Age of Empires Online will have free-to-play business model

By on January 25, 2011, 5:55 PM
Robot Entertainment and Microsoft have revealed more information about their upcoming entry in the Age of Empire franchise, including talk of a free-to-play business model. Age of Empires Online was first announced last summer and incorporates various MMO elements with the real-time strategy gameplay that earned AoE its popularity.

The game will launch later this year with Greek and Egyptian civilizations and PvP/co-op play. Unlike previous versions, AoE Online has a persistent system so civilizations develop and earn resources when you're not playing. You'll also be able to gain experience and equipment by questing and crafting -- and that's where real money comes in.

Although much of the game will be free to everyone, players will be able to unlock additional content by purchasing a one-time Premium Civilization upgrade. In addition to special abilities and other perks, premium members gain access to "rare" and "epic" loot tiers, whereas non-paying users can only get "common" and "uncommon" items.

There are also plans for "booster" packs that let gamers buy new quests and gameplay types. Additionally, players will be able to customize the appearance of their civilization buy purchasing vanity items. The companies haven't released any information about how much the premium membership or microtransactions will cost.

People tend to get concerned about the balance of free-to-play games. Paying users sometimes gain an "unfair" advantage, which forces free players to lay down some cash if they want to be competitive. Microsoft's Ian Vogel recognized the issue in a comment on Gamasutra and said the company is paying close attention to balance.

"We're carefully looking at balance issues, and will be through the life of this product, and some of that will include how matchmaking works," said Vogel. "We don't want to nickel and dime you; we're trying to build a community. We're not just trying to sell you a product. We want to have something that's living and growing moving forward."

User Comments: 7

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TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Ack! I can see me getting sucked up into this one. I LOVED the original AoE series.

Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

I'm curious if any of the original Ensemble Studios staff has anything to do with this project.

ramonsterns said:

No amount of rule 34 could ruin my childhood as much as this game.

Gars Gars said:

TomSEA said:

Ack! I can see me getting sucked up into this one. I LOVED the original AoE series.

same here

not the whole series, but The Conquerors

still play it every 2-3 days

probably im addicted

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

AoE online?...Hell yes! i'm into some of that.

Ranger12 Ranger12 said:

if only it wasn't a cartoon....sigh...

Guest said:

I play AOK and AOC through game ranger. Also Im addicted, damnit!

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