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Everquest to go free to play in March

After fourteen years of service, the Life Swallower is ready to absorb a new generation of subscription-free adventurers.

"I'm happy to announce that in early March 2012, EverQuest will be going free-to-play," Everquest producer Thom Terrazas wrote in a letter to the community.

"EverQuest players are some of the most loyal, long-standing players of any MMO in existence. With the gaming landscape changing every day, we want to ensure we continue to evolve the game to keep players engaged and bring in even more new players to further expand the community. With no up-front costs or required membership, we might see a new player or two along the way, and more people is always a good thing!"

Sony Online Entertainment is splitting Everquest's players into three tiers - free, Silver for $5.99 per month, and Gold for $14.99 per month. Restrictions apply to both of the lower tiers, but SoE is offering one-off and recurring subscriptions, with bonuses available to the latter, to grant added flexibility in trying out poremium features.

The transition won't go unheralded, with in-game events kicking off on March 16 to celebrate the game's 13th birthday. All players will receive a Welcome Pack consisting of a unique Mercenary summon, tokens to pay for said mercenary, some experience potions, a collectible item, and a weapon ornamentation. The game's website and player pages will be overhauled, and the map will be improved to better show zone lines and wisps.

Everquest launched in 1999, and while not quite as old as Ultima Online, is considered responsible for popularising early MMORPGs. Nicknamed Evercrack, it still commands a loyal fanbase, and is still pushing out nerw content - the latest expansion, Veil of Alaris, launched in November.

Everquest II went free to play in December and saw a 40% increase in log-ins as a result.

Thanks, Kotaku.

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