The genre of freemium games has grown so exponentially over the past few years that some of the major players in the video game industry have decided to join in the fray. One of the largest of these titles on the horizon is online RTS developed by Gas Powered Games and Robot Entertainment, Age of Empires Online. This simplified rendition of the classic Age of Empires strategy series just recently entered open beta, and Microsoft Game Studios confirmed that the full release will be sometime this fall.

Age of Empires Online, much like Battlefield Play4Free and the rumored Call of Duty Online, is entirely free to play, with one small stipulation: extra content will cost you. The freemium model is nothing new, and has proven very successful for many MMOs on the market, including Dungeons and Dragons Online as well as Lord of the Rings Online. There are three different kinds of content players will be able to purchase: civilizations, boosters and empire extras.

The following is the official description of each content pack that will be available in the full version of the game:

  • Premium civilization packs offer an enhanced experience for your favorite civilization, including new gear, advisors, workshops, and PVP features.
  • Booster packs offer specific new features or storylines.
  • Vanity packs offer new items and historically themed architectural pieces for players interested in the ultimate level of customization for their Capital City.

One thing that the developers have made sure they get across is that this game will not contain the oft-reviled “microtransactions” of other games, but instead “premium content packs.” Some may say this is nothing more than semantics, although it appears that the content packs will contain some hefty additions to the online title. Of course, they’ll have to, as Microsoft plans on charging between $5 and $20 depending on the pack.

When the game does release this fall, it will be available as both a digital download and a boxed retail starter kit. The starter kit will contain a premium upgraded civilization and other unannounced bonus content.

Have you tried the open beta for Age of Empires Online? Could you see yourself paying upwards of $20 for additional content?

Expect to see Age of Empires Online this Fall, exclusively for PC and Games for Windows LIVE.

Source: Eurogamer