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Star Trek Online Going Free-To-Play In January 77

tekgoblin writes "Cryptic Studios, the developer of the Star Trek Online MMO, announced that they are switching to a Free-to-Play model on January 17th. Free subscribers to the game will be able to play, but will not get the same benefits as paying subscribers still get. Free accounts will be Silver, while paid accounts will be called Gold. Silver accounts will be able to pay for features that Gold members will get as part of their paid subscription. These features include but are not limited to respecs and extra character slots." EverQuest II is jumping on the free-to-play bandwagon as well.
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Star Trek Online Going Free-To-Play In January

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Come on Turbine, we need the people and there are so many things you could charge for. (Limit rank to paid accounts!)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 11, 2011 @06:21PM (#38030000)

    the Enterprise can only travel on impulse?

    No photon torpedo spreads - just one at a time - with the old and fat Scotty loading them?

    And the phasers will shoot out in the 'V' shape they always showed in TOS that in real life would have shot around the enemy?

    And the hand held phasers are always set to 'stun'.

    Spock is always in a state of Pon Farr and therefore is wacked out of his Vulcan mind!

    McCoy just says "I'm a Doctor! Not a [fill in whatever you need him to do]"

    God, I wish I owned that game! I'd nickel and dime the players until they were broke!

    • I can't say I'm particularly surprised, they were selling extras when I did a free trial a few months ago, and the players seemed to be buying them like crazy. It wouldn't surprise me if they were already making most of their money from nickel and diming the players.

      Now that the game is going free to play, I might go back to it. Ground missions were pretty lame, I thought, but I enjoyed space combat immensely.

      Of course, SWTOR is coming out soon...

    • I'm pretty sure a lot of Trekkies would actually pay for those things as realistic features...

    • McCoy just says "I'm a Doctor! Not a [fill in whatever you need him to do]"

      If you don't pay, he'll even say "I'm a Doctor, not a Doctor!"

    • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

      the Enterprise can only travel on impulse?

      Nope, it can go to warp.

      No photon torpedo spreads - just one at a time - with the old and fat Scotty loading them?

      Nope, you can fire torpedo spreads.

      And the phasers will shoot out in the 'V' shape they always showed in TOS that in real life would have shot around the enemy?

      Get different phaser emitters.

      And the hand held phasers are always set to 'stun'.

      To be fair, this is an alternate time line in the 'future' of Star Trek where enemies are running around with regen

    • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <> on Saturday November 12, 2011 @12:46AM (#38032666)


      Replace entire bridge crew with Orion Slave Girls - $5000

    • They only give you one color of shirt you can wear, and it's not blue.
  • This seems to work pretty well for their other title "Champions Online". I play it when I can and enjoy it immensely, even without the added features that a paid subscription brings me.
    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      Yeah, I've been playing it too and it's pretty fun. No idea whether they're making enough money to justify keeping it going though.

  • by suso ( 153703 ) *

    Let me know when it's pay-me-to-play.

    • One thing that's interesting about the economy is you can actually get nearly everything in game as a free player through dilithium mining. It takes a little more work, but for those of us with tight wallets it's a nice system. I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to switch to the free model or not.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Expansion packs are also worth buying in those free to play MMO. Buy a pack and get a whole host of gear, features and maps to significantly expand the free version, a middle ground between free and subscriber.

    • I'll pay you minimum wage to level up my character for me while I'm at work...

  • I don't play any MMOs but I'm told that MMOs changing over to free-to-play is usually a last ditch attempt to avoid canning the whole thing, which is almost always futile. Is this true?
    • Probably.

      I played it when it came out, and thought it was extremely boring after getting about 15 hours in. It was neat that it had combat both in ships and on the ground, but neither was great.

      My brother liked it a lot, but quit when he found out I was. I asked what was so great, and he just said "There's something extremely satisfying about going around and blowing up Klingons."

      I think my brother's statement sums up the game well. If you are a shallow person, and and love just blowing up Klingons becau

    • Re:it's dead jim? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @06:38PM (#38030202)

      The problem is that there are now roughly 300,000,000 different MMOGs on the market, and few people want to pay a monthly fee to each of them. If a game can keep a reasonable number of dedicated players but also bring in a lot of casual players who pay $20 every now and again then that's better than just giving up because you can't attract enough dedicated players.

      The hard part is finding the right compromise between making money and pissing off the free players with nickel and diming.

