Today the unlimited trial accounts hit EVE. Or, if you just like using terms without actually considering meaning behind the words (Hi P2W), EVE is now ‘free to play’. Lets talk about that shall we?
A simple question first. Can you name a single MMO that has done the F2P conversion and had zero impact to current subscribers? Because that’s the case today in EVE. If you subbed yesterday, today the game is the same in terms of what you are getting for your $15. There isn’t a new shop. There aren’t ‘money only’ features today that weren’t there yesterday. At most now certain items have a yellow border indicating they require an Omega (paying) pilot to use, and while I’m sure someone will bitch about that (because regardless of what you change, you can always find one person to bitch on the internet), its so minor its almost not worth bringing up.
Another reason why I don’t view this as a F2P conversion is that alpha (free) accounts aren’t just slower accounts that can eventually do everything; they are hard-limited to what they can do. Very hard limited in fact. So much so that anyone who gets into the game and likes it will very likely end up paying a sub. How many F2P MMOs is that not the case? How many can you go free and see most of the game and do most things, if annoyingly slow or under pop-up hell? In EVE a free account will NEVER get past the hard limits set on skills, and that restricts you to perhaps 10% of ships in EVE.
Which isn’t to say that alpha accounts are useless, or that someone using an alpha account can’t have fun. Far from it actually. Because while skill and item usage is limited, where you can go is not, so an alpha can head out to null and become a member of a major power, or into low-sec and do some budget pirating. They can still get most of the high-sec experience of mining or mission running to work your way up, at least up as high as the alpha will allow. And you can do all of that at your own pace, without a price or timer ticking down, which I think is especially important in EVE, where the ramp up is a bitch and ‘getting it’ can take a long time.
Will this save EVE? No, because EVE didn’t need saving, it was doing more than fine (see CCP financial statements). Will it help? I think it will. I think that number of 90% or so players trying EVE but quitting will go down. Even if it goes down to 80% quitting almost instantly, that’s a lot more people sticking with it now than before. All at basically zero cost/harm to current players (and the gain of more new pilots to play with/against).
Important note: The initial question is limited to MMOs. There are plenty of games that are F2P that are fair or solid (LoL, CoC, etc), but that’s simply not the case in the MMO space. Either EVE is the first, or EVE isn’t really ‘F2P’ now.