Lord of the Rings Online is moving to a free subscription model this fall. Yup, that’s right free.
Currently they’re ranked 8th in the MMO market, but they’re hoping to capture more players by moving to a free play model. Turbine has had earlier success with such a move for Dungeons and Dragons Online. Since DDO moved to a free model, they’ve roughly doubled their player base and increased their profits by a large margin, and now LotRO is thinking to capture some of that success.
It seems people like to get free stuff and are willing to pay a premium for convenience or luxury items.
As for the game itself, I tried it over a year ago. It was fun and I played for several months. But I simply preferred WoW’s easier interface, graphics, and more polished tools (not to mention that most of my friends were still in WoW rather than the handful that tried out LotRO with me). Still, the game has beautiful scenery and unique game play. Healer Minstrels, for instance, heal their allies by hitting their enemies. That’s much more dynamic in play than the heal bots we see running around in other MMOs (though that style of play is still available).
But WoW had been around for years earlier and simple things like the Auction Houses, Mailboxes, Banks, and similar things were just easier to use simply due to having had more development time (they were similarly clunky when I first started WoW). The crowd was also certainly more mature back when I played, which was a significant enough difference that one of my friends opted to switch away from WoW for it.
LotRO definately had some things that’s unique to it and probably done better than WoW. The central quest storyline is very engaging, weaving in and out of Tolkien’s original story. I would say their quest log is much better organized than WoW’s and allows you to scroll back through all of your completed quests. The lore is certainly captivating. Nothing quite describes the feel of visiting Bag End, seeing the party tree or standing in Bilbo’s living room. The roleplaying angle is also emphasized a lot better. You can actually RP to be a simple farmer with a hut and never adventure if you felt like it. There are musical instruments that you can actually play improvised music with. The list goes on and on.
But WoW had a better interface, battlegrounds, PvP, and just plain more content which affected my decision. Even now, with Cataclysm coming, I’m still tempted to play more WoW than LotRO.
I haven’t been playing much MMOs these days, but you never know. If you catch sight of an elderly female hobbit guardian named Granma, say hi!