Turbine Entertainment's flagship MMO, Lord of the Rings Online
, will be going free-to-play, the company announced today.
It's a major move for the premium-level online game, which Turbine says will now operate on a pricing model that allows users to play for free and purchase quest packs and items "a la carte" from a new game store. Users can also join a "VIP program" and elect to pay a monthly subscription for unlimited content.
It's a similar model to the one the company rolled out when it took Dungeons and Dragons Online
free-to-play last year with the Eberron Unlimited
update -- a move it says ultimately boosted the game's revenues 500 percent
Warner Bros., Turbine's recent acquirer
, will continue operating the game in North America, and publisher Codemasters will handle things in Europe.
Warner Bros' online and digital games senior VP Jeff Junge said Lord of the Rings Online
"lends itself perfectly" to the free-to-play model, and that the move is part of the company's strategy to reach new audiences by offering more options: "We are focused on expanding our game franchises onto new digital platforms to maximize quality experiences for gamers worldwide and LOTRO’s new model is a great leading example of this," says Junge.
"The popularity of DDO
validated the extraordinary demand by gamers for quality entertainment they can experience at their own pace and within their budget," adds Turbine CEO Jim Crowley. "Extending free-to-play to LOTRO
will offer another premium game to a broad spectrum of fans."