Strategy Informer:Congratulations on becoming a Free2Play MMO! Was it a difficult decision? How long ago was it decided?
David Solari: Thank you. We made the decision to incorporate the Free to Play model for LOTRO because we felt that a more open model would allow LOTRO to reach it’s true potential. We felt that a subscription requirement was holding a lot of folks back from trying or enjoying the game, and without it, we believe everyone interested will be checking it out. We are looking forward to a very busy time!
Strategy Informer:The big question on everyone’s lips seems to be why you’ve decided to adopt a Free2Play model? Can you elaborate on why you’ve gone down this route – is the market a lot tougher than you foresaw?
David Solari: Dungeons & Dragons Online adopted the Free to Play model in 2009 to huge success, which opened the game up to many new players who preferred not to pay a subscription. The model has proven enormously successful and we believe it represents the future. Now The Lord of the Rings Online has the same opportunity, to give players a choice to play and pay in a way that suits them best.
Strategy Informer:What kind of response have you seen with those that have stayed loyal to LOTRO since its launch? Are they happy with the change in subscription?
David Solari: The overall response has been enormously positive. The decision to move LOTRO to a Free to Play model was a natural progression in the game's lifecycle. Also, following the success Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) which adopted the Free to Play option in 2009, it opened the game to lots of new players who were unwilling to pay a subscription. The Free to Play model has been so successful for us that we believe it represent the future of online gaming. Now The Lord of the Rings Online has the same opportunity, to give players a choice to play and pay in the way that suits them best.
There has been a great deal of excitement surrounding the release of LOTRO going Free to Play and we are really delighted with the attention and enthusiasm that the announcement of Free to Play has generated.
Strategy Informer:What plans do you have for the content store? Do you think people are going to warm to the idea of in-game items?
David Solari: I certainly hope so! I am of the opinion that the Free to Play model certainly has something to offer simply because the number one reason people play MMOs is to spend time with their friends; the number one reason they don’t play is a subscription charge. With the free to play option both problems are solved at the same time.
The main purpose of the LOTRO Store is to offer convenience items and not game changing power-ups. There is no "statted" gear or weapons sold in the LOTRO store – all of those must be obtained by completing quests through normal play of the game. Additionally, nearly all the items in the store can also be found in the game, either through in-game vendors, as treasure drops on monsters, or as rewards for quest completion.
Strategy Informer:For gamers who haven’t come across LOTRO before, what makes it stand out from other MMOs in the market?
David Solari: LOTRO is based on one of the most-loved fantasy stories of all time and the game faithfully recreates the setting allowing players to immerse themselves in the world of Middle-earth. Players can experience the story as if they are there living it. They follow the Fellowship on their momentous journey and encounter all the favourite characters from the book. It's this strength and depth of story that makes LOTRO such a favourite with the players.
Furthermore, the developers have incorporated rich game features that have never been seen before in MMOs such as the live music system, the Skirmishes system, a unique take on PvP which is played via the Monsterplay system. There are also hobbies such as fishing that players can enjoy and addition to that you'll find all the standard game systems such as player economy, auction house, crafting, player housing and much, much more! There are literally hundreds of hours of gameplay and with the regular updates, the game is a living, breathing and evolving world!
Strategy Informer:For those thinking of returning to Middle Earth, what’s changed since the early days of the game?
David Solari: I believe that we are going to unlock the true potential of LOTRO and the active player-base will grow substantially. We also expect to continue to develop and release great content updates that allow the players to continue to experience the full arc of the LoTR story.
Strategy Informer:If we jump forward to today, the European F2P launch sees the release of Book 2; Ride of the Grey Company – what are players going to find with the new content?
David Solari: Volume III, Book 2; Ride of the Grey Company will have some great new content coming with it. You’ll find a wide range of new content with this update, but Enedwaith is definitely the most visible area. Enedwaith takes us back outdoors to the west of the Misty Mountains, into an environment inspired by Eregion and also Welsh mythology. The landscape is dominated by massive Gondorian watchtowers, but ranges from snow-topped mountain peaks and Dunlending villages to corrupted barrows and ancient forests. You can also continue the Epic story of Volume 3 in Enedwaith, traveling with the Rangers of the Grey Company.
Strategy Informer:What’s planned for the future – where do you see the franchise going?
David Solari: The next content update is already in being tested publically in the US! Our intention is to provide substantial, regular updates that address a range of content for all levels of players.
Over the next year we’re very excited to be heading to Isengard and we’ll be talking about that more toward the end of the year. There are still vast ranges of Middle-earth available, and we’re looking forward to continuing the journey to Mordor with all our players.
With regards to future expansions, we're not currently talking about those plans.
Thank you to David Solari for taking the time to answer these questions.