      • Re:it's dead jim? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @11:08PM (#38032226)

        The problem here may be that Champions Online did it all wrong, and it seems Star Trek Online may screw it up too. Ie, in Champions Online I have existing characters from when I did subscribe. But I can not play any of them without first converting them to "silver" (free to play) versions. That is I can only use a fixed set of archetypes with minimal customization. Sort of defeats the whole "build your own superhero" concept.

        Champions Online, and even Star Trek Online, seem well suited to this sort of free-to-play/subscription hybrid model. These aren't the sorts of games players are likely to make their "main" MMO. These are side games that you play now and then, because the story lines are shallow. You show up to just bash and zap things, then get that out of your system and go back to the main game for a few weeks. But the key to being a good free-to-play or hybrid game is to encourage the free players to pay money (subscribe or use the store). The best way I think to accomplish this is to make the core game accessible to free players but have the extras require money or subscription or grinding. But I felt too restricted from the core of Champions Online (customizing your own character) so I haven't gone back and I think they really screwed up a good opportunity. Not sure if Star Trek Online will stumble as well or if they have figured it out.

        That's why I think Dungeons and Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online do this well. You get the full game free, all the way to max level. You get a large chunk of leveling up accessible without being hit by a "you need to spend more points" until mid level. Some advanced classes may be restricted at the start. Some content needs more points but you can earn points in game as well. The main story line in LotRO is free, only the side quests and instances require questpacks. No one payment system is treated more special than any other and you don't know who is who so you can discriminate either. So the free player is treated with respect, they're able to actually play for free if they want, there is subtle encouragement to spend some money later on but you never hit a brick wall that stops you in your place, and the core game is accessible to all.

        Of course both of those games got a lot of pissed off players but much of that is either righteous indignation at the concept, being upset that subscribers aren't treated as special compared to free players, wishing there weren't any free players, misinformation about "pay to win", conflating points with cash, etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      According to Cryptic: "unique logins, concurrent users, and revenue totals have increased by "over 1,000 percent" since Champions Online went free-to-play"

      Champions Online is their other game.

      Disclaimer: I'm about to start a new job at Cryptic, but I don't have any inside information at this time.

    • In general, yes it is the last ditch attempt to keep the thing going, however so far it has proved far from futile for many title. Many have gotten quite successful with the F2P model.
      • To be accurate, it's not really the F2P model. It is a hybrid model. You can subscribe if you want or play totally for free or be in between by buying from the store or go back and forth between paying models. This distinguishes it from older F2P games that had no subscription at all and which generally have made a bad name for F2P. The hybrid tries to allow the F2P model without alienating subscribers or forcing subscribers to pull out extra cash.

    • Yes and no. I think LOTRO actually made lots more money going free-to-play, but I'm not sure how well it did before hand. Also, I know Valve said something about noticing massive profit uptakes after a game went F2P, pretty sure he was talking about TF2. I think companies use it to boost player count, after everyone who is going to buy the game has done so (usually giving those players some sort of advantage so they don't feel ripped-off - usually getting pay-for content free). It seems to work pretty well
      • by X3J11 ( 791922 )

        Yes, LOTRO has made considerably more money after going FtP. I'm a lifetime VIP ($200 at launch), and they've also treated us well, to boot. We get 500 "Turbine Points" for free every month, access to all original launch content and a bunch of other in-game benefits. We do still have to buy the expansions when they come out, but that's fine by me. My son also plays, and I've not begrudged spending a couple bucks here and there to grant him access to additional content and features. Considering his shor

      • DDO was on its last legs after some server merges when it went with the new hybrid F2P model, which was very successful. However LotRO was still going strong. Not as populous as the first year of course but it was in no danger of needing server merges. For the older players who left (which always happens in MMOs) there were new players taking their places. They even added new servers for the F2P rollout.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't play any MMOs but I'm told that MMOs changing over to free-to-play is usually a last ditch attempt to avoid canning the whole thing, which is almost always futile. Is this true?

      Not really. It's one of those things that "everyone knows" to be true, but isn't.

      Mostly you hear it from people who play a competing game that hasn't yet gone free-to-play. the best example I can think of was the reaction from certain players of City Of Heroes when Champions Online went F2P last year. They got pretty smug

    • I read in one of the development blogs (can't find the link, sorry) that they actually wanted to make STO FTP from the start, but the company they worked under wouldn't authorise it.
    • I used to think that was possible, but WoW released their earnings report last week. They lost 800k players, or about 1.7 million since this last expansion. They are actually up year to date despite of this.

