Bill's Top Five F2P MMOs
Let me preface this from the very beginning by stating that this particular list is extremely opinion-driven. There are oodles of F2P games on the market these days, and what you're about to read is one man's (mine) take on the top five games currently available. I'm also only including games that are free to obtain and play (even if there is an optional subscription involved) without the actual necessity of paying a subscription or any money for the client itself. That leaves out Guild Wars, Warhammer Online, Global Agenda, and any other similar example that meet part of the "Free" equation but not the whole enchilada. We could write a whole other list for games of that sort. Additionally, we all know the F2P market is driven by micro-transactions and some of the items in these shops are more necessary than others when it comes to things like end-game activities (I'm looking at you, Allods).
That said, just a few years back F2P was synonymous with "poor quality import". Now the F2P model has the power of some very high quality AAA production behind it, and more and more players are checking in and buying in to the notion of the F2P model. I feel that developers and publishers alike are still struggling a little bit to find that sweet spot between what players are willing to pay for and what they aren't, but by and large the revenue model is gaining traction, and the following games are largely responsible for one reason or another.
#5 Anarchy Online
Anarchy Online has a checkered past, and probably is one of a few real cult-classics in the MMORPG field. It has a faithful following that has stuck with the title through its early rough launch, and the game is easily one of the most developed in terms of content on the market today. It makes this list of F2P games because it was the first subscription game to institute a F2P model in favor of its original subscription method, funded instead by optional subscriptions and in-game advertising.
Now the fact is that the F2P AO only grants players access to the base game and not all of its many added features and content from its five booster packs and expansions, but not a dime must be paid up front to experience one of the pioneers in Sci-Fi MMOs, and it helps that the gameplay isn't half-bad itself. And while Anarchy Online may be showing its age (its ten-year anniversary comes up next year), Funcom certainly hasn't stopped supporting the title. The development of an updated engine for the game is well underway which will bring the title's visuals more in line with the current crop of MMO releases.
I will probably be lynched for putting this game on the list, but I can't help it. FreeRealms is a very fun and family-friendly offering from SOE, and has plenty to offer even for the avidly hardcore MMO gamer. Not a traditional RPG by any means, FreeRealms has the market cornered on ADD-fueled fun. It's not so much one game as it is a collection of several different activities. There's kart-racing, pet-raising, demolition derbies, card battles, oodles of puzzle games that act as part of the title's many job categories, and on and on.
FreeRealms was very much a risky venture for SOE, and yet it seems for all intents and purposes to be paying off for the publisher/developer. The game has over eight million registered users, no doubt many of whom have paid for some of the in-game items and/or the optional subscription pricing. It may not be the most traditional MMO on the market, but by aiming itself squarely at the tween market FreeRealms has managed to capture a ton of young fans and probably a few older ones, myself included. The downside is that some of the game's most enticing jobs are on offer only for paying members. But there is still plenty for the non-payer to do and enjoy.