The great promise of free-to-plays making their way to a console near you is about to be delivered. The long awaited project signals a new branch for Sony. While not quite as high profile as The Agency, this AAA title is aimed at teen fantasy MMO players, while incorporating the whole free-to-play, microtransaction based economy.
The Free Realms website received a huge update a few days ago, and new includes videos screenshots and write-ups about what to expect, and what developers hopes for the game are. Beta keys are being given away to hopeful participants at the site directly. SOE is predicting an extended beta period (with my guess being a public release on or before the first of the 2009 year), culminating in a ‘service-style’ launch, one you’d see more in a traditional ‘boxed-game’ environment, rather than a digitally delivered free-to-play title. A wise move on SOE’s part, as even the release must be a psychological factor in gamers overall opinion of the title (think WoW’s midnight store opening release parties scheduled around the world).
While Free Realms is technically an MMORPG, SOE hopes to attract users and differentiate itself by adding more social and casual gaming elements to the title. Again, another wise move here, as introducing a ‘traditional’ RPG in a free-to-play format on a console might be a bit of a hard sell. Conversely, those that are already familiar with casual games (think facebook) are already predisposed to the concept, and can now extend that form of play to their console experience. Toss in a buck here and there via microtransactions, and it looks like Free Realms could just be the surprise hit of the year. Ok, that might be a bit of a stretch, but they’ve certainly done their research, and are targeting a market segment that is already familiar with the concept.
You can pick from a lot of different kinds of activities to engage in… including combat, raising pets, playing all kinds of mini-games such as racing, Destruction Derby, soccer, and many more. It’s pretty cool to be able to put your racecar driver outfit on and take your car for a spin on the track, or walk up to a soccer field and just start playing with your friends.
We’ve really built a game that is aimed at bringing in an entirely new audience into MMO’s… and best of all you can play for free if you want to. We have put significant effort into making a lot of the content in the game completely free.
Free Realms is ground breaking for a number of reasons, least of which is traditional gaming firm Sony Online Entertainment branching out into what is rapidly becoming a very valid business model even for the big boys now.
For screenshots, videos, more information and beta registration, visit Free Realms as: www.freerealms.com.