I have written about Lord of the Rings Online when it was announced that it would be free-to-play, when it actually launched, and included it in a review round-up as well. It is an excellent MMORPG … and apparently it has done extremely well in the transition from subscription to free-to-play. Turbine, the developer, noted at GDC Online that the game has doubled both the subscriber base and revenue since the game became free to play.
The game’s Executive Producer, Kate Paiz, noted that the revenue had doubled in spite of removing the subscription fee. But there is even more good news for Turbine:
20% of LotRO’s former players have returned to the game since the switchover, and that the game has seen a 300% increase in peak concurrency, with three times the number of players online simultaneously, and a 400% increase in active players total. 53% of players have used the in-game microtransaction store (which sells everything from mounts and outfits to XP boosts and character slots), and as you can see above, extra storage slots are extremely popular in the store. And even paid subscriptions have increased. Turbine’s lesson seems to be that, as Paiz said during the panel, “when you tell people you no longer have to pay for it, they come in droves.”
Turbine had great success with Dungeons & Dragons Online as well, which Paiz transitioned seamlessly from subscription to Free-to-Play last year. The company now has two great examples of finding the commercial sweet spot to move a game from subscription to a microtransaction-based model.
As I mentioned, the game is extremely well done and I haven’t had any issues since signing up. I admit to being amongst the 47% who have NOT used the in-game store yet, but as I play more and more the prospect of having a horse to get around more quickly looks quite appealing! Every week they have sales on some item or another, as they did last weekend with horse-riding skills.
I highly recommend checking out LOTRO if you are up to try a high quality MMORPG.