In conjunction with today’s announcement Kate Paiz, Executive Producer of The Lord of the Rings Online, released a letter on the forums to the general community concerning these changes and her opinions on the matter:
Today we announced a couple of big changes for LOTRO, and I wanted to take a moment to talk about them. Last year my esteemed colleague and friend Jeffrey Steefel moved over to a new project at Turbine and I am now the Executive Producer for LOTRO!
As far as my background goes – I have been a producer in MMO development for 10 years. My career began in the industry working on the social world of There.com, where I designed and managed the implementation of There’s new player experience and commerce suite, including There’s 5000 product in-game catalog. I joined Turbine in 2005 and helped launch Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach. I’d been leading the DDO development team for some time when we decided to transform the game with our hybrid business model, and after Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited launched I joined the LOTRO team as Jeffrey segued onto his next project.
Now, I’m not sure if this means that she had a hand in LOTRO moving to Free-to-play, but I definitely thinks it means she has experience with a game moving from a paid structure to a free-to-play model. This is good though, because it means she has experience and will be able to make the transition much smoother for all of us.
Given my background, it’s hardly surprising that I believe very strongly in the power of providing gamers with a choice in how they pay and play our games. By adding a free–to-play component and store offering we will open up LOTRO to millions of players who simply won’t play a game that requires a subscription fee. I’m sure many of you have lots of questions about this decision, and I want to say clearly that the decision to introduce a free-to-play option was based on the desire to take the game to a new level by bringing even more players into the world of Middle-earth. LOTRO is one of the most successful MMOs in the world and has been doing very well as a subscription-only game, but with the success we’ve seen with DDO it seemed clear that this move is going to be hugely beneficial for the LOTRO community.
I tend to throw in with Ravious on this point. I don’t see going free-to-play as a bad thing. Really, I don’t. I mean I don’t have any costs because I’m automatically made a lifetime VIP member. I’m getting 500 points per month once-a-month upon release, plus additional points for being a lifetime member (1000) and a founder (500) before the release; current subscribers are receiving 500 points a month before the launch. From what I am reading, it seems additional points will also be able to be earned through game play and not just through purchasing them from the store. So the more I play (and longer I live) the more points I earn. This sounds pretty good to me!
Yes, there is a chance for the community to degrade, but there is also a chance for it to expand with even better people. It will be up to those who continue to take pride in LOTRO’s community to uphold those standards and hold others to them as well.
For our LOTRO VIPs the game will not change, except there will be more players around to group with, and there will be the ability to use the new LOTRO Store, which is completely optional for all players and gives access to hundreds of convenience, cosmetic and consumable items! You’ll be able to check out the Store in the Beta Program, and I encourage any of you who are interested to click here to sign up for it! For more details, and to learn about the differences between VIPs, Premium players, and Free players, click here.
I think the key thing here is to remember that if you’re a VIP (aka subscriber or lifetime member) you will not have anything change. If you have purchased the expansion packs, nothing will change. You will not be losing anything. Plus remember, anything you purchase separately as a subscriber (such as shared space, character slots, etc) will remain if you decide to change to a free player.I know change is scary and I’m not a huge fan of change in general, but sometimes it’s necessary. I think with the popularity of DDO, iPhone/mobile apps, facebook games, downloadable content on console games, etc. we are seeing a change in how people want to pay in general for games and LOTRO is just following this trend.
When we launch LOTRO Free-to-Play this fall, the change will bring with it more than just the transition to the hybrid business model. We’ve revamped the game’s starting areas, added the new region of Enedwaith, and will continue the journey of the Rangers south in Book 2 of our epic story.
Oh yeah, it was confirmed that Enedwaith would come with Volume 3: Book 2. Which I stress confirms that development on LOTRO hasn’t ended or shifted. It’s still the same company with a different pricing structure.
As we go forward beyond this major update, we’re going to be giving our players the same great content and feature releases that you’ve come to expect from LOTRO. In late 2010 and into 2011, we’re going to be working on improvements to the Item Advancement / Legendary Items system, to Radiance, and to the monster play system. I believe this is going to be a very exciting time for LOTRO, and hope that you all continue to share your perspective on the game as it grows and changes as we continue our journey toward Mordor. Please sign-up for the Beta Program and let us know what you think about the way Book 2 is shaping up!
I look forward to seeing you in Middle-earth!
So ultimately what we have here is a post from Kate stating that she is aware of our concerns, as are all the Turbine employees. Now that the fear has somewhat subsided I think we can see that there is little cause for alarm. This is not a “re-launching” of the game, merely a “pricing re-structure”. If you are a subscriber and you’ve been happy with your subscription you won’t see any change if you stay a subscriber. You will not be losing anything that you have paid for. If you’re a lifetime subscriber, you have VIP access “for life” just as before. And as Mordor or Bust points out if it works like DDO that means all “quest packs” are free. Sounds good to me!