Sony Online Entertainment's flagship MMO EverQuest II is hopping on the freemium bandwagon. SOE has issued a new price structure for the game called EverQuest II Extended that now includes Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum payment tiers. Users who previously paid a monthly subscription fee for EverQuest II access are now Gold-level customers. EverQuest II Extended will support an in-game shop where players can buy virtual goods including content, equipment, and enhancements.
The new Bronze tier allows anyone to play Everquest II for free with restricted access to game content. Bronze users can purchase SOE's Station Cash virtual currency to add new features and virtual goods to their accounts through microtransaction purchases. Bronze users have full access to the game's basic content and full voice chat support, but only two character slots, eight playable classes, spell access that stops at Adept tier, and no access to Legendary and Fabled equipment.
Bronze-tier characters have only two bag slots, can carry only 5 gold per level, may receive but not send in-game mail, no shared bank slots, only 20 active Journal quest slots, restricted access to the broker system, restricted access to in-game chat, may not create guilds. In addition, Bronze-tier players cannot access real-time customer support and will experience frequent in-game account upgrade pop-up ads. At any time, a Bronze-tier player can upgrade to Silver-tier for a one-time fee of 1000 Station Cash ($10).
At the Silver tier, players gain another character slot and access to Expert-tier spells. Silver-tier characters gain an additional bag slot, can carry 20 gold per level, gain 2 shared bank slots, 40 active Journal quest slots, unlimited access to in-game chat, and the right to create guilds. To move up to the Gold tier, players must beginning paying the $14.99 per month subscription fee. At the Gold tier, players can access all playable classes, all equipment grades, all spell tiers, and get 7 character slots.
Paying To Play
Gold-tier characters have 6 bag slots, no limitations on gold carrying, can send in-game mail, have 8 shared bank slots, 75 active Journal quest slots, and unlimited access to the broker system. Crucially, access to real-time customer support and the removal of in-game account upgrade pop ads only begins at the Gold account tier. The new Platinum tier appears to be a payment option intended for major fans of the game, asking users to pay a lump sum fee of $200 for one year of game access.
Platinum-tier players gain access to a monthly stipend of 500 free Station Cash and 10 character slots. Where other player characters are capped at level 80, Platinum characters are capped at level 90. Only Platinum-tier players gain access to the Sentinel's Fate expansion content. Curiously, SOE says that the Extended version of EverQuest II will run on completely different servers than the subscription-only version of the game.
Longtime players will have the option of continuing to play on subscription-only servers or moving their accounts to Extended servers for a one-time $35 transferral fee. The Extended version of Everquest II will use a Web-based installer that lets a new player enter the game after only a very brief wait, while the rest of the game installs in the background. Right now Everquest II Extended is in closed alpha testing.
It's clear that SOE is hoping a freemium version of their game might boost its profile, the way the freemium version of Turbine's Dungeons & Dragons Online caused a massive jump in that game's popularity and profitability. SOE is creating its service in a very different way than Turbine did, though, by segregating the Extended and original subscription players. It seems SOE is trying to hedge its bets and see how the EverQuest II community takes to the concept.
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