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Though in this case that means freedom from those monthly bills just for connecting. Major publishers must all be taking notes from one another, because three major titles all went to a free-to-play model within about the last week, with a fourth having build the “free to play” idea in from the beginning.
Team Fortress 2
Valve Software has just announced its new free to play offering, Team Fortress 2. Initially it was going to be free to play for its first week in the middle of last month, but has recently announced that the game will be free to play forever. Now even people on a budget can join their buddies on line and whip the tar out of who ever the other team is this evening. Instead of selling memberships, Valve plans to make its money selling items in-game that make the game more pleasurable or enjoyable.
Team Fortress 2 is available right now (for free) for PC and Mac, via Steam.
World of Warcraft
Not to be left out of the party, Blizzard Entertainment lets you play for World of Warcraft for free. Blizzard’s calling this the World of Warcraft Starter Edition, and it includes some of the content from the first expansion pack, The Burning Crusade. You can now play WoW for free – until you hit Level 20. After that, you’ll need the Worlds of Warcraft Battle Chest, which will run you about $20.
Guildwars from Aranet is still running, and was the first in our four games to feature free trial play. A Dungeons and Dragons style gaming environment, it features that traditional hack and slash gameplay that was more novel when it was first introduced following the initial success of Everquest, in 2003. The longevity of this MMO speaks to its satisfying game play and solid design.
Age of Conan
Nobody thought Age of Conan was going to do very much when it debuted in 2008 despite its sumptuous graphics and rich story interaction, but it has grown into a gamer’s favorite in the past three years. Originally titled Age of Conan: Unrated, the F2P version of the game is now titled Age of Conan: Unchained. The free to play version gives you access to the lands from the original game (Aquilonia, Cimmeria, and Stygia), four classes (Barbarian, Demonologist, Guardian, and Priest of Mitra), two character slots, and access to on-premium dungeons. Most of the Rise of the Godslayer content is reserved for paying players as is the AA system, offline levels, and veteran points, but you can now get some practice with that big broadsword you keep in your closet for free. Just try not to hit the furniture.
Battlestar Galactica Online
This is unlike the other three games in two ways: first, you play it right from your web browser, but don’t let this put you off – it’s a fully realized 3D fighter combat simulation. And second, it was designed from the ground up to be free to play, and like Team Fortress 2, the creators plan to make their money from the in-game sales of equipment and upgrades. It’s fast and responsive – and if you don’t mind the slow grind to earn your goodies the hard way instead of just paying for them, you can play for free pretty much indefinitely. You don’t get to pilot the Galactica though – so if you were hoping for that, sorry, but Commander Adama’s job is taken.
This Battlestar Galactica game is not the first game based on the popular franchise ever to see the light of day. Sierra Online produced a Windows game after many years of false starts, to release it at last in 2008.
Gamers rejoice – you now how quite a variety of choices for online gaming you don’t actually have to pay for, and the list of titles is increasing all the time. Try ‘em out – let us know how it goes.
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- Blizzard Entertainment – World of Warcraft Starter Edition
- Age of Conan
- Battlestar Galactica Online
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