Lord of the Rings Online is free to play
Lord of the Rings Online will soon cost you nothing to play. The new Middle Earth will have a cash shop to monetize "expansions, quest packs, items, and account services," and they're offering a subscription service that'll hook you up to everything for "one low price". They're also testing it in an open beta that you can sign up for here.
Players who are utterly new to LotRO will get a 'free account', with a limit on in-game gold (that you'll be struggling to hit early on unless you're a gold farmer). If you buy some items, you'll be upgraded to a 'premium' account, with a much higher gold limit. Finally, if you're a subscriber, or if you've ever subscribed, you'll be a VIP - no gold limit whatsoever, and a bundle of free points for each month you subscribe.
But what's going to happen to lifetime subscribers? These are players that bought a lifetime subscription for hundreds of pounds, fronting the money for Turbine to keep working on the incredibly content-rich patches and the two expansions so far. I dug into the newly established Free to Play discussion forum in the LotRO community, where early adopters and recent lifetimers were asking just that. The answer is pretty heartening.
The more things change
DNote, a community liason for Turbine, responded to one lifetime subscriber's worries by confirming that "[Lifetime Subscribers] will receive 500 points per month (plus some free points to get you started from the loyalty rewards). This won't buy everything in the shop every month, but you should be fine, I'm not aware of any "must have" items in the shop for VIPs." Current regular subscribers can keep paying their subscription and get the 500 points every month too.
At first glance, it looked like Turbine were shafting their most dedicated fans, but it looks like they're doing the opposite. Since the LotRO store will sell the current expansions, in theory, if you save your 500 points every month, you can buy future expansions with them. Lifetimers are getting even more for free, and that is how to treat your players right.