Monday, March 26, 2012

Phantasy Star Online 2 Will Be Free-to-Play

Guess that's one less thing we have to worry about for the release of the game, since, as I have said in the past that Subscriptions give me pause.  However, not only will PSO2 be free-to-play, but it also seems that it will be free to download as well, placing the entirety of the game's revenue on Micro-transactions which will rightly give plenty of people a little reason to raise eyebrows.  It's certainly not Sega's first announced venture into F2P but outside of Spiral Knights, it's also a fairly untested territory for Sega, especially with the importance that the Phantasy Star brand has for them.  While it might seem that it's not one of their bigger franchises, I will note that there have been quite a few Phantasy Star titles in the past few years, inspiring more and more titles, making it clearly worth their time.  Even still, without all that, it would be the sequel to Phantasy Star Online which itself spawned several titles of the same name that were all monetized and subscription-based, so straying that far outside of the boundaries is a little odd.

On top of the Free-to-Play, Free-to-Download approach, it seems there will also be a version for Smartphones (iOS and Android both) that, clearly won't offer cross-play, but will share information with the PC/Vita versions at least.  The Smartphone version will apparently be simpler, offering more 'social game elements', whatever that means, and will presumably be free as well, considering.  Regardless, it won't be the same game as the PC/Vita version, and I imagine it will be treated more as a companion piece than a game itself.  That's fine by me, of course, and I'm sure many people will just be blown away at the prospect to have their game on the go regardless of if they have a Vita or not.  But certainly, the Vita route would be the more tantalizing option, since it will be closer to the real thing and, as seen above, make usage of the Vita's control scheme itself.

In addition to that news, there was also news that as the game launches into the Beta phase of development, taking in around 100,000 people to test, they will release the Character Creation Demo on April 5th.  This is so people will have access to it well before the game is released and will be able to fine-tune their characters long before it necessary so that once the game is finally released, they'll be able to just go at it right like that.  At least, I would imagine the characters created with the demo would be importable, but if not, then they will likely be easily reproducible, if you take note of the settings you have for your perfect character.  But I would more be willing to bet on just straight importing them.  From what I can tell, every other game that's done something similar, releasing the creation tools prior to the game itself, has been able to import, so I'm not counting on something different here.

The downside to this all is that the other 'Phantasy Star-related surprises' that were to be revealed this month were likely what I have just covered.  This means that there is still no Phantasy Star Victory formally announced which means that there is a very sad Mogs.  Given that PSO2 will not be available in Japan until later on this year, and the Vita version (again, for Japan only) will not happen til next year, any chance of the games coming to America by years end are likely non-existent.  At the same time, no announcements have even been made suggesting that it will, but come on.  It's a brand new game in a popular franchise that works on a model that has proven to bring in a lot of money if you do it right, as evidenced by other F2P MMOs and other things, such as, dare I say it, Playstation Home.  If you make things for people to buy whilst in an MMO or MMO-like environment, they will buy them, pure and simple.

Granted, there is time yet in the month, but I would be very surprised if they announced anything else in the next few days.  Simply because this is what Sega does - they say things that are very clearly ambiguous, instill hope, and then dash it in one fell swoop.  Granted, they usually do it with news that isn't all that great, and PSO2 being free-to-play is, more or less, great news, but it is still indicative of what they do best.  I say this as someone who likes Sega, of course.  It probably doesn't matter a whole lot anyway; with any luck the upcoming PSP compatibility update (that is still rumored at this point, s'far as I can tell) that might happen sometime in April will make Phantasy Star Portable 2 playable on the Vita.  With that done, I'll actually be able to play it again, and that's really all I want at this juncture.  Just Phantasy Star Vita goodness, is that too much to ask?

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