In a bold, unexpected move, SOE announced today that EverQuest II will be free-to-play...on some servers. It's a bit confusing, so allow us to break it down for you. EQII's existing subscription model will remain completely unchanged on existing servers, but in addition to them , SOE is launching new servers that will house an "EverQuest II Extended" version of the game that allows anyone to download the client and play through all of the content up through, and including, The Shadow Oddyssey expansion for free.
While the content will be free, some races, classes, and spell tiers will be locked to Extended edition players and need to be purchased separately. In addition, the usual potions, items, and boosts will also be available in the cash shop. In addition, New Halas, the newly refined starting zone will also be available to players who choose the free-to-play route.
The most unique aspect of this jump to free-to-play, that really separates it from LOTRO and DDO's optional subscription models is that the two versions of the game (live subscription and Extended edition) will be housed on completely separate servers. For all intents and purposes, they can be considered two unique games. Existing subscribers will be given the option to "copy" their character to the new realms, but there will be some limitations on what gear/item will be copied with it to ensure there isn't massive inflation on the new free-to-play servers. Players that do copy will keep their existing character on the live servers and the two characters will level up completely separately. The beta is scheduled to go live August 17 , so free-to-play servers will be up then. There are several types of payment options on the Extended servers, click the image below to see a full-sized breakdown of how all the different account types will work.
In an exclusive interview this morning, Producer Dave Georgeson told me that he's very exited about the potential for the free-to-play version of the game to grow the player base rapidly and told me that the existing subscription players have been clamoring for it for a while. But the same players also insisted that these players be kept entirely separate from existing players who want to pay a subscription and level up their characters in a completely cash shop-free environment, which fueled the decision to launch new servers for the Extended version of the game. He expects both versions of the game to exist side-by-side indefinitely, and while not opposed to merging the two types of servers sometime in the distant future if players demanded it, the current plan is to keep them separate forever. While he wasn't sure if this sort of business model is the future of the entire MMO industry--he told me that if he was launching a new MMO, he'd probably try a subscription model first--he knew it was right for EQII at this time, calling it a "giant trial version" that removes any barriers for players who were on the fence about giving EQII a try.
We couldn't agree more. With so many quality MMOs on the market, its tough for gamers to try them all out without throwing down a massive wad of cash. Every gamer wants something different out of their MMO, and the more MMOs that offer a free-to-play version to let gamers find out which MMO is the right one for them, the happier everyone will be!