Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dungeons & Dragons Online is free! Well, mostly free?

I haven’t thought about Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) for awhile. I had a brief interest in it when it was released in early 2006, but mixed reviews and the fact that I was already invested in City of Heroes made me decide to save myself $15 a month. So despite some interest, I was never really interested enough to check it out.

Offhand, I would say that party is fucked. That will probably change with the Eberron Unlimited update coming out later this summer. A number of things are packaged in this update, including raising the level limit to 20 and the introduction of a new class. Really though, all anyone is going to talk about is that it will open up the option to play for free.

Yes, that’s right, you can play for free.

Are there caveats? Of course there are. While it is true there is no fee for playing the game, there is an incentive to get Turbine Points.  Turbine Points can be used at an online store to purchase items, premium adventure packs, extra character slots, hirelings, potions, and more.  Certain benefits, like a premium adventure pack, will apply to all of your characters, while others, like items, are bound to the character who purchased them.

So how do you get these Turbine Points?  Well one way is to play.  As you play, you will earn a certain number of Turbine Points.  The other way?  Hand over the plastic.  Yep, DDO will accept credit card or PayPal in exchange for Turbine Points at the online store.  There is also a third method.  You can choose to pay a $15 a month subscription gee to become a VIP member. VIP members get access to some exclusive content as well as a stipend of Turbine Points each month.

I know people will be split on the “pay for loot” aspect. My wife is a hardcore MMORPG player, and she would consider this cheating. She prefers to earn her perquisites through online play, and would be annoyed that a newbie could buy top equipment with real world cash.

On the other hand, my friend Brian has often wished that this feature existed on City Of Heroes in the past.  He is a casual MMORPG player and sees no reason he should be locked out of content just because his work and family obligations don’t allow him the luxury of gaming 20 hours a week.

I am choosing to look at it a third way. Dungeons & Dragons Online is letting me try their product for free for as long as I want. Sure, I might not get everything that the player who spends $15 a month or dumps $100 on the online store. That doesn’t matter because I can simply try it out and see if I like it with no obligation. If I really like it, I will sign up for the VIP membership. If I want to play it casually, maybe I will just buy an occasional item from the store. Best of all, if I hate it, at least it didn’t cost me anything to find that out.


Scafloc said...

I am a little worried that a casual player will not be able to compete with a paying player, but apart from that, it seems like a wise business move. A large number of Korean and Chinese MMO games already use a similar model.