It’s not going to surprise anyone here, as we all follow Carbine’s freshman outing closely, but the sci-fi fantasy MMORPG is going Free to Play (F2P) this fall, and we’ve got the full scoop. We recently flew out to Santa Monica (at NCSOFT’s expense) to preview many of the game’s upcoming changes. Read on to learn where WildStar has been, and where it’s going in 2015.
Chad Moore and Mike Donatelli were my hosts in California last week, along with NCSOFT PR Guru (and former SOE and KingsIsle alum) Ben Conrad. Fans of the game know these guys: they adore the world of Nexus, and like the rest of Carbine and NCSOFT they want us all to know they’re fully committed to WildStar. They’re well aware of the issues the subscription model has presented to their game, and in hindsight they acknowledge it should have been free to play from the start.
Why? It’s simple, said Moore: “We don’t have the IP to draw in box sales on an unknown quantity. We know we have an excellent world, and an excellent MMO. But what we’ve learned the hard way is that people aren’t as ready to spend a box fee and a subscription on something they don’t recognize.” I noted that even Elder Scrolls Online went “Buy to Play” recently, and Chad nodded. “We want to get the game in front of as many people as possible, and the best way to do that these days is to remove the barrier to entry.”
FREE TO PLAY, BUT WITH OPTIONS
Noting that the rumors of a Steam version of WildStar are merely rumors (even after today’s announcement), Chad and Mike acknowledged that some of their core audience has been stalwartly against the game becoming F2P. They acknowledge this, but hope said fans will understand that this move is essential for the long-term health of the game. To that end there will still be a subscription option for WildStar, much like TERA before. And yes, CREDD will remain as a way for players to buy and sell subscription time for in-game currency.
But what will I do with all my money, now?
Called the Signature Membership, the optional subscription will remain at the $15 price, with CREDD remaining at $20 real money, and whatever the market price is in-game. As for the benefits of this subscription option? Well, that’s still being worked on. They’re not quite ready to reveal all the details because the F2P WildStar will be going up on the PTR soon to let players offer feedback on the store, its prices, and its many little bells and whistles.
FREE TO PLAY, BUT NOT PAY TO WIN
Yes, there will be microtransactions in the F2P WildStar, but think more along the lines of what you see in Guild Wars 2 than some Pay 2 Win MMO. Cosmetic and convenience items are the name of the game: mounts, pets, costumes, experience rate potions, instant teleports, dyes and other such stuff. You can essentially see that Carbine has been working towards free to play and its necessary MTX systems since November of last year. Though every single feature added since then (such as pets, the new costume system, the character chop shop, and so forth) have been requested by the players, it’s clear to see that adding them makes monetizing the F2P version easier.
There will also be a new currency called Omnibits that can both be bought and found on all mobs in the world. So even completely free players will be able to save up their Omnibits to buy items from the store. The goal, Chad and Mike reminded me, is to make it so that there’s no forced reason to spend money… just incentive and fun reasons to do so. Progression and endgame success will still take skill and teamwork, not a fat wallet.
HERE’S TO YOU CUPCAKE – LOYALTY REWARDS
But what about the longtime players and fans, those who’ve stuck by Carbine as they build the game? Well, if you’re a subscriber as of today and up until the Free to Play launch this fall, you’ll be getting some serious in-game rewards. What’s more is that if you’ve been a subscriber since day one, you’ll be getting something even more special. Just what are the rewards? Be sure to read the team's post to view them all, but given this team’s penchant for the quirky and imaginative, it’ll be pretty good stuff. Just check out the mount below, for example. And on top of the items outlined in the blog post, everyone that's currently subscribed and stays subscribed until F2P launch will be getting four additional months of Signature membership.
The Ikthian mount for subscribers since day one!
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
The Free to Play update won’t just bring all the new revenue model changes. The entire early game experience and tutorial are being streamlined and tweaked to make those first 5-6 levels far more interesting. And yes, the tutorial ship will be clearly and easily skip-able for players on their second, third, or umpteenth alt.
Additionally, stats and itemization are being streamlined and improved to make them easier to grok at first blush. Too many players come in and don’t quite know what stats they should be investing in. Mike made sure to say that this doesn’t mean stats are changing in terms of power; that aspect stays the same so you won’t suddenly have to tweak your build. But the way they’re presented to the player will be altered, and we’ll learn more about that soon.
The Caretaker's throwing a party on Nexus, and you're all invited.
Another big one for long-term players? All amps are being unlocked. No more loot items will be needed to access certain amps on a class: if you have enough points to spend, you’ll be able to unlock any amp you want. And of course, they’re also tweaking the dungeon content to spread it out more evenly across levels to help make progression through the game’s content clearer cut. Part of this means that all leveling dungeons and instanced content will be getting improved rewards too for those players who might not see incentive to do early-game dungeon content.
There you have it folks. WildStar is going free to play, no box price, no necessary sub this fall. Carbine and NCSOFT remain 100% committed to showing the world that there’s fun to be had on Nexus. Quarterly content updates will keep coming as the team already has over a year’s worth fully planned out, and all of those will be free for all players: no splitting the communities with fractured DLC or content packages for purchase.
So, now that it’s official… will you be coming back to Nexus?