Ubisoft, publisher of the Wolfpack Studios-developed MMORPG Shadowbane, has announced, via the site's official news page, that the title is now available to play for free without subscription fees. The game joins a growing number of MMORPGs that are experimenting with alternate revenue streams.
Shadowbane, which launched in March 2003, previously charged $12.99 per month to play the game, a fee in line with the standard $12-$15 monthly fees most MMORPGs charge. The game has been largely eclipsed by higher-profile MMOs such as World of WarCraft, EverQuest, and Star Wars Galaxies, and the abandonment of the subscription price structure may be an effort to win over more players.
Other MMOs to have dropped the subscription costs have been Shanda Interactive's titles such as Legend of Mir II; Sony Online Entertainment has also announced plans for a free-to-play game in the future - both of these will include payment to buy upgrades and in-game items. However, results for the new model have been inconclusive in the West, where it is a relatively new concept, despite significant success in South Korea with more casual MMO titles such as Kart Rider.
Despite the growing acceptance of this revenue model, it's not yet certain that it's the one Ubisoft has chosen for Shadowbane; the announcement makes no reference to any alternate form of revenue for the title. In-game advertising has also been an option for allowing free play in titles including Funcom's Anarchy Online, but Shadowbane's fantasy setting may preclude contemporary ads. The company indicated that a more detailed explanation of the free-to-play scheme will follow shortly.