      SWTOR will be the one to watch. EA has said they need 1 million subscriptions to break even and prefer 2 million. Right now only two pay-to-play MMOs are above the 1 million mark.

    • Generally, yes it true, though sometimes the F2P model seems to work. Number one thing a MMO's need is community, even if the game is currently profitable if the players feel there are to few playing (the whole "Massively Multiplayer" aka people to do things with) the game is doomed. Change that impression though and even with what many consider a low amount of players game can run profitably for years (See Ultima online) What many who try the F2P model and still go under rather quickly fail to realize,
    • Turbine's earnings skyrocketed once they went F2P with LOTRO.

      I fully expect the F2P with a cash store model to be the prevailing type of MMO in a couple years at the most. Zynga has demonstrated that micro-transactions can be enormously profitable, and there are many games that are seeing new life through F2P. As long as there isn't an obnoxious paywall, it seems to be only beneficial to a games popularity, and at the end of the day, an MMO without a good community behind it is going to fail regardless of

    • No, not at all (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @08:10AM (#38033994)

      While it is true that it is something games do when their subscriber base drops, it is often not a death knell but a new breath of life. One such game like that would be Dungeons and Dragons Online. The game never really caught on like some of the others, probably because it is kinda complex, as it's D&D heritage might indicate. So subscribers had been dropping for some time. They decided to go free to play.

      It didn't just save the game, it revitalized it, they have tons of players now and make plenty of money.

      Remember that free to play doesn't mean the whole thing is free. It means part of the game is free. Also it usually means you have two options in how to pay: Ala carte or monthly.

      In DDO there's a base part of the game that costs nothing. You CAN play without ever paying a dime, but it is rather restrictive in what you can do. Does mean that you can still play even if times are lean for you though. In terms of the rest of the content, and there is tons, you have two choices:

      1) Pay a monthly fee. For like $15/month you get access to everything. Works just like any "pay to play" MMO. You pay the monthly fee and can do anything you want in game. You get a few other goodies too like some points to spend in their online shop each month and so on. When you stop paying the fee though, the game reverts back to the free to play version.

      2) Buy the modules individually. When you buy a module, it is unlocked once and for all time. You don't need to pay anything additional to access it. The fee only gets you access to that module's content though, nothing else.

      Now when you look at it, it works out to about the same price. If you buy all new modules when they come out, you spend about the same as just having a monthly subscription that automatically gets you access to everything.

      However, it lets people pay how they like. I have a friend that plays it (hence how I know so much) and a major thing that got him in to it was the free to play thing. He got to try the game, no commitment, and then he gets to buy things when he wants. He doesn't like monthly fees, just how he is. With this, it isn't needed. Periodically he buys a pack of points, and then uses them on modules as he wants to play them. I don't know that he saves any money over a monthly fee, but he is willing to do it this way, not a monthly fee.

      Also it works for people who can't afford a monthly fee. Not everyone can afford $15/month on a game. Maybe a person can only afford only $15 ever 4 months. Well, a F2P game makes that work. They can buy a bit of game content when they want. No, they don't get the whole game but they get something. The company then gets to get some money, rather than no money.

      Now I'm not saying it is some magic system that saves any game, however it can, and has, worked really well. DDO went free to play in 2009 and has been going strong ever since.

  • by dslbrian ( 318993 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @06:39PM (#38030224)

    Free subscribers to the game will be able to play, but will not get the same benefits as paying subscribers still get.

    Most importantly, non-paying customers only get red shirts and generic names. They also have to be one of the first people to beam down to the planet, and the only sound they can make is the Wilhelm scream.

    • I was actually going to mention in an MMO like this subscribers could pay for higher rank (access to more areas), and free players would be forced to be ensigns with server assigned names.

    • However female non-playing customers get to be the one-episode love interest of the captain who will be forgotten afterwords.

  • A small review (Score:4, Informative)

    by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @07:18PM (#38030600) Homepage

    I used to play Star Trek Online. It had good potential, but felt rushed to market. The graphics were good, but the engine was inefficient in that it overly taxed the video card too much. Flying your starship around in space was fun. The starship battles felt like something out of Star Control. I absolutely loved it even if the starships never matched to true scale. It was easy to play with the mouse and keyboard, but yet required some crafty timing to take on more than one enemy at a time. At the time, I wish I could have walked the deck of my own starship in first person. I would have been better had there been co-op play where you could walk aboard someone else's ship to help them out with weaponry or engineering tasks in first person. Just a wish though.

