It’s more or less a tradition, by now, to offer a free month or two’s subscription to purchasers of a massively multiplayer online RPG, but Anarchy Online is getting set to take that idea further by giving subscribers an entire free year. Players who register an account between December 15th, 2004 and January 15th, 2005 will receive a year’s worth of service, free of charge.
Though Funcom, Anarchy Online’s publisher, has reserved the right to rescind the offer if server load gets too high, it should be an interesting experiment in MMO pricing. Indeed, that’s at least one of the reasons behind the move, according to a Funcom representative: "This unique move will allow us to test important new business models prior to announcing future online games." This statement means that, if all goes well, it could become standard procedure for Funcom for new MMO releases.
If you’re wondering how Funcom intends to make money by this gambit, it’s important to note that only the base version of Anarchy Online is included in the limited-time offer; should players enjoy it enough to try out one of the expansion packs currently available, then the standard monthly fees will kick in.
Such a move isn’t as unique in the world of online RPGs as Funcom claims: the original Phantasy Star Online for Dreamcast, although not strictly an MMO, also carried no monthly fees, but the later Phantasy Star Online versions offered bug fixes and new content for players willing to pay a monthly Hunter’s License fee. Since PSO is still going strong, with a new expansion recently released in Japan, and ArenaNet/NCSoft's Guild Wars also flirting with a non-subscription tack, a similar strategy could do much better for Funcom than it initially appears.