The Secret World embraces the modern MMO business and drops subscription fees

 the secret world free to play

The Secret World came out half way through 2012 five years after it first went into full development. It was supposed to be the MMO that finally, after nearly a decade of World of Warcraft, changed what MMOs are popularly understood to be. This would not be a Star Wars: The Old Republic that simply added a patina of competent storytelling to the same old fetch quest and combat tree rigormoral. This would be a smart, challenging, and literary fantasy from the mind of Ragnar Tørnquist, writer and designer of The Longest Journey.

In many ways it was just that, but both developer Funcom and the game are struggling in the wake of its troubled release. It may have been better at realizing its lofty goals than Star Wars: The Old Republic, but like BioWare and EA decided to do, Funcom is dropping the monthly subscription fee from The Secret World. It is not going full free-to-play, though.

Funcom announced via The Secret World’s homepage that subscriptions to the MMO are now “optional.”

“That means that after buying the game you can play all of the heralded storyline and all content available right now without paying a monthly fee,” reads the update. This includes all four of the expansion updates released for The Secret World. A fifth update due in early 2013 will be made available for anyone that pays the full $30 for the game before Dec. 31.

People who keep their subscriptions to the game naturally get a number of perks, including an item that can be used once every sixteen hours that briefly increases doubles the experience you gain in fights as well as a discount on everything sold in game. Members will also get a free monthly gift, but Funcom didn’t elaborate on what that might be. Subscribers to the “Grandmaster” package get even more discounts.

Funcom’s solution is certainly more inviting than the non-subscription options and subscription-based premiums offered by BioWare in Star Wars: The Old Republic. That game’s switch to free-to-play proved so noisome to players that BioWare had to announce major changes to the new system within days of its release. Funcom may also be able to avoid some of the criticisms leveled at other games that have dropped subscriptions by not calling The Secret World “free-to-play.”