With Lord of the Rings FtP going live this weekend, we now have three major MMOs (LoTRO, along with Dungeons and Dragons Online and Everquest II extended) that have switched from sub based to FtP. Besides those of us that obsess on MMOs as a hobby, I imagine a lot of industry folks are going to be watching these games closely.
I suspect that the success or failure of LoTRO and EQ2X in particular will have a big impact on the pricing structure of future and current MMOs. To be sure, DDO seems to have been an unqualified success. But it hardly counts because the game was in dire straights before. Any change of fortune that let Turbine justify keeping the servers running would have been deemed a success.
In contrast, if EQ II and LoTRO, two already modestly successful sub based MMOs, also manage to permanently double or triple their revenue just by "turning on the [FtP] newbie fire-hose" (as Ian put it when we were chatting last night), I think a lot of existing sub based MMOs are going to try it as well. For example, why wouldn't Age of Conan, Star Wars Galaxies, Dark Age of Camelot, or Vanguard try the same thing? On the other hand, if either EQ II or LoTRO experience a brief spurt of attention, but then go back down to normal revenue levels in the next few months, I don't think much is going to change.
A month in EQ2X does not seem to be slowing down. At the very least the newbie channel had such a huge volume of chat last night at ridiculously-late-o'clock a.m. that it was spamming half the chat from my guild away before I could read it. If SOE figures out sooner rather than later that most of the FtP players will never-ever sub and gives silver and bronze accounts more options, I suspect they will see a big jump in revenue.
I also bopped briefly in to LoTRO last night, and it seemed to be hopping. It took me a good long while to log in to my server, and I don't play on one of the more popular ones. I had 4500 free Turbine points, and relatively little worth spending them on. But then I'm a lifer, I already have all the quests, classes, bag slots, and such. About all the points are good for to me is expanding my bank (which is not to be sneezed at I will allow), at least for the time being. As an aside, I also noticed that Captains have gotten a major overhaul. They are a heck of lot more fun at low levels now.
I'm watching LoTRO with special interest, because I as much as I dig it personally I really don't think it's for everyone (as Jaydub has also pointed out). It remains a somewhat slow paced MMO with a very restrained feeling setting. There will never be more than four races or a class more flashy than a Runemaster. There are certainly a good number of Tolkien lore geeks out there, but I suspect the majority of those that were in to MMOs had already at least tried LoTRO. Who the legions of new players flooding the servers right now are and whether they will stick around, much less spend money, is hard to say.