Sony Online Entertainment is converting yet another subscription-based virtual world into a free-to-play MMORPG -- Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Andy Sites, SOE's Director of Development, made the announcement on Friday after he addressed the fan base with a thank-you for their support over the last five years.
The PC game originally launched back in 2007 with mostly negative reviews, initially selling around 242,000 copies. But over the next three years, the team would fight to stamp out performance issues, leading to more criticism. Eventually Vanguard's player base dwindled down to next to nothing, forcing SOE in July 2010 merge the three remaining U.S. servers into one, bringing the total worldwide number of servers at a meager two. Population reportedly didn't begin to pick up until last year after new content and two updates were released.
"We've had a dry spell of game updates over the past few months," Sites reports in his update. "That said, I'm happy to announce the drought will be coming to an end this week, with our first scheduled update since last December. We plan to roll out game updates MUCH more frequently than years past, which will include general improvements, new content and more."
"A few weeks ago, we began ramping up the Vanguard development team with some familiar faces. Our criteria was simple; we wanted the most Vanguard-knowledgeable, passionate developers," he continues. "While we plan to continue growing the team over the next few months, I wanted to briefly introduce a few of our team leads, including Salim "Silius" Grant (Creative Director), Todd "Hobart" Schmidt (Technical Director) and me, Andy Sites (Director of Development). Fortunately, I am the only noob to the world of Vanguard, although having been part of the original EverQuest, EverQuest II, Free Realms, and Clone Wars Adventures teams, I've spent most of my career working on MMOs."
As for the game adding a free-to-play mode, he didn't provide specific details, only stating that fans can expect to see something similar to what SOE offers with EverQuest, EverQuest 2 and DC Universe Online. The company just recently added the F2P model to EverQuest after 13 years on the PC gaming market, and also just recently injected DC Universe Online with the F2P model at the end of 2011. EverQuest 2 and FreeRealms were the first of SOE's MMORPGs to support the freebie model.
Vanguard is expected to go into F2P mode this summer. Until then, fans should see additional game updates and more information about what the F2P model will offer sometime within the next few weeks.