Although free-to-play has seemingly grown to be the preferred business model for many new massively multiplayer online games, a rarely-mentioned aspect of the model is that these games frequently do still offer subscriptions -- they're just optional now.
In the case of Sony Online Entertainment's popular games such as DC Universe Online and Everquest II, you can play the whole game for free, but you'll find yourself stuck with a few limitations as a non-paying player. In DC Universe Online, for example, you only have two character slots available as a free player, while "Premium" players ($5 per month) get 6 and "Legendary" ($15 per month) subscribers get 16. Similarly, free players often have limitations on things such as inventory space, storage space, the ability to trade or even social features in some cases, and a number of Sony's games implement locked treasure boxes which only Legendary subscribers are able to open for free. In other words, serious players will probably end up subscribing anyway while more casual players can try the game for free.
However, Sony's been looking at its options for subscription plans on its games, and has come to the conclusion that a single, "all-access" pass to all its PC games is the way forward.
Speaking with Planetside 2's Reddit community, Sony Online Entertainment's John Smedley noted that his team had been listening to user feedback, and had decided to implement the "all-access" model across all its PC titles for $14.99 -- the same price as a top-tier subscription to an individual game used to cost. Players will receive 500 units of Sony's "Station Cash" virtual currency to spend on premium items and services in the games each month, and while this bonus must be claimed each month, it can be hoarded for more expensive purchases at a later date. Subscribers will also receive a 10% discount on Sony's marketplaces.
Smedley noted that at this time, the offer only extended to PC games; the team is reportedly looking into including premium access to PS3 and PS4 games in the single subscription fee, but this "isn't a done deal" as yet, at least partly due to the fact that these games do not use Station Cash in the same way as their PC counterparts. He also noted that the offer only applies to players who are eligible for all of Sony's games -- those who are only old enough to play the kid-friendly Free Realms, for example, will continue to use the lower-price existing individual game subscriptions rather than be able to take advantage of the "all-access" pass.
The new model encourages players to try out a selection of Sony's games and be able to enjoy premium member benefits in all of them, rather than having to dip their toes into each game's limited free-to-play offering and then decide which -- if any -- they would like to make a commitment to. It sounds like a positive step, and comments from the Reddit users following Smedley's explanation of the upcoming changes certainly seem to suggest the community is grateful for Sony's interaction with the player base and receptiveness to feedback.