Free Realms, Sony Online Entertainment's free-to-play online game, is breaking free of its PC chains and going cross-platform this month with plans to come to the PS3 on March 29. And yes, it will be a totally free download for console gamers, too.
The game has become something of a poster child for the "freemium" business model, where a game costs nothing to install or play, but charges users for transactions in the game as well as to upgrade their membership. Since its launch in 2009, more than 10 million players have signed up for the PC game. And now that number is set to climb even higher with PS3 users getting in on the action.
"This will be the very first casual, free-to-play MMO ever to be offered on the PlayStation Network," wrote SOE lead designer Stephen Bokkes in a post on the PlayStation Blog.
Above: The launch trailer for Free Realms
As per typical MMO fare, in Free Realms, players start off as a weak combatant and must level up their character through a variety of quests and mini-games. Players can choose from a variety of different jobs for their character. More than 800 quests are available, but players are limited to just two jobs if they have a free account. All other jobs end at level four, at which point players are prompted to upgrade their account, which requires a monthly subscription. Premium accounts also get bonus content and features.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of users who don't pay a cent on Free Realms, and plenty of others who don't pay the subscription fee but enhance their experience by occasionally purchasing in-game items. It is completely up to the individual player how much he or she wants to spend.
The world of MMOs hasn't found a whole lot of success in the console business, but offering a complete game at no charge is also something that most console gamers should find pretty appealing. This will be an interesting game to watch.
Free Realms will be available on the PlayStation Store on March 29.
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