Ghost Recon Online Opens Public Beta; Ubisoft Joins F2P Crowd

Thu, Aug 16, 2012

Free-to-Play, PC

I’ll steal a line straight from Joystiq because it’s just so good: “The Ghost Recon Online closed beta has finally flipped its cloaking device to the off position for good.”

Materializing out of the darkness like a camouflaged agent of war, the new online shooter is now accepting sign-ups for the beta. It is downloading on my desktop as I type, so I’ll probably see you on the servers this weekend. (Don’t worry, I’m not very good at shooters.)

Ubisoft’s last outing in the Tom Clancy franchise was Ghost Recon Future Soldier, released for consoles and PC last May. Alongside that release was a 2D Facebook game, Ghost Recon Commander. The franchise has seen a number of previous releases over the years, and it appears now the free-to-play model is the next step.

In typical Ghost Recon fashion, players will wage war with high-tech gear like bubble shields, cloaking devices, drones and enemy trackers. You can customize your weapons with various attachments and mods to fit your play style. The combat is squad-vs-squad, allowing for up to 16 players in matches which include Onslaught and Conquest game modes. Matches yield Requisition Points which can be redeemed for more gear.

Ubisoft joins a slew of other developers in recent news preparing games that fit the free-to-play model, prompting journalists to inquire if this constitutes the future of triple-A games. Like many such titles, Ghost Recon Online will include in-game transactions which allow players to purchase weapons and gear.

Some fans worry about the development of a “pay to win” gaming culture, where only those who fork over cash for the best items stand at the top of the leaderboards. F2P triple-A titles are still relatively new, so the full effects of their in-game transactions have yet to be seen. Developers are adopting the free-to-play model not simply to be charitable, but to tap into a relatively new market. In other words, just because the game is free doesn’t mean the developer doesn’t intend to make money from it. What effects this move will have on the gaming community are yet to be seen, but it should be fun to watch.

With high-gloss titles like Ghost Recon Online, Command and Conquer, and Star Wars: The Old Republic going free-to-play, the future certainly seems like an interesting place for gaming. See you on the servers.

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