Well, it’s now official – WildStar will be going Free-To-Play later this year. It was only a few weeks ago that we were were speculating on such a thing, but it appears that Carbine have been listening and are ready to start making their move. Best of all, the information we have been given so far has fallen in line with expectations and avoided the dreaded “pay to win” tag.
So, in case you haven’t seen the news, here’s what is happening. This Autumn, WildStar will be going Free-to-play with all current content – which includes all 50 levels, dungeons, adventures, raids, and PvP – available to everyone who downloads the game. Meanwhile, those who subscribe as a 'Signature' player will be given bonus XP and reputation gains, additional character slots, more costume slots, and extra bank tabs. This is on top of a microtransaction store that will deal in NCoins, allowing players to buy customisation pieces and consumable convenience items similar to subscriber perks.
Admittedly there’s still plenty of work to be done before then, and it’s a shame we will have to wait until autumn for this switch to happen, but I’m just glad more people will be able to experience WildStar for themselves. It is, after all, a fun and colourful theme park MMO.
The rewards that current subscribers and former players will be getting are a welcome gesture from Carbine, but I do hope it goes beyond the Boom Boxes that were handed out as a pre-order bonus (and an additional reward to beta testers.) BioWare did a similar thing when SWTOR went F2P, rewarding loyalty with microtransaction currency. It allows players to sample the finery of the customisation options (of which WildStar has many) which in turn will be advertised in-game by the player’s avatars. “Oh wow, that hat is amazing” says the F2P player, “where did you get it?” “From the store, it’s only XXX Ncoins and you too can have a fantastic fez,” answers the subscriber. “OMG I’VE ALREADY BOUGHT 20,” the F2P player yells in alarming excitement.
I jest, of course, but it highlights how it is ultimately a win-win for everyone (bar the person who just bought 20 fezzes) because it doesn’t affect the gameplay at all. All the classes, abilities and AMPs will still be there, with Carbine even going as far as stating that they will be making AMPs even more accessible in the coming months. Considering how (at least back when I was playing) certain AMPs were integral to optimal builds, and the drops rates for them were all over the shop, this is fantastic news.
One thing that hasn’t been mentioned so far is the C.R.E.D.D. system, which allows players to buy and sell subscription time for in-game gold. I would assume that this will remain unchanged even with the F2P transition as it still allows for players to safely buy in-game currency and / or gain a month of subscriber benefits just for playing the game.
While all of it is sounding good so far, the real test of Carbine’s plans will be when we know what limitations will be applied to free accounts. Yes, the game content will be available, and it appears normal XP will stay as it is, but what about bag sizes and character slots? Will they be reduced to a bare minimum to encourage spending? What about former subscribers – will they be forced to delete characters if the maximum for free accounts is, for example, just 3 for an account? It’s details like this that will need to be explained in the coming months.
There’s also the case of providing content for current subscribers to stick around until the F2P changeover. Sure, the Invasion: Nexus patch provided plenty of new content to get through, but ‘Autumn’ could mean four months at the least, and seven at most. With the loyalty system in place they need to show that they are not only capable of keeping their current userbase happy, but will be able to keep to their word of regular updates in the future. It’s something that a lot of studios have failed to achieve. I guess as long as the updates are fantastic that won’t matter (just look at The Secret World, for example) but Carbine will need to deliver on their promise. I say this as a concerned fan – I’ve stated before that I was disappointed with the latest World Story Instance, because I know they can do so much better.
Speaking of doing better, the re-launch of the game will need to be significantly smoother than the actual launch last year. The new Megaservers have condensed the population into two groups – PvE and PvP – but they will need to be able to handle a tidal wave of new accounts when the switch does happen. If they don’t, it will be game over before it even began, regardless of how good the content is. I was one of the lucky ones at launch, managing to get on and play with relative ease (patience played a big part of it, though) but server queues won’t be tolerated by the F2P crowd. It’s something I’m sure Carbine are already planning for, and I certainly hope they are ready for it when the F2P switch is finally flipped.
And that’s on top of the competitive PvP aspect that needs a lot more TLC.
I say all this because, as I said in my review and have repeated for months, I flippin’ loved WildStar’s gameplay and the personality of its content. Sure, it was brave to go with a subscription method at a time where freemium title are much more desirable (especially in the MOBA scene) but at least they tried. Now that Carbine are willing to open the doors to Nexus to everyone, I just hope that not only will they be ready, but that people give it a chance and see how much fun WildStar can actually be.
So, it’s now over to you – is today’s announcement the right move for Carbine? Should they have done it earlier? Will you be willing to give it a go when it goes free-to-play this autumn? Let us know in the comments!