#3 Runes of Magic
The next two games on this week's list are very similar to one another. They're both developed by foreign companies and distributed by wstern publishers to the masses. They both follow the standard MMORPG structure that games like Everquest first popularized. And they both happen to be very well made and on par with their AAA siblings in terms of quality and content on offer.
Runes of Magic is right up there with Alganon in terms of games that are obviously aiming to capture some of the same crowd who are fans of Blizzard's megahit by mimicking the iconic Warcracft-ian look. The difference between the two though is that Runes of Magic is actually a fully-featured and complete gaming experience that stands on its own with plenty of content for players to delve into for the hundreds of hours we've come to expect from the genre. It also has many additional details that are lacking from World of Warcraft such as guild and player housing, and multi-classing.
#2 Allods Online
While it may be early (the game is technically still in Open Beta), Allods Online quickly gained notoriety in the gaming community due to its high level of polish. The game has certainly had its ups and downs already with the controversy over some very expensive item shop prices, but after listening to player feedback and bringing the prices of items more in line with other F2P offerings the community seems to have settled down a bit and settled into actually playing the title. With an abundance of quests, a well-developed PvP experience in the upper-levels, and plenty of options for fans of the dungeon crawl, Allods is hard to beat in the F2P arena. I'm not saying it's not without faults, but for me it's one of a few games that keeps me interested week after week.
#1 Dungeons and Dragons Online: Ebberon Unlimited
It's funny to think that just a little while ago, this game would more likely be on a list of biggest MMO disappointments. Dungeons and Dragons Online was supposed to be a huge success when it first launched in 2006, but the title struggled to retain an audience for the next three years until it was re-launched as a F2P game with optional VIP subscription packages and item-shop services. Since then Turbine has watched the title's fate turn around in magnificent fashion, as evidenced by the fact that the game has seen over one million "new adventurers" since its re-launch. According to Turbine, there are over twice as many paid subscribers now as there were before the change, and the revenue obtained from the DDO store is through the roof.
Financial success is indicative of fun in the MMO world, and it seems that all players needed to give DDO a real chance was the hybrid F2P model Turbine has come up with. It's not quite the open-world adventure many MMO gamers were looking for in 2006, but it seems that the instanced adventures on hand in the now free to play game are well suited to the F2P MMO caste. I doubt Turbine is complaining about the steps the game needed to take to become a success, and I'm sure other companies are watching and wondering if a similar approach could help their game.
It's the rise of the F2P MMO, folks. And the ride's just begun.