Good MMORPGs for Free? Yes!

by Daniel Reynolds, May 24 2010

Most MMORPGs fall into two general categories, subscription based games where you pay a flat fee each month to access the game, and free to play games which allow players to play the game without cost, but usually offer the ability to purchase extra items, abilities or sometimes additional content for small payments. Most people assume that subscription MMORPGs are the higher quality games, and that you can't find a good MMORPG for free. But, when you look at the games on the market, it is clear that it is possible for developers to offer good MMORPGs that are free to play.

The perception that free MMORPGs are lower in quality stems from the early days of the genre. Early free to play games were often created as hobbies or projects by individuals or small groups. Today's free MMORPGs are often designed by large teams, with many of the same resources that design teams for subscription MMORPGs have. This means that there are many good MMORPGs for free out on today's market. Free to play titles such as Dungeons & Dragons Online, Atlantica Online and Guild Wars are high quality games which compare favorably with larger subscription based games.

Content wise, many free MMORPGs are able to stand up quite well to their subscription based cousins. The amount of content in a game is closely linked to the amount of time the game has been in development. Thanks to the staying power of games such as Silkroads Online (nearly four years old), Guild Wars (five years old), and Priston Tale (released in 2001!), free to play games are able to create more content as they remain active and popular for longer periods of time.

One area that might be a major difference for subscription based and free MMORPGs is in customer service. Most subscription based MMORPGs are developed by the larger corporations, while free MMORPGs tend to be created by smaller companies. The smaller companies that develop the free to play games are usually built around that one title, and are more focused on creating a good MMORPG. This usually means that the employees of that company care about the people playing their games in a way the major corporations can't. If you want a game where it feels like you are talking to another human being when you have a problem, then a free to play MMORPG may be the way to go.

Perhaps the largest difference between free and subscription MMORPGs is in value. When you pay to play a subscription MMORPG, you are paying for a month in advance. If you don't like the game after a week, you're still tied to that game through your monthly subscription. For the free to play games, you can try out as many as you want until you find a good MMORPG. This is a big advantage, especially in today's economy. And, when you find a game you enjoy, you're getting that good MMORPG for free, which in my book is a good value any day.

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