I have just read in PCGamer that Sony have seen a massive increase in not only their player base (I believe it was at 2000% at last count) but also their revenue.
For me DC Universe is the perfect comparison of the traditional ‘pay monthly’ subscription based MMO to the, becoming increasingly popular, free to play model.
DC Online represents a big budget game with a recognised developer/publisher dealing with a subject with comparatively wide appeal. More interestingly is that in the space of 2011 than have transitioned completely from the regular payments model to the free to play model and in this way can almost be used as a benchmark for how successful this transition can be.
I say ‘can be’ as credit has to be given to SOE here and their application of the free to pay model has been handled well. Getting the balance where the free players are given enough of the game but still encouraging some level of investment in value without over rewarding paying players and effecting the balance of the game is the real challenge facing any developer considering this switch. Many have already tried and failed with one of the more recent victims being the Lego MMO.
The point that interests me the most however is, is there a future for games wanting to charge a traditional model? Both the Starwars MMO and World of Warcraft follow this model and both are, or in the case of one of these, have the potential to be, massive releases.
2012 is going to see the release of a lot of new games that will fall into the MMO mould and will be competing for your cash, in the same way that DC Universe has successfully transitioned, I dont think it will be long before you see these last great releases make the change to free to play as well.