NCsoft just announced that the venerable superhero MMORPG City of Heroes will finally convert to a hybrid business model, letting players decide if they prefer to play for free with limited features purchasable in a cash shop, or to pay a monthly fee. The game will change it’s name to City of Heroes: Freedom upon launch of the new payment model, that will happen later this year.
The playerbase will be divided between Free, Premium and VIP players. Free players will be able to access the basic game and services, but many of the features will be available only upon purchase through a cash shop.
Those that have been subscribed to the game in the past but will rejoin without paying a subscription fee will be labeled as Premium players, and will be able to access all the free features, plus “nearly” everything they purchased or unlocked during their past adventures.
VIP players will continue to pay a monthly subscription and will enjoy most of the content of the game without additional purchases. They will also have access to exclusive perks, including a server available only to subscribers. The side-by-side feature comparison for the three player types can be viewed here.
Looking at the comparison table, I’m quite surprised to see that Free players won’t be able to join supergroups (CoH‘s version of a guild). While such a limitation might encourage some to become VIPs, MMORPGs are mainly social experiences, and limiting one of the basic aspects of social life in this kind of games might easily discourage new players.
In any case the hybrid business model is becoming more and more popular between MMORPG developers and publishers, combining the accessibility of the Free to Play model with the stable cash flow of both monthly fees and a cash shop. That’s why this move from NCsoft doesn’t come as a surprise.
The release of City of Heroes: Freedom will be paired with the implementation of new content, namely Issue 21, dubbed “Convergence“, that will provide new activities and missions for new and veteran players alike.