Finally, pay-to-play games are (for the most part) a thing of the past! Although some game developers still charge a monthly fee for access to their servers, the majority have begun to offer the game for free, sometimes with the option of paying for upgraded game options (no advertisements, availability of new items and quests, etc.).
Many formerly pay-to-play games have seen profound success since becoming free-to-play. Here are a few examples of games which began as pay-to-play MMORPGs but can now be played for free:
Dungeons and Dragons Online. Online play was launched on February 28, 2006, with a $14.99 monthly fee attached. This continued until September 9, 2009, when the developers switched to free-to-play. Turbine, the game’s publisher, has seen unprecedented revenues since switching, and the game has more players than it ever has.
RF Online (or Rising Force Online) is a sci-fi and fantasy MMORPG, introduced on November 21, 2006. This game also carried a monthly subscription fee of $14.99. It is now free-to-play, and has been since late 2008.
ArchLord launched on October 3, 2006, and—again—carried a $14.99 subscription fee for North American players. The game never caught on, and in order to boost popularity, became free-to-play in January 2007. The game thrived, and is still played today.
ROSE Online (or Rush on Seven Episodes Online) is a MMORPG with an anime feel. It was initially introduced as a pay-to-play game on December 1, 2005, and switched to free-to-play in 2007-2008.
Ragnarok Online. This game’s publishers and developers experienced trouble with private servers taking business from them, and switched to free-to-play to prevent this.
The Chronicles of Spellborn (otherwise known as TCoS) launched in April 23, 2009. It was initially pay-to-play, again with a monthly fee of $14.99. The game’s developers went bankrupt in June of 2009, and the North American publisher decided to re-release the game as a free-to-play MMORPG. Since making the switch to free-to-play, TCoS has increased their player base. The game has been shut down.
Lord of the Rings Online is a free-to-play MMORPG for North American Gamers. It was released in September 2010. The free-to-play model allows you to build a character with a maximum level of 50 (if you want to level your character further, you have to pay).
EverQuest has been around for some time (the game turned 13 years old in March of 2012). The publishers announced that the game’s 13th anniversary would be celebrated by releasing the free-to-play version of the game.
Aion is a very popular Korean MMORPG, which went free-to-play for North American gamers in April of 2012.
Star Wars: The Old Republic. This game’s publishers introduced the free-to-play option on November 15, 2012.
Tera is a MMORPG which has been free to play since February 5, 2013. The new version of this game does not restrict any content or impose a level cap on its players, and requires no subscription fee.
Age of Conan: Unchained. This game was pre-released on May 17, 2008, which allowed those who pre-ordered the game and registered for early access to play online early. The full release took place on May 20, 2008 in North America and May 23 in Europe. In June 2011, a free-to-play version of the game was made available, with content limitations imposed for non-subscribers. On February 22, 2013, the publishers switched the game to free-to-play.
Rift, published by Trion Worlds, is becoming a free-to-play game on June 12, 2013 in conjunction with its next major update. A subscription option will be available, with offered added benefits for those who are willing to pay for them. According to the publisher, other rewards will be made available for current and previous subscribers.