Nearly a year after the release of WildStar, Carbine Studios has announced that the MMORPG will be going free-to-play this coming fall.
Carbine Studios, a studio consisting of former World of Warcraft developers, launched WildStar in June 2014 under a traditional MMO monthly subscription model. Previously, the studio had defended its choice to follow a subscription model before the game released. But after its launch and a variety of content updates, WildStar will now be transitioning to the free-to-play model.
Similar to The Elder Scrolls Online, Carbine Studios will also give players the option to purchase a monthly membership that will provide various additional perks. These include convenience bonuses and enhancements as well as additional character, costume, bank, supply, and decor items. But unlike Bethesda’s MMO, WildStar won’t require you to put down money on a physical or digital copy of the game to play; that means the MMO will be 100% free once the transition takes place.
To flesh out the details on the announcement, I recently sat down with Carbine Studios product director Mike Donatelli to discuss what the free-to-play model means for WildStar.
What main factors led to the decision for WildStar’s free-to-play model?
Mike Donatelli: Back at the beginning of the year I shared Carbine’s plan of action for WildStar in 2015, which centered on listening to player feedback to make the game more fun and less grindy, creating content for a variety of different types of players and play styles, and focusing on growing and enhancing WildStar. Our past three content updates have all focused on making the game more fun and providing a variety of content for all types of players. WildStar is now a much better game than it was when it launched nearly a year ago. We’re at the point where it’s time to really focus on growing the game, and we as a team feel that the best way to do that is to make it so that everyone who wants to play can do so with as few hurdles as possible. This means removing the two biggest barriers of entry to the game — the cost of the box and the required subscription.
What sort of research did you do when coming to the decision to go free-to-play? What sort of things did you learn from other recent MMOs that started with subscriptions before eventually switching models?
We definitely looked at other games in the industry that have made similar transitions and paid close attention to what worked and what didn’t in those situations. One big thing we are doing differently is announcing our plan early (months ahead of time). Part of the reason is that we plan to put a lot of this stuff up on the PTR (public test realm) before the fall transition and actually get player feedback about how things will work. We think that being transparent with current and future players is absolutely essential.
Another key point is that with this transition, we are not putting any of the core game content behind a paywall. The WildStar that players have been able to enjoy as paying subscribers will be the same WildStar that everyone will experience when we go free-to-play. What we are doing is adding more content, like convenience items, on top of WildStar for those players who do choose to pay for these items.
Can you describe how monetisation will work? What sort of items will be purchasable with real-world money?
The items that players can purchase with real-world money will be cosmetic or convenience items [dyes, fast travel, etc.] and will not provide any competitive advantages over non-paying players. Players who pay with real money will be purchasing NCoins, which can be used to buy these convenience items in our MTX (microtransaction) store. For players who don’t want to spend money, a sweat currency called Omnibits will drop in-game as they play. These will allow players to purchase the same types of convenience items.
What things do you think will help WildStar stand out among other free-to-play titles?
Since its launch last year, WildStar has always stood out as a game with a unique style, interesting world and characters, engaging combat system, and so much more. It was a critically acclaimed game that’s only got better over time as we’ve listened to our player feedback and improved the overall experience. This fall, players will be able to experience the very best version of WildStar yet, and they’ll be able to do it completely free. We’re looking forward to it!