In an ever-increasing understanding of how people play video games, massively multiplayer online gaming has been seeing a spike in interest since large subscription based games have been exploring the free-to-play model. The most recent in this venture is Sony Online Entertainment’s EverQuest 2—the spiritual and actual descendant of their extremely popular EverQuest. After switching from subscription last month to a hybrid free-to-play, SOE said that their game has seen “amazing growth.”
According to Shacknews, among the stats released the game has seen an amazing 300% increase in new players and daily logins also greatly increased giving the game almost a 40% spike since going free-to-play.
Another Sony Online Entertainment title, DC Universe Online, also went free-to-play with much fanfare and saw an initial 700 percent increase in total daily revenue. The market is brimming with competition, but games that once modeled themselves as subscription services appear to have a glowing second-life for them as free-to-play games. At the same time consumers have paid $4.9 billion into free-to-play games during the first half of 2011 making it an extremely lucrative industry.
In the straight to F2P market, Nexon recently netted themselves $1.17 billion in its IPO in the Tokyo Stock Exchange showing that even those gaming publishers and developers who aren’t working from the subscription-to-free enterprise are doing extremely well. Last polled, Nexon has been valued at around $7.69 billion.
In fact, the market appears to be getting a huge boost from cloud-gaming services and the ability to move large amounts of data across the globe in a short period of time. Metrics released by Pando Networks—a cloud distribution service—show that gaming (and especially free-to-play games) have gotten a huge shot in the arm over the past few years as cloud distribution of games has increased 450% over the past three years alone.
The stats for the free-to-play jump of EverQuest 2 were released by Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley who added, “during the time that some really good competition hit the market,” referencing the launch of the extremely popular BioWare and EA venture Star Wars: The Old Republic. EverQuest 2 has also seen a 200% increase in virtual item sales alongside its boost in subscriptions and active users.
From the looks of the rise of free-to-play MMO gaming, 2012 will definitely be the year that free-to-play gaming breaks into the mainstream (if by these metrics we don’t conclude it already has.)