MMORPG.com is announcing that Behaviour Interactive’s Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade is getting a full free-to-play mode in the very near future and has an interview with Producer Nathan Richardsson to go with the news.
(It should be noted that the interview talks about “today’s announcement,” but other than on MMORPG.com, we can’t find any indication of the news — not on the game’s Steam page, website, social media … nothing. Given the depth of the interview, though, we’ll assume it’s legit news and hope that a full, formal announcement is forthcoming.)
According to Richardson, the “Free to WAAAAGH!” version of WH40K:EC will allow players to play a limited set of classes from all four of the game’s factions. Free players will advance at 1/3 the rate of paying players. With a $20 purchase, they can unlock a fuller version of the game — though not with as many features as the full $50 game. As a bonus, when you do buy, you’ll get that extra 2/3 XP you missed out on while you were playing for free.
Richardsson says the F2P rollout will come as a soft launch in February — which ends tomorrow. So … soon(TM)?
Long-time MMOBomb readers might remember us talking about Eternal Crusade a long time ago, when it was still in development and the original F2P version only allowed you to play as a limited, weaker subset of the Ork faction. I heavily criticized that move for a couple of reasons — first because it would unbalance the Ork faction against the other three factions by boosting its population and second by not letting F2P players who were interested in one of the other factions test drive those. We raised the issue in an interview with Behaviour, who said, “we haven’t ruled out limited trials for other factions. We may allow free access from time to time if a given factions’ population is low.”
In the MMORPG.com interview, Richardsson admits that the old version was “too restrictive,” though he also puts forth the notion that “Some would say that we’re opening it up too much compared to the paying player.” If I were to read between the lines, it would sound to me like there’s some debate around the office as to whether this is the right move.
I’ve had issues with half-assed F2P implementations in the past, so opening up all factions and implementing a lower XP gain rate is probably the best way to go. One might quibble at how slow the progress will be, though. Most F2P games offer something like +50% or +100% to XP for “subscribing,” while Eternal Crusade essentially offers a +200% bonus. The fact that you get all that “backlogged” XP when you do buy might be a decent enough compromise.
Regardless of what you think of the game’s F2P implementation, this move is almost certainly being done to boost Eternal Crusade’s flagging reputation and sales. It abandoned the PlanetSide 2-style open world combat that was promised during development and, according to nearly every review I read, was riddled with bugs at its way-too-soon launch. It’s got mixed reviews on Steam and, apart from a surge in September and October, maxes out at 1,000 concurrent players on Steam. Richardsson even admits that the move will be a boon to matchmaking.
Two years ago, I was pretty pumped for Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade. Now, with the issues it’s faced and the features it’s removed, I’m far less excited. Free to WAAAGH might draw me in enough to see if it’s at least playable, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to get me playing it to any great degree. What about you guys?