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Star Trek Online will be free to play by the end of 2011

While it’s not exactly boldly going where no game has gone before, Star Trek Online will indeed be exploring a new frontier by the end of the year: the world of free-to-play access.

According to Industry Gamers, the MMO based on the iconic science-fiction franchise will transition to a free-to-play model by the end of 2011. By doing so, it’s hoped that the game will find a greater audience in the U.S. and China.

After launching in February 2010, Star Trek Online was one of several Cryptic Studios titles acquired in May by Perfect World Entertainment, a Chinese firm that owns a number of free-to-play MMORPGs.

“Incorporating a free-to-play model into Star Trek Online enables any interested captain to explore the galaxy to his or her heart’s delight,” reads a statement about the announcement on the Star Trek Online website.

The decision to follow the free-to-play model was revealed during a conference call with Perfect World investors.

“This is going to be launched by the end of this year,” said Perfect World CFO Kelvin Lau. “I think [with the] free-to-play model we have a bigger potential in [the] US market and also in China market.”

Cryptic’s other MMO, Champions Online, is already is free to play.