We were wrong. It’s going free to play at launch.
Technically, PlanetSide Arena is just in early access, as of today, but that’s effectively the same thing as launch when you’re talking about a free-to-play game, which Arena apparently is.
PlanetSide Arena has officially launched FREE TO PLAY in Early Access! RT for a chance to win a Recruit Edition ($80 value) or Legendary Edition ($200 value) bundle and drop into the Arena!
— PlanetSide Arena (@PlanetSideArena) September 19, 2019
The game’s Steam page and FAQ confirm the free-to-play news, and it’s not just a temporary measure lasting until the game is launched: “There is currently no plan to change pricing after Early Access.” That launch is scheduled for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in Q2 2020.
Of course, plans can change, as they obviously have a few times for PlanetSide Arena, but for now, you can jump in and play the game for free, or pick up either the Recruit Edition for $19.99 or the Legendary Edition for $49.99 — or both for $69.98. The editions come with 80 or 200 “NS-0 Standard Crates,” respectively, a.k.a. loot boxes, which can contain “cosmetic items (weapons, armor, and vehicle skins) and mods, which offer situational perks and utility bonuses when equipped to weapons or armor.”
It’s that last bit that sounds a little concerning. While the loot boxes can be earned through gameplay and they do not affect time to kill (as stressed in the FAQ), offering game-affecting items in them is a bit of a slippery slope that Daybreak will need to be exceedingly careful about. Based on its many delays and its sudden switch to F2P, PlanetSide Arena probably doesn’t have a whole lot of room for error.