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The question about introducing a free play option to WWIIOL:BE has been brought up a few times over the past year: Other MMO's going free. Anything ever come of the idea of making free accounts with access to only limited weapons/units? looks like lots of MMO's doing it now". It seems to be a very popular model that more and more MMOs are adopting. We haven't been unaware of it. We started talking about it quite a while ago. It's not a decision that can be made lightly, however, which is why we haven't pulled the trigger on it.

We've been looking seriously at a "free play" option for more than two years.

Our current definition of "free play" is as follows (note this is not written in stone):


This account would be heavily promoted in order to attract more players to the game. This account could be upgraded to a full premium account anytime but premium accounts would not be eligible for downgrading to the "free play" account.


We have run an invitation-only poll and the results have indicated that we have the support of the existing player base. We measure that by seeing the percentage of respondents who indicated they would unsubscribe their premium account in favor of a "free play" account. Our poll results showed less than 5% of premium account holders would unsubscribe in favor of creating a new "free play" account.

A "free play" account solves a couple of issues. Firstly it provides a player an indeterminate amount of time to experience the game and convert to a premium account. We have data that shows one of the reasons we convert fewer trial players is the 14-day window. Even at 30 days, many trial players don't become game-educated enough to get a grasp on what its all about. This also provides Playnet more time to try and convert a player through in-game up sell messages and direct e-mail. It also allows us to offer small bonuses such as "a weekend pass" with access to all equipment as a way to further encourage a player to convert to premium.

The goal of a "free play" subscription is to attract a larger number of players to try the game and provide Playnet better and more effective ways to convert them to premium.

The risk is that our anticipated acceptance of the "free play" account by our current player base turns out to be incorrect and/or the increase in new players who try the game isn't as high as we want. Any combination that doesn't add up to a significant increase in premium subscribers could be problematic. Simply increasing the number of players in-game would be a benefit to everyone but the bottom line does count.

So we've been looking for the right time and the right circumstances to test the waters with "free play". We identified several areas that we needed to improve the game to better the chance that a new "free play" player has a good first impression (1.31) and we have more in the works (1.33) and we've been getting our ducks in a row regarding billing systems and up sell systems.

As of today we have no firm idea if or when "free play" might be available but in any event you can count on it having a very short leash should it ever see the light of day.

I hope this gave you a peek at some of the issues we've been wrestling with. We're interested in your comments. Post them below.