While the news is somewhat surprising given that the spandex-clad MMORPG has only been on the market for nine months, it's another sign that the overall genre is finding better revenue by offering free access to those who prefer not to pay a monthly subscription. Even NCsoft's own superhero MMORPG City of Heroes is launching a "Freedom" F2P model later this year.
"When we launched DC Universe Online, we introduced a very different brand of massive online game driven by fast action combat to PC and PS3 gamers and with that, we discovered a new type of online gamer," said John Smedley, President, Sony Online Entertainment. "We've listened to our community, and we've determined that the free-to-play model is the best fit for DC Universe Online."
The new F2P model will be available to both PC and PlayStation 3 gamers. In addition to the free model, SOE will also offer additional subscription-based plans - the $5 Premium and the $14.99/month Legendary - which seem to follow similar models used in EverQuest 2 Extended and Free Realms. All three DCUO subscription tiers will grant the player access to open world gameplay and missions, general game updates and fixes to the game, with each level offering different game options and benefits, as seen below.
"Our philosophy embraces learning from our experience and as a pioneer in the free-to-play space with proven successful games like Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures, we believe this new model will expand the DCUO experience and offer more options that cater to every type of player so they can play the game in a way that fits them," Smedley added.
For the uninitiated, here's a bit of the MMORPG's backstory, summed up by SOE: "Lex Luthor has traveled back through time with news of a dire future: While the heroes and villains spent years battling amongst themselves, Brainiac has been feeding on their powers, building strength to return to Earth and destroy humanity. To change the future, Lex has come back to set off a device that bestows super powers to thousands of every-day citizens and give humanity a fighting chance. Can Brainiac be stopped, or is this another nefarious Lex Luthor plot?"
DC Universe Online was created in the artistic vision of comic book artist Jim Lee, and set within a world created by famous DC writers including Geoff Johns and Marv Wolfman.