Tuesday NCsoft officially opened the doors to City of Heroes' free-to-play model. Even more, previous players who return to play for free will retain most of their unlocked and purchased content.
Seven years ago, NCsoft launched its spandex-clad City of Heroes (CoH) MMORPG on the PC. Originally developed by Cryptic Studios, NCsoft purchased the IP from Cryptic three years later and brought the CoH team into the publisher's collective as a new studio, Paragon Studios. NCsoft also churned out a sequel, City of Villains, a year after the original CoH launch, but decided to combine the two MMOGs after it acquired all the rights.
But over the course of its seven-year lifespan, CoH has received an expansion pack and a total of twenty-one free major updates in the form of "Issues." Now the superhero MMOG has been re-branded as City of Heroes Freedom to reflect a new free-to-play (F2P) model that now resides alongside the standard "VIP" monthly subscription. Kicking off with the launch of Issue 21: Convergence, this new F2P model will allow players to reach level 50 at no cost, while providing players with the option to purchase new content.
“Our fans have come to expect great content and with City of Heroes Freedom we’ve clearly raised the bar by delivering the best game play we’ve ever developed, and giving players the choice to truly customize their gaming experience” said Brian Clayton, Executive Producer at Paragon Studios. “We aren’t just flipping a switch and going ‘Free-to-Play.’ We’re embarking on the biggest content and feature update to City of Heroes in its seven-year history.”
According to NCsoft, Issue 21 adds a new zone, new epic challenges, new power sets and costumes, a new starting experience, new missions and new rewards. The new missions will include the debut of monthly Signature Story Arcs (free for VIP Players) which enables gamers to play a key role in the main storyline as they "fight alongside iconic heroes and villains and discover which of Paragon City’s premier heroes will die."
As for new rewards, NCsoft and Paragon said that the new Paragon Rewards program is their way to thank players for investing in City of Heroes all these years. This program provides new and unique in-game rewards designed around each player’s unique tastes and play style.
With the launch of Issue 21, City of Heroes players are now offered three choices: the F2P account, a Premium account or a $14.99/month VIP account. Gamers who used to play City of Heroes will automatically become a Premium player: they'll get everything that free players get, they'll retain most of what they previously purchased and unlocked, and will retain all the earned Veteran Rewards. New free players can become premium players by buying any amount of Paragon Points. To see a side-by-side comparison of the three services, head here.