I was recently invited to guest on the Priority One Podcast to discuss the F2P transition of Star Trek Online. They hooked me up with a 10-day free trial so I could re-visit STO and see how things have evolved since beta and, well, I got hooked. The game has been polished up quite a bit and there's a lot more to do! So I'm going to continue reporting on STO, especially as the game transitions into F2P mode later this year.
I think STO is an interesting example for the transition of a subscription-based game to an F2P title because STO already features a large amount of "bonus" content sold through their in-game C-Store. In a sense, I was shocked and appalled when I created my character and half the races were locked away as "premium" content. That kind of goes against the typical grain of a subscription model, where the subscription fee pays for all the core content. Likewise, there are a lot of "premium" ships that are only available in the C-Store, "premium" costume content, "premium" bridges, and "premium" emotes. Frankly, it already looks more like an F2P game than a subscription-based game!
The current (tentative) F2P Features Matrix that compares current subscriptions (or the new "gold" membership) with the upcoming F2P limits shows how little has to change. On the one hand, some people complain that there isn't much reason to go gold, but on the other hand, that's actually a good thing, to the extent that going gold won't be a major necessity. By keeping silver more viable than some of its competitors, STO should be able to keep free players playing, and as we all know by now:
Non-paying players keep paying players playing (and paying!)
It's a strong contrast to Cryptic's other F2P MMO, Champions Online, where one of the main reasons for playing the came, creating your own customized super-hero, is locked away to gold members only. Thankfully, no core gameplay concepts, like designing your own spaceship, is being locked out in STO, so I think this will be a F2P title I can get behind.