Fantasy MMO Age of Conan is to offer users a free-to-play model alongside the traditional subscription set-up, developer Funcom has announced.
Scheduled for some time this summer, the move will coincide with a batch of new content and a name change – the game will now be called Age of Conan: Unrated.
Executive producer Craig Morrison told Eurogamer that the switch is intended to capitalise in a potential upswing in interest following the forthcoming Conan movie.
"The time is right for Age of Conan now as we recognised the opportunity presented by the increased profile of the license, with the new Conan movie coming out this Fall," he explained.
"That meant that we felt that the time had come to make the switch to ensure we had the best possible position and availability for when that interests increases, so that we could draw in even more users to this wonderful world that we have brought to life."
Users who choose the freemium option will have to pay for extra items (potions, scrolls, premium location passes, new pets, mounts, bags, etc.) and expansions, but can still reach level 80 without opening their wallets.
"This is done by allowing free players to most of the original content, and having the expanded content as premium content," said Morrison. "So free players will have access to all the original levelling quests and outdoor playfields that take them all the way to level 80."
Existing subscribers will be re-classed as premium members and enjoy exactly the same benefits that they do now.
"We will actually be working towards having fewer larger servers so that more people get to play together."Craig Morrison
Free-to-play and premium users won't be segregated into different servers, and will all play together. Further to that, Funcom plans to merge all servers to coincide with Unrated's launch.
"We wanted to make sure that people don't have to worry about choosing the 'wrong' server for them. We want the definitions to be easy, so the choice will more be 'do I play on the PVE server, the PVP server or the hardcore server?' and not have to think about 'which PVE server should I play on?'"
"Our new Dreamworld technology now supports more users on what would previously been considered different shards or servers, so we will actually be working towards having fewer larger servers so that more people get to play together, and then continuing to develop what players would consider 'cross server' technology so that more people can play together in the same environment.
"That tech will be ongoing development," he added. "There will be some challenges with a pre-existing game like Age of Conan (how many Border Kingdoms do we keep for example?) but overall it should mean that we maximise the community elements by ensuring it is seamless for people to play with others easily."
The re-launch update will also add two solo story-based dungeons called The Breach and The Forgotten City that scale to a players level between levels 40 and 80.
Further down the line, there's a Savage Coast of Turan adventure pack scheduled for the Autumn, which ties in to the new Conan the Barbarian movie (arriving August). Craig Morrison told Eurogamer all about it earlier this week.
Eurogamer also spoke to Conan the Barbarian filmmaker Fredrik Malmberg yesterday about Hollywood's take on games, Uwe Boll, Arnold Schwarzenegger and whether or not games are art.