TERA goes free-to-play: A look at the game and the business model

teralogoAre you seeing a trend yet?  An MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online Game)  releases, does well for it’s first couple months, and then before you know it, it’s free!  TERA is just the latest in a string of recent MMOs that has made the jump from paid subscription model to Free to Play (F2P).  I don’t blame companies for doing this, and it’s not a sign that the game is horrible because there aren’t subscribers, it just happens to be a proven business model that works.  Previous games like Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) went to a F2P model and actually gained more money than with subscriptions.

The idea is based on micro transactions.  Give gamers the ability to try the game out for free, hopefully get drawn in by the story or gameplay, and then give them the options to expand their experience for a few bucks at a time.  Want a quest pack for this new zone?  Sure that’ll be $5.   Want to gain access to riding a mount 10 levels early so you don’t have to run around on foot?  Well you’re in luck, because that’s only $3.99!  These are the type of transactions that have happened in previous F2P games such as LOTRO, but TERA is going to do it a little differently, according to the game’s executive product director, Eva Schmitt: “The content of the game will not be reduced…Players who start fresh with TERA now will have the access to the same content as those already playing, but those who have already played TERA before the Free to Play switch will of course be rewarded for their loyalty with certain benefits.”

When playing a MMO you feel invested in your character, because the more you play it the stronger it gets.  It gets harder to quit playing the longer you play because you don’t want to just ditch the time you’ve put in.  For this reason, companies that switch to F2P want to bring in as many new players as possible in hopes of retaining more players than they had before with a subscription.  It’s very easy for someone to spend more than the normal $15 per month on micro transactions because of how fast the small dollar amounts add up, and that’s what the company is banking on.

TERA_Slayer_04It’s a great model, because gamers get to try out games before they spend any money on them, and then they have the choice to spend as much as they want, without being forced to spend $15/month on top of a $50 game just to see if it’s worth their time, and companies get an influx in their player base, leading to players having more fun because there are other people to quest, chat, and trade with; and when this happens, players are more likely to have fun and keep playing, leading to the company making more money.

I played TERA when it first came out, I’m one of the people that took the risk and spent the money up front to see if it was any good.  I can say back when it released in spring of last year, it was a very fun game, but it didn’t draw me in and make me want to pay the subscription.  Now that it is F2P I feel like I could easily go back and give it a second chance, and hopefully you will try it out as well.  If anything, it’s worth the download just to try out the combat in the game.  For an MMO it is completely unique and a lot of fun.  It is more of a fast paced action/shooter type of combat, which relies heavily on skill, and less on a roll of the dice to see if you hit or miss.   This is what drew me into the game and kept me playing for that first month.  You have to dodge the enemy’s attacks, you have to aim correctly to hit them, you have to time your abilities so that they go off at the right time to do the most damage.  It’s a very fun play-style that is worth trying the game all by itself.

The game has great art direction, unique characters, and a very detailed and lush environment.  Questing can be a little monotonous, with a lot of the same “kill this monster X times” quests, but if you advance to the end of the game, you can experience a strong PvP experience and an in depth political system.

You can check out more about TERA by visiting their website, and check out the differences between their free and paid versions of the new F2P model here.

Here is the official announcement of the switch to F2P: