Unlike the rest of the video game industry, which has been enjoying prosperity and growth, the MMO market has been struggling. Sure, there are still games like World of Warcraft and its millions of players, but even the golden child of the MMO explosion in the mid-2000s is losing players at an alarming rate. Blizzard is still getting subscriptions, though, which is something that smaller games in the genre have had a lot more trouble with.
The typical solution for dwindling MMO subscribers in the past has been for developers to abandon the pay-per-month model altogether, often making the main game free to play while leaving micro-transactions in-game in the form of various vanity items or pets. Now, another MMO is looking to revitalize its player growth by joining the ranks of those that have made the transition to a F2P model.
Carbine Studios announced that Wildstar is officially free-to-play as of today, after spending the last few weeks refining the game’s new model on test servers. Although a subscription is no longer required, those players who spent time playing the game before this change will get various rewards to repay them for their loyalty to the fledgling MMO. Wildstar was in development for seven years before its release in 2014, and spent just over a year with its subscription-based model before making the change.
As if often the case with MMOs shifting their business model, Wildstar will also be making other changes to its in-game play. This will include a new in-game currency for players to earn, a simplified combat stat system, improvements to both the character creator and the tutorial in anticipation of an influx of new players, and many more upgrades, all of which are detailed on Wildstar‘s official website, along with a new launch cinematic.
These changes come to a game that was designed from the very beginning to be a direct competitor to World of Warcraft‘s current state of design, rather than simply having a better launch than the original World of Warcraft did in 2004. Carbine Studios had a very clear idea of what it wanted in its game, and upon the title’s release, it seemed like it might’ve managed to create a compelling take on the MMO genre. Unfortunately, Wildstar housed a flawed end-game that turned many players away.
So far, Wildstar has encountered the same problems that countless high-profile MMOs have dealt with before. But Wildstar‘s unique blend of quirky graphics, and devotion to loot being critically important to its players, puts it in a spot the other games haven’t been, and in removing the paywall, perhaps Wildstar is set to challenge the Big 3 from a new angle.
Do you play MMO games? Does a game going free-to-play make you more or less likely to play it? Let us know in the comments.
Wildstar is now free-to-play, available on the PC.