Ultima-inspired MMO Shroud of the Avatar goes free-to-play

Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues, the Ultima-inspired MMO developed by Richard Garriott's Portalarium, has gone fully free-to-play. The change comes just seven months after the game entered full release, and four years since it first became available as an Early Access game on Steam. 

"We are thrilled to open up Shroud to a larger audience of gamers," Garriott said in a statement. "We have removed almost all gameplay restrictions from our free players. Now those players can trade freely with other players, own land and play through the entire story! This means that you no longer need to make a purchase to have the Shroud of the Avatar experience!" 

The free-to-play update also brings in an "overhauled new user experience" with a dedicated tutorial section, "where we walk players through the game basics," executive producer Starr Long said. "These progress in a gated fashion so the players must finish learning a skill and utilizing it before they can travel to the next part of the tutorial. We’ve been working on this for several months and are excited to roll this out at the same time we are launching free to play." 

Shroud of the Avatar was a major crowdfunding success, drawing in nearly $2 million on Kickstarter in 2013 and more than $12 million in total. But it's not clear what sort of audience it actually has. The average concurrent player count on Steam has only surpassed 300 twice (including the Early Access years), but it's also available as a standalone game and Garriott told Eurogamer in July that the majority of the players access the game through the non-Steam client. He also said that Shroud of the Avatar had "many thousands" of monthly active users, and was "within shooting range" of tens of thousands.   

The newly free-to-play Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues client is available at shroudoftheavatar.com.