EverQuest II is the latest subscription MMO to jump on the free-to-play bandwagon. Sony Online Entertainment has announced that it's to launch a free service called EverQuest II Extended later this year.
A beta test for Extended is expected to begin "on or around" 17th August.
The original subscription offering will continue alongside this new service. Extended will provide access to all EverQuest II's content through free and optional paid membership levels. By and large - with the exception of the last expansion Sentinel's Fate - content is free, but features are restricted by level.
There are four levels of membership. Bronze is free; Silver is a one-time $10 purchase; Gold is a $15 monthly membership subscription; and Platinum is $200 for a year.
Only Platinum members can access the latest expansion Sentinel's Fate. All levels have access to four races, with the remaining being purchasable. Bronze and Silver can access eight classes for free, Gold and Platinum get all of them. All but Platinum members will have to pay to extende the level cap from 80 to 90.
Across the membership tiers, there are varying restrictions to equipment grades, character slots, bag slots, the amount of gold you can hold per level, whether you can send and receive mail, how many quests you can have active and the level of customer service support available to you.
Extended will feature a new web-based download application that will circumvent the need for a huge download or installation before you start playing. An in-game store will sell potions, armour, character classes and races, weapons, mounts and more.
SOE is promising improvements to character progression, graphics and user interface across both versions of the game.
The move follows SOE's launch of its free kids' MMO Free Realms, as well as Turbine's success moving Dungeons & Dragons Online to a free-to-play model and recent decision to do the same with The Lord of the Rings Online.
Check out the EverQuest II Extended website for more information.