Fantasy online role-playing game Aion will drop paid-for subscriptions and become free to play in Europe from February 2012, publisher NCsoft has announced. The change will roll out across Western Europe, with UK, France, and Germany seeing the new payment model first.
In the free-to-play version, Aion will have Free and Veteran account types. Those players who purchased the original boxed version will receive the latter account type. Free accounts will have some restrictions applied "to protect players from bots and real-money trading, which will not be applied to the Veteran accounts," says NCsoft in a Q&A on the switchover.
All players will also have the option to buy a Gold Pack, which temporarily removes all restrictions and adds certain benefits, such as lower cooldown times for instances and increased player-versus-player currency rewards.
NCsoft is partnering with German publisher Gameforge to make the transition happen. Gameforge's 38-member team will run the game across Europe, working with NCsoft to "further develop and create new content for Aion."
"Our goal with going free-to-play is to bring the Aion experience to as many players as possible across the whole of Europe," says NCsoft. "Transitioning to a Free2Play model will allow us to show to all these players and fans of MMORPGs what the Aion experience is all about and why it is still the number one MMORPG in Korea today."
Aion, which launched in late 2009, is the latest in a number of massively multiplayer online role-playing games that have turned free-to-play to attract more players; DC Universe Online also recently made the switch. Aion's official site admits "in the last few months the lands in [Aion's game world] Atreia have become more and more deserted."