    I stopped playing it though because the away team missions absolutely sucked. I bitched and moaned. It was about as useful as talking to a brick wall however. Though somewhat therapeutic at best. Anyways, great concept. Shitty implementation in areas of gameplay that matter.

    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )

      Anyways, great concept. Shitty implementation in areas of gameplay that matter.

      That sums up a LOT of things out there.. even non digital.

    • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

      The graphics were good, but the engine was inefficient in that it overly taxed the video card too much.

      I started playing Star Trek: Online when it was officially released, not in the beta. I run STO on a netbook and it's entirely playable, sure the GPU is maxed out, but it runs really decently, so I'm not understanding the problem?

      At the time, I wish I could have walked the deck of my own starship in first person.

      That was available in Star Trek Online just a week after release... How did you not see that?


      • I should know because I was so hyped up about this game that I purchased the Collectors Edition. It came with a cool com badge pin and all. For at least a month or two after initial release, you could never walk the deck of your own ship. You could upgrade the interior look when customizing the design of the ship. But again, to actually walk around wasn't an option when I was playing. This feature was rumored to have been any moment now. From what you've said, I can only guess it got enabled soon after I ca

    • Ya, it missed out on a lot of possibility. To do any real interactions you have to be on a star base. They could have done the same thing on a ship. However they fall into the problem that bites at most MMOs: everyone wants to be the hero. You can't have a 500 player ship with only one player being the captain who can give orders to everyone else (ok, sounds a lot like a raid but raiders are really in the minority of players I think). So they give every player their own ship...

      Other problems when I was

  • Over Saturation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bensam123 ( 1340765 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @08:11PM (#38031058)
    There are way too many MMOs on the market. I really don't think the problem is just a financial one. At first free MMOs were a big thing because they were, well, free... now the issue is completely different. I think most people are willing to pay for a game they like and enjoy and I think it doesn't matter if it's free to play or not (baring the whole gated f2p issue that makes the account relatively worthless).

    What I think is happening is it's coming down to time constraints. People can't spend a gajillion hours playing five different mmos. They have to pick and choose between one or two (at most) MMOs. Almost all MMOs have the same time grind system in place so it's impossible to just play them on a semi-casual basis and play other games along side of them. That isn't to say you can't, but you wont go anywhere fast and people generally lose interest if the entire game stagnates on them.

    It's not the payment model that is working against them, it's their game play models. This completely puts aside if the game is even good or their friends play it. Their very core is what is holding them back. It doesn't help that WoW has ground in very deeply to the MMO community the idea that the only good MMO is one with a painful leveling experience and the entire game happens at the end. Sadly I've only seen two MMOs that have sought to change this. One I played and it went under, Tabula Rasa, and the other is still in development so I can't comment on it, Guild Wars 2. MMOs can be so much more then just the grind and level system that holds onto players by dangling a carrot in front of their face. Developers really need to stop looking to linear answers to largely fundamental and abstract problems.
    • by Forbman ( 794277 )

      Try NetTrek... you can only reach Admiral status because, well, you can consistently blow up star bases with your puny scout.

    • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

      It doesn't help that WoW has ground in very deeply to the MMO community the idea that the only good MMO is one with a painful leveling experience

      I see you've never played Final Fantasy XI. Leveling in WoW is so easy, it's almost a joke.

  • I wish Final Fantasy XI would become free-to-play too. Or at least open source the servers or something.

  • except for the ones who feed on junkies they have trapped years ago and cant let go of their precious level 180 characters there's just too many f2p alternatives, and i can see why startrek would go f2p, i tried the trial once and it bored me out after five minutes or so ... probably directed at trekkies ... as of late DCUO has gone f2p and while its pretty brainless its kinda fun just hanging on the couch and hacking away at the do-gooders with a joypad. I have to admit i was sceptic at first but the game
  • The move to F2P earns a look from me. LOTRO lured me in with its F2P/hybrid model change last year and now I'm a monthly subscriber. The upfront box fee and mandatory subscription are obstacles to entry for someone like me with family and limited time. Unless a game gets stellar reviews from sites or people I trust I'm not going to spend $50+ just to try it for a month.

    An added benefit to a F2P/hybrid move is that server populations increase which adds energy and excitement for existing subscribers, too.

  • Not seen many good reviews about this game but i have always wanted to play it, if its free then i will

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!