Aion Goes Free to Play With No Locked Content
As you may already know, Aion is the latest subscription-based game to go free-to-play. What you may not know is how Aion is changing the face of free-to-play games and, with a little luck, the future of them as well.
Launched in 2009 in the United States, Aion was typical of the many retail online role-playing games available at the time. After buying a copy of the game, you then had to pay monthly to continue playing. By 2009, the allure of not only buying a game, but continuing to pay for it, had started to wane; many free-to-play online role-playing games were starting to appear and, unless you were a well-established name like World of Warcraft, it was hard to get a foothold in the market. After all, if you’re making players pay a subscription fee, you better offer an experience on par with the industry leader. While Aion did differentiate itself with the ability to fly, it undid all of its unique features by establishing what is known in the genre as a grind. A grind is when an online role-playing game takes a long amount of time to gain a new level, often making you kill the same enemies repeatedly in a slow, boring process. This grind, coupled with the subscription fees, left only a small group of dedicated players playing Aion.
Fast forward to 2012 and free-to-play gaming has exploded in popularity. Lord of the Rings Online proved that massively multiplayer online role-playing games, even big budget retail ones, don’t need a subscription fee to survive and be a success. However, these games generally approach free-to-play in a way that locks players out of content; for example, you may have limited chat or trade features unless you buy items from the game’s shop, or the game may make classes, quests and regions unavailable until you pay a one time fee. So while many of these games are free-to-play, and you can reach maximum level, you’re not going to see all the content available unless you pay.
Many assumed Aion would be the same way, as it is a retail game moving into the free-to-play sector. However, you’ll be surprised to learn that Aion does not lock out any content whatsoever. Every quest, class, region and item are accessible to free-to-play players. In addition, there are no chat or trade restrictions in place. Aion does have a shop where you can buy items, but these items only range from cosmetic to nonessential statistic boosting items that help you level faster. Aion is the first game where free-to-play players are simply just players and have the same rights and actions as those who purchase content.
But what about the grind? Aion wouldn’t be worth playing, even if it is free, if it remained the same as it was in 2009. With the change to free-to-play, NCSoft rolled out update 3.0 for the game. In addition to new features such as housing, new dungeons, an increased level cap to 60 and a revamp of its player vs. player system, Aion has added new quests and decreased the amount of experience you need to reach a new level. What was once nothing more than a grind to artificially keep people playing and paying monthly has now turned into a game that celebrates the player instead of his wallet.
Aion finally achieves what it set out to do in 2009; it is now a leader and a trendsetter, and not just another nameless face in a crowded genre. If you’re feeling burned out on the current free-to-play system, let Aion: The Tower of Eternity show you what the future of free-to-play games can be.