There are a lot of MMOs that would like you to try on a cape and spandex tights. Champions Online is Atari’s entrant in the superhero MMO genre and it is now free to play.
Sony’s DC Universe Online, which offers players the chance to fight alongside heroes such as Batman or villains including Lex Luthor, launched recently. It’s likely the timing here is no coincidence on Atari’s part.
Similar to other subscription based models including Xbox Live, Champions Online’s free “Silver” membership doesn’t charge you to play. A “Gold” membership allows access to more content including special characters design and other adventures. The Gold memberships are $14.99 monthly. The game has a “C-Store” through which Silver members can buy special items if they choose to.
If you were one of the players with a lifetime subscription, Atari is rewarding your faithful support. You become a Gold member automatically. The site for Champions Online warns that the features distinguishing Silver and Gold Memberships are subject to change due to user feedback. That user feedback will no doubt come from Gold subscribers who want to make sure they get the most for their money.
Other MMOs including Lord of the Rings Online are embracing the “free-to-play” model. It’s the basic setup of most games on Facebook, and those social games are doing quite well. The truly dedicated will still pay for premium items. All the players will see the advertising that pays for the game. In an era in which no one sits through TV commercials anymore, companies are willing to pay for access to the new captive audience: computer users.
Champions Online has positioned itself to pick up players who love superheroes but don’t want the monthly fees for DC Universe Online or similar products.