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5 Awesome Buy-to-Play MMOs

David Jagneaux Posted:
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Buy-to-play MMOs are becoming more and more popular around the industry. It’s clear that free-to-play games are expanding and they're becoming more and more popular, but they’re not the only alternative to subscription based games. Even for MMOs, options exist for you to buy the game itself (or a registration code, in most instances) then never have to pay another dime again, unless you want to.

The trouble with finding good buy-to-play MMOs to play is that successful experiments with this payment model are so rare. This is odd, because they seem to be a great compromise between subscriptions and free-to-play designs. In many cases, a game will revert to free-to-play after unsuccessfully trying buy-to-play as an option. But all 5 games on this list you can currently go out and purchase and enjoy their online worlds without ever having to pay for anything again – no subscriptions required!

5) The Crew

When I think of MMOs, I’ll be perfectly honest and say that warriors and dragons come to mind, not cars and finely-paved highways. The Crew isn’t the first driving and racing MMO – there are some free-to-play games and other titles that have dabbled in a connected online experience – but it’s easily the biggest and most recent attempt. Since the game is from Ubisoft, there are a whole other set of topics and potential issues to be aware of, but the core of the experience itself is actually quite solid.

The marketing and design of the game push the idea of “your car being your avatar” and having this massive and seamless world to drive around in and explore. It also spans across many highlights of the United States, providing ample options for driving and exploring the roadways. And just like any MMO, the developers have done an admirable job of fixing and updating the game as time goes on. If you’re a big car nut that loves the persistence of MMOs, The Crew could be a great choice for you.

4) Destiny

Since Destiny isn’t on PC, it doesn’t typically get a whole lot of recognition on this site or coverage as being an MMO – but by most definitions it does qualify. If games like Neverwinter, Guild Wars 1, and other similar lobby-esque systems qualify for the MMO tag, Destiny should as well. It’s easily the biggest multi-platform console game launch of this generation so far and millions of people continue to sink dozens of hours into the futuristic world of Destiny.

It’s got all of the genre’s stapes like raids, dungeons, PvP, gear grinding, and much more. It may truly be the first big MMO game that console players have that PC gamers don’t – although it isn’t for everybody. None of the games on this list are perfect, so that includes Destiny. The random loot drop seem more infuriating in Destiny than usual and it can be tough to catch up to the curve if you’re just starting out, but it remains as one of the best buy-to-play MMOs out there right now.

3) The Secret World

Few games have as interesting or complex a story as The Secret World. The revamped new player experience has helped funnel excited new players into the world and they’ve done a great job of sticking to their vision since launch. TSW originally released as a pay-to-play subscription game, but soon ditched the subscription and opted for the buy-to-play model instead. The core of the game remains unchanged, however.

TSW is so great because, unlike most games, you can truly say that it is unlike any other experience on the market. The realistic-but-supernatural atmosphere creates a truly one-of-a-kind experience that you can’t find anywhere else. Being able to actually join factions like the Illuminati and Templars while playing in the modern day world is a bit of a novel feature to highlight, but it’s done incredible well.

2) The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited

The Elder Scrolls is one of the biggest, most popular, and absolutely most successful RPG franchises of all-time. Naturally, creating an MMO based in the incredibly rich and lore-filled world of Tamriel was a no-brainer. However, the MMO’s launch and general public reception could only be described as lukewarm at best. The Elder Scrolls Online failed to live up to the hype of its single-player predeccors, but that didn’t stop Zenimax Online from continuing to improve the game.

Luckily, in its current form, The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited is a vastly improved game from the iteration that appeared at launch. Tons of extra content has been added, entire features like a justice system were implemented, end-game content has been greatly expanded, and overall game improvements have made it a much better and better-rounded MMO – just in time for the console launch later this year! Now that it’s buy-to-play just like the single-player games that inspired it, you’d be hard pressed to not at least give it a try. You get to go back to Morrowind, after all.

1) Guild Wars 2

Coming up on three years since launch, Guild Wars 2 remains as one of the best MMOs on the market and easily the best all-around MMO in the buy-to-play bracket. The amount of content that’s been released over the past 2 ½ years for no additional charge is absolutely staggering; everything from new features, new modes and maps, and even a constantly evolving storyline has helped this game continuously change and evolve over time.

With its first paid expansion on the horizon, there has never been a better time to jump in on the Guild Wars 2 craze. Virtually all aspects of the game, from the combat, to the questing, to the server-wide warfare, and competitive PvP modes offers a fresh take for the genre that you won’t find anywhere else. Plus, the game is on sale all the time so chances are you can hop in at a fraction of the standard price and get ready for the expansion later this year.


Everyone has their preferences. Some people prefer the tried-and-true method of subscribing to their favorite MMO and sinking most of their free time into that one single world. Other people like to hop around between different free-to-play games as they please. Then there is also that nice overlap in the middle of people and games that try to offer the same level of content and quality that you get from a subscription fee, but at the same level of convenience of a free-to-play game. Do you like buy-to-play MMOs? And if not, why not? Sound off in the comments below! 


David Jagneaux

David Jagneaux / David is a freelance writer and full-time nerd. He loves to play, write about, talk about and think about all things gaming. It's dangerous to go alone, so follow him on Twitter at @David_Jagneaux