Defiance going free-to-play on PC/Xbox 360/PS3, dev promises no "tricks or traps"

Originally sold as a boxed product, Trion Worlds' MMO that ties in with SyFy's TV show launching with new business model on June 4.

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Defiance, the PC and console MMO that ties in with SyFy's TV show of the same name, is transitioning to a free-to-play game starting next month. Coinciding with the premiere of the second season of Defiance the TV show, on June 4, you'll be able to create a Defiance account and play the game for free.

On that date, Defiance will become a free-to-play game for PC. The free version of Defiance will be available on PlayStation 3 starting July 15, while Xbox 360 owners might have to wait even longer. Developer Trion Worlds is "discussing the details with Microsoft" about the game's eventual free-to-play release for Xbox 360. There's no word yet on how much longer Xbox 360 owners might have to wait.

"We're making this transition because we wanted to bring the Defiance experience to a wider audience" -- Defiance creative lead Trick Dempsey

One question many gamers might be asking is why? Why go free-to-play now?

"We're making this transition because we wanted to bring the Defiance experience to a wider audience," creative lead Trick Dempsey told GameSpot. "Something that we've learned from the lifetime of the product is that more people playing the game makes a more positive experience because we have focused the game on a massive, co-op, PvE, progression-based experience. And having people walking that path with you is just the coolest thing."

Dempsey says that Defiance's transition from a paid boxed product to a free-to-play game will be done "without tricks or traps." Trion Worlds has experience transitioning major MMOs to the free-to-play business model, as the company did just that last year with its fantasy game Rift.

"Our transition on Rift was received incredibly positively," Dempsey said. "And we have taken the lessons that we have learned from that and iterated upon them by coordinating across our different developments and deciding how can we add the best value for the players who are already in the game while still offering something compelling for people who are going to be coming in new to the game with as little friction as possible? We want people to get in and be having a good time right away."

[A detailed breakdown of the differences between free and paid accounts is available at Defiance's website]

The free-to-play business model is not without its criticisms. Some players are wary that certain content will be locked behind a paywall or that they'll need to pay for basic items. These concerns are not lost on Trion Worlds. Of course, the studio hopes you'll pay for some things, and they plan to offer items for sale that they believe are valuable, but they aren't going to be upset if you don't pay, according to Dempsey.

"We have followed the same theory that we did for Rift, which is no tricks, no traps; you can play it from level zero to level whatever the heck our max is going to be, and we're not going get in your way," Dempsey said. "If you want to play for a year without ever paying us a dime, that's fine. Thank you for playing in our playground. We enjoy it. We're glad you're around."

"We could be making more money if we did the rest of that bullsh**, but that's really not who we want to be" -- Trion Worlds CEO Scott Hartsman

Trion Worlds CEO Scott Hartsman agrees, going on to say that the company is OK with not making as much money if it means players have a better experience.

"Quite honestly, we'd rather make less money on people and have them feel better about the experience. So essentially, any time we put something up for sale it needs to be something that A) we don't think a person's ever going to regret buying and [B) we want] it to be something they genuinely feel good having purchased," Hartsman said. "Because we'd rather have people associate [microtransactions] with 'Hey, you guys did good. Here's five bucks. Oh cool. I got a great thing I like.' And that's really the guiding philosophy around all of it. We could be making more money if we did the rest of that bullsh**, but that's really not who we want to be."

Finally, we asked Trion Worlds about the possibility of Defiance coming to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Hartsman said right now the combined 10 million+ systems sold (7 million for PS4 and 3 million for Xbox One) is simply too small for a free-to-play game like Defiance.

"Because the game is free-to-play, economics are a little different," Hartsman said. "We need larger numbers of players. I would definitely be looking for larger numbers of consoles to be out there for it to work. Show us the eight figures of installs and we would love to be everywhere."

You can sign up to play Defiance today at the game's website. The first episode in the second season of Defiance the TV show airs June 19 on SyFy.

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