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Sega outlines Phantasy Star Online 2’s risky free to play model

Polish up them mags, son, because Phantasy Star Online is coming back! As reported at the end of March, Sega is bringing Pantasy Star Online 2 to nearly every gaming device under the sun over the next twelve months, including Android phones, iOS handhelds, PCs and Sony’s PlayStation Vita. What’s more, Phantasy Star Online 2 will be entirely free to play. Considering that free to play means many different things to many different games, Sega detailed this week just what it means when it says that PSO2 is free.

In this week’s Famitsu magazine (via a translation in Kotaku), Phantasy Star Online 2 producer Satoshi Sakai promised that even though his game will be free to play, that doesn’t mean the meat of the experience will be sealed behind a pay wall. “We are seeking to create a business model that functions while still allowing PSO2 to remain as much of an enjoyable experience as possible. There is nothing that requires payment that will take away from the intrinsic game experience if they are not purchased,” said Sakai, “By allowing a well made game like PSO to be accessible to more people, we felt that we had a chance to teach people, ‘This is what RPGs are supposed to be like.’”

What will players pay for? Light character and game space upgrades—PSO2 players will have their own rooms—as well as additional storage and trading options with other players.

People spend a whole lot on virtual goods in free to play games. Juniper Research found that revenue from the sale of virtual goods totaled more than $2 billion in 2011 and will grow to just under $5 billion by 2016. Phantasy Star Online 2 could bring Sega some much needed cash flow, especially considering how poorly the company’s done in recent months. It’s still an incredibly risky move to develop a game for platforms like Vita that require almost no monetary investment from players.

Sakai doesn’t seem to concerned by the risk though. “I honestly think Sega is the only maker that is willing to go this far. Even if we fail, if we can get people to say ‘They were five years ahead of their time’ then I’ll have no regrets. I believe that there’s meaning in the challenge itself.”

Who cares that the man is making a game where grown men will likely walk around as pig-tailed anime girls fighting space lizards! Sakai has a vision and that’s admirable all on its own.

Phantasy Star Online 2 is expected out this fall on PC, with other versions to follow in 2013.

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