Trendsetting online game publisher Sony Online has lifted the veil of secrecy covering FreeRealms, a whimsical new Massively Multiplayer Online game targeted toward young children, soccer moms, casual players... you know: everyone who doesn't really play games. It may sound like suicide, but that's also exactly the market the Wii has targeted as well, and it seems to be doing okay so far.
So, what exactly is FreeRealms? It's a little difficult to tell at this point, because the trailer centered upon characters who looked midway between Shrek extras and World of WarCraft players dancing and throwing acorns. But we're told it's a sort of giant virtual fantasy world in which you can wander around and do all sorts of things: play chess, kick a soccer ball around, race cars, beat up trolls - and of course, just talk. There's also talk of user-generated content, but the details have yet to be laid out.
Whether this plethora of activities will attract casual gamers we can't say, but the price will definitely not be a barrier of entry for FreeRealms. There will be no monthly fee of any kind. There will, of course, be ads, and also microtransactions for those who want to glom onto customizable features, such as unique items for your character.
Also interesting is Sony's promise that, due to a new streaming technology, FreeRealms will be a 30-second installation. That alone will make FreeRealms worth checking out when it arrives in early 2008, especially if the tech can be leveraged to other games as well.
June 11, 2007