encountering others.
Smedley told Massively:
I’m married, I have kids, and I have a stupid number of games that I play, and every month it adds up. That’s exactly the kind of thing that consumers are wary of when economic times are tough. Part of the future is giving players the ability to play and pay the way they want to.
The MMO based on the DC comics franchise released Jan. 11 for the PS3 and PC. Players can create their own character and team with either the good or evil forces of the DC world like Batman, Superman and The Joker.
At launch DC Universe Online retailed for $59.99 on the PS3 and $49.99 on the PC. The game had a required $14.99 monthly subscription cost in order to play. Bundled with the game was a free one month subscription. PC players could also buy a lifetime subscription for $199. There’s no cross-play between PS3 and PC players.
The game will earn revenue through micro-transactions. Players can buy in-game items, powers, account upgrades and downloadable content featuring game expansions.
With the new free-to-play model DC Universe will have three different tiers for players, each building off the previous one. Each level-Free, Premium and Legendary-get access to the entire game world and missions.
Free players are limited in gameplay options and benefits. They can create up to two characters and have up to 28 inventory slots. The free tier will have a cap on in-game currency and less chat options with other players. They also can’t trade items or currency with other DC Universe Online players.
Premium players are those that will have purchased at least $5 worth of in-game content when the MMO goes free-to-play or have a DC Universe account before the update. At the Premium level players can have up to six characters, 42 inventory slots, the ability to trade items and can voice chat with other players.
Legendary players must pay the $14.99 monthly fee. Lifetime subscribers will automatically be registered at the Legendary level.
The Legendary tier builds off the previous two levels and gives players much more content. Free downloadable content will be given to all players at the Legendary level. Players will be able to use up to 16 characters and have 63 inventory slots. Legendary players will be able to trade both items and cash with others. They can create and join player leagues. The Legendary level also won’t have a cap on in-game currency and will give players unlimited chat options with others.
Once Legendary players stop paying the subscription their account will revert to the Premium level and they will lose any additional bonuses exclusive to the Legendary tier.
All DC Universe Online players will have access to game updates, patches and the occasional free content packs. Both Free and Premium level players have the option to buy downloadable content. Each level can also buy more character, inventory, bank and auction slots.
DC Universe Online has had a rough time attempting to attract console gamers to the MMORPG experience. Earlier this year PS3 players couldn’t go online for more than a month because the PlayStation Network was hacked, forcing Sony to shut down the service.
Players also had to buy new copies of DC Universe Online. They couldn’t rent it or buy a used copy, because the game account was locked to the disc it was redeemed on. This was something most console gamers had never experienced before.
The game took almost six years to develop, costing Sony Online Entertainment more than $50 million. Smedley acknowledged the high development cost and said the free-to-play business model is the right one for DC Universe.
Smedley revealed that the game is more popular on the PS3, with three times the subscribers as the PC version. However many more PS3 players were interested in trying the game, but were turned off by the required monthly subscription fee. Smedley said free-to-play is a way to bring in those players:
From our perspective, the business model has evolved, particularly on the PlayStation 3. We got a lot of feedback from users who said they’d love to give this thing a try but [not] for the monthly sub attached to it. PS3 users voiced that very loudly, and we listened to them, and we decided to give this model a try. We think, long-term especially, it will be much more advantageous to the players.
To learn more about DC Universe Online and the upcoming changes, visit the game’s official website.
Watch the game’s trailer:
UPDATE: Lorin Jameson, executive director of development for Sony Online Entertainment, confirmed on the PlayStation Blog today that only Legendary level players paying the $14.99 subscription will be able to unlock Trophies in the PS3 version of DC Universe Online. It’s a requirement from Sony that only paid PS3 games can include Trophies. Players who already earned Trophies in the game still get to keep them even if they are a Free or Premium player.
He also confirmed that the physical retail version of the game is being discontinued. Players who own physical copies of DC Universe Online will also be able to play for free.
Photo by Sony Online Entertainment