Champions Online going free-to-play Jan. 25

Atari and Cryptic Studios' superhero-themed MMORPG taking live microtransaction-based payment scheme later this month.

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Today, Sony Online Entertainment launched its eagerly anticipated massively multiplayer online role-playing game DC Universe Online, bringing with it increased competition in the online superhero space. Soon, SOE will find out if free-to-play will be DCUO's kryptonite, as Atari and Cryptic Studios took the opportunity today to confirm that their own superhero-themed MMORPG, Champions Online, will expand its payment options to include microtransaction-based gaming beginning January 25.

This boot to the face is on the house.
This boot to the face is on the house.

When Atari makes the switch over, gamers will be able to download Champions Online at no cost and play for an unlimited amount of time. However, those players will be able to augment their experience by purchasing premium content, including adventure packs, items, powers, and costume pieces. This content will be offered through what Cryptic is calling the C-Store, a Web-based and in-game marketplace.

Gamers will also have the option to continue paying a flat rate for Champions Online. Both new and continuing players can opt in to the $15-per-month subscription rate, which will grant them access to "all of the game's base content, missions, zones, and adventure packs," according to a Cryptic representative. Subscribers will also be granted a C-Store stipend, where they can purchase additional content such as boosts and buffs.

Switching to a free-to-play model has proven to be a viable option for MMORPGs struggling to attract and retain subscribers. Last week, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Turbine announced that Lord of the Rings Online had tripled its revenue since venturing to the free-to-play sector in September. However, the top-tier free-to-play MMORPG space is growing increasingly crowded, with Dungeons & Dragons Online and EverQuest II also adopting the model.

More information on Champions Online's free-to-play scheme is available through the game's website.

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