Turbine revealed that after its switch to a free-to-play model for Lord of the Rings Online
in early September, revenues for the game doubled and users created more than a million new accounts.
Launched in April 2007, Lord of the Rings Online
originally required a monthly subscription, but now gamers in North America can play it for free with the option to buy premium goods or sign up for a VIP membership with extra benefits (Europe's free-to-play transition is forthcoming).
"When you tell people you no longer have to pay for it, they come in droves," said Lord of the Rings Online
executive producer Kate Paiz in a GDC Online panel yesterday, according to a report
from consumer site Joystiq.
Paiz, who oversaw the free-to-play transition for both Lord of the Rings Online
and Turbine's Dungeon & Dragons Online
, shared several statistics from the MMORPG's recent switch, including its 300 percent increase in peak concurrency, or three the times the number of players online simultaneously.
The online game has also enjoyed a 400 percent increase in total active players. So far, 53 percent of players have used the in-game store, taking advantage of microtransactions that offer virtual mounts, experience boosts, character slots,a nd more. Paid subscriptions for those VIP memberships are up, too.
Paiz repeated Turbine's stance that the developer didn't change its business model because Lord of the Rings Online
was in trouble; rather, it believed the game could reach new audiences with this move. The studio saw this first-hand when Dungeons and Dragons Online
received a 500 percent revenue boost
after its free-to-play shift.