DCUO gets new life after going free-to-play

In a little over a week since changing the subscription model of "DC Universe Online" to free-to-play, local Sony Online Entertainment boasts a 1,000 percent increase in players, heralding a new start for the comic-book-based massively multiplayer online game.

“'DC Universe Online’s' transition to free-to-play has been welcomed by the community and gamers with heroic enthusiasm," according to a statement from Lorin Jameson, executive director of development, Sony Online Entertainment Austin. "In just one week alone, 1 million new players have joined 'DCUO' with a 50/50 split between PC and PS3.

"'DCUO' now joins the ranks of SOE’s other successful free-to-play titles, including 'Free Realms' and 'Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures.' Our business model philosophy of, ‘Free to Play. Your Way,’ makes 'DCUO' accessible to every type of player so they can choose to play the game in a way that suits them best. We have a lot of exciting things coming up for players to enjoy in the game and are thrilled at the initial enthusiasm for the game’s free-to-play transition.”

With the free option, new players can create up to two characters, as well as join a league and explore most of the content found in the game world.

Users can also opt to pay for additional features through micro-transactions or by maintaining a $14.99 per month subscription fee that gives them full access to the game.

The move, which comes just a few months shy of the title’s first anniversary, came as little shock to most, as cash-conscious consumers have continually shown little enthusiasm for the monthly fees typically associated with massively multiplayer online games.

In response to this trend, more than a few titles have already stepped away from their traditional revenue models in search of attracting more users and boosting revenues.

For example, games such as “Lord of the Rings Online” and “Dungeons & Dragons Online” have already enjoyed renewed success after switching to free-to-play, while games like “Star Trek Online” and “EverQuest 2” have announced their plans to make the change in the coming months as well.

This has led many to conclude that this model has quickly become the new norm within the industry.

John Smedley, president of Sony Online Entertainment, wrote in an op-ed piece for that he believes BioWare’s upcoming “Star Wars: The Old Republic” may very well be the last massively multiplayer online game to utilize the old recurring subscription model.

Naturally, some have been quick to contradict this conclusion. But many people also agree that the move away from subscription fees is indicative of the impact the current economic climate has had on consumer spending habits.

“Economic times are hard out there, and a recurring subscription is something that glares at you from a credit card bill every month," Smedley said. "For some people, saving money starts with getting rid of subscriptions that hit the credit card."

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