‘DC Universe Online’ lifts its subscription barrier

Sony Online Entertainment is removing the barriers to entry for DC Universe Online this October when the game goes free-to-play. At that point, anyone with a PS3 or PC can download the game and get to playing around in the land of licensed superheroes.

The game will now operate in three tiers. Anyone who comes in after the switch without paying for anything stays on the “Free” level, those who spent $5 or more on the game at any point in time are “Premium” members and the “Legendary” level is reserved only for those who continue to pay for a subscription.

The three tiers’ privileges look like this, per IGN:

New players will now have access to the current gameplay in DC Universe Online (including Gotham City, Metropolis, and all current raids and alerts), with the ability to create two characters, join a league and many other benefits. Free level players will be able to purchase downloadable game packs/updates, additional character slots, powers and more through microtransactions.

Any player who has spent at least $5 (including former paid subscribers and new players who have purchased $5 of in-game items) will qualify for the Premium access level. Premium level players will have more benefits available to them than the Free level player, including additional character slots, additional inventory slots, and higher cash limits. Downloadable adventure packs, additional character slots, and more can be purchased in-game.

Maximum features and benefits are included at this level. Loaded with enhanced additional features, Legendary access will be available for a $14.99 monthly fee and includes all DLC packs at no cost, more than 15 character slots, more than 80 inventory slots, the ability to form unrestricted-sized leagues, and many other benefits.

What is especially interesting is that this may have been the intended pricing structure all along. At least, that’s how SOE president John Smedley thinks it should have been:

“In terms of ‘Is it a result in a drop in subs’ – absolutely not,” he told IGN. “This is the right business model. If I can be honest, the game ended up costing a lot more than we thought it would, and this was our preferred business model from day one.”

So I suppose everyone that bought it first helped pay for some of the extra development costs? Not too sure how I’d feel about that.