Over the past few years it’s become de rigueur for a new massively multiplayer online game to launch alongside a “free to play” business plan. Outside of World of Warcraft and a handful of other titles, the genre seems no longer able to support $10 to $15 per month subscription models, and for most publishers it simply makes more financial sense to recoup development costs by filling online worlds with subtle advertising and various aesthetic options that can only be acquired by shelling out real-world cash. With this in mind, it should come as little surprise that many existing MMOs have also followed the free to play route of late, most famously BioWare’s much-hyped Star Wars: The Old Republic.
This morning publisher En Masse Entertainment revealed that its flagship MMO, Tera, will ditch subscription fees at some as-yet-undetermined date in February. As with most games that transition from a subscription model to a free to play model, once Tera has completed the shift to its new revenue scheme the game will actually feature two key account types. Those wishing to play Tera for free can sign up for a standard account that will cost them nothing, and still features all of the game’s races, classes, dungeons and overworld zones. Unfortunately, the standard account does have a number of caveats — for instance, players with standard accounts will have to wait longer to re-enter dungeons, and are charged heightened brokerage fees on items they purchase — in comparison to its big sibling, the $15 per month Elite account.
The Elite account, for those still willing to pay for an ostensibly free game, offers the most expansive Tera experience new players could hope for. Plunking down a wad of cash each month grants players a special in-game mount, an extra 10 daily quests and access to the game’s inventory of consumable items, among many other things.
You can find a full rundown of the various account options coming to Tera on the newly-published free to play FAQ on the game’s official website. The FAQ answers every possible question one might have regarding Tera’s transition to its new business model, and it should be required reading for anyone currently enjoying the game or hoping to join the fantasy world in the near future.
Most impressively, we’re happy to report that none of the bonuses offered to Elite players seem as if they’d drastically affect game balance. Barring further information to the contrary, it seems as if En Masse has devised a way to reward paying customers without penalizing everyone else. Granted, there are daily XP bonuses offered to Elite players, and they do concern us a bit, but since they’re not permanent (or even long-term) boons they don’t seem likely to upset the game’s competitive status quo. As we’ve seen time and time again finding this balance is no easy task as there are few things that rankle MMO players more than the revelation that the rich kids always win, even in their online fantasy world of choice.