SOE announced today EverQuest II would be going free-to-play as an option of sorts, and will be testing the new mode in a Beta starting August 17.
Called EverQuest II Extended, the game is not going FTP in the most traditional sense of the phrase, but will instead include the new option along with features on a separate server packed with all the game's original content all the way up through The Shadow Odyssey.
According to Massively, players will be able to play without a subscription or software purchase, and should they wish to obtain additional races, levels 80 - 90, extra gear, or potions, they may do so through the game's marketplace.
Those who are already subscribers to EQII can transfer characters over to the FTP servers, but will not retain the character's gold. Bags, no-trade items, and attuned items will be transferred, though, and Extended also offers a yearly subscription priced at $200 or $16.66 per month if they would rather go that route.
"The very nature of an MMO is change, and the decision to create Extended was fueled by evolution of the industry landscape," said EQII lead producer Dave Georgeson. "By offering two services side by side we have given the power to our players to determine the program that best fits their game play style.
"The options are still there to play the game exactly the way you played it on the subscription service. We didn't re-balance the game to make it where you have to have these items.
"We knew, for instance, that we didn't want to roll it all into one thing like some of our competitors were doing, where everyone is forced to co-exist with the F2P marketplace and the different kinds of players that are attracted to that opportunity.
"We knew that our established subscribers absolutely didn't want that, they were very clear about that on the forums and we were listening. So we wanted to set it up as a completely separate service, so if you're a current subscriber, you don't even have to be aware that it exists if you don't want to. They have separate forums, server rooms are completely separate, you just don't need to be involved in it at all unless you want to.
"The more we thought about it, if we opened it up as a separate service, we could do really great things with this already-existing franchise. It's been in development now for eight and a half years, and that's a heck of a lot of content. In fact, I would go so far as to say that with today's announcement, what we're creating is the biggest, baddest FTP MMO opportunity that exists.
"We think we can do really well with this and maybe attract a whole bunch of people who've never even looked at EQII before, not just the core MMO audience but people outside of the fold."
Basically, if you play EQII and are not interested in the FTP bit, you will never realize it's going on.
More through the links.