Blade & Soul Going Free to Play in China - Pondering on a Western Release
Tencent Games is taking the reigns on Blade & Soul's Chinese localization and release, and unsurprisingly Tencent has decided that the free to play model is the way to go.
Along with the standard free to play cash shop, Blade & Soul China will have VIP memberships available. VIP accounts will receive special titles, cosmetic items, and small in-game boosts to their MP recovery, base HP, and base defends. These boosts do not go past 5%.
I can't decide whether the above sounds good or not, to be honest. Tencent promises that cosmetic items will not have any stat boosts on them, but at the same time it looks like upgrade/enchantment items are to be available in the cash shop. This on its own is nothing surprising or new to MMOs, but it is one of my least favorite cash shop practices.
Hyung-Tae Kim mentioned Blade & Soul would be seeing an English release in 2014 a couple of weeks ago, which seems like a fairly timely release considering the flood of MMORPGs we're going to see released this year in North America and Europe.
Another Korean MMO, ArcheAge, is also being localized and published in China as a free to play title by Tencent Games. Both ArcheAge and Blade & Soul are pay to play in Korea and are seeing a F2P conversion when they hit China's shores.
Are we going to see this same type of payment model switch when they are localized for the English-speaking audience?
Something to consider:
NCSoft owns and will be localizing Blade & Soul for the Western market. Considering the company's recent history and bad luck with subscription models in North America, it's very likely the game will be completely free to play once localized.
ArcheAge is not affiliated with NCSoft in any way, but is seeing a free to play release in China and I believe will probably be seeing either a buy to pay or free to play model under Western publisher Trion Worlds.
Trion still runs RIFT as a mostly pay to play title, but they have migrated toward a F2P model with their more recent Defiance. I honestly couldn't see them localizing a Korean MMORPG with a fully pay to play business model, though buy to play would be ideal.