SOE has a long history of observing another company's success, focusing on one aspect of said success (typically one that while visible has little to do with the result), and completely botching it all together by missing the point entirely. Then they typically want to be praised and get rather petulant when people point out how badly they've failed yet again.
Sony's latest debacle is EverQuest Extended, a free to play version of the dying EverQuest 2. Now I'm sure they decided to try this based on the success of game like Dungeons & Dragons Online which experienced a revival after it went F2P (free to play). But, as with all things, they saw the success but for the life of them apparently were unable to divine why DDO was successful.
You see, in EverQuest Extended you have four tiers of customers based on how much one is willing to pay. Pay nothing and you are Bronze. Access to the game and all its content save advancement halted 10 levels below the cap, skills can only attain the status of adept (being unable to gain master skills), and the best gear cannot be used. That doesn't sound so bad, you're probably thinking. And you'd be right, if those were the only limitations. And here is where we get to why this effort will not bear the fruit SOE hopes for. Player to player interaction limitations.
Take a moment to consider that.
A Bronze player cannot access the chat channels, you can only talk to players who happen to be standing around you. Also you cannot access the broker which is the primary way players buy and sell items from each other. Oh, and the amount of money your character can carry is severely limited. Pay $10 one time and upgrade to Silver status. You still have these limitations.
Every other F2P game out there does not do this. It is so standard a feature of the MMO world that one expects to be able to at least do these things. But not SOE, who fancy themselves innovators. Why play a game where you can talk to others for free and carry as much money as you can and buy and sell freely when you can pay SOE for those privileges?
I understand they want to make a buck and they've every right to. But this won't work. Sure, they'll have a few diehards who will cling to the game and pay. Even their abysmal Matrix MMO had people playing to the end. Star Wars Galaxies chugs on to my and nearly everyone else's surprise. But the success of DDO? Hell no. Not going to happen.
The whole point of F2P is a larger community to interact with. That's it in a nutshell, really. Free players are not a burden or even customers waiting to happen but a feature of the game just as graphics, content, and expansions. They are there to bring in paying customers. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd. Who wants to play an online game alone? Even if you just want to PvP or be better than everyone else, you still are interacting with other players. This is the advantage of F2P, this why it exists, this is why it works. Almost any F2P game out there you can find others to group with or interact with at all hours of the day.
I won't even go into the cash shop. If you guess "horribly over-priced" give yourself a cookie. Apparently selling an armor appearance set for $10 to 10 people means more to them than selling the same thing to 1000 for $1. I guess watching the spectacular rise and fall of Allods Online provided SOE no lessons to be learned.