Despite assurances as recently as last month that EverQuest II wouldn't be going free-to-play, Sony Online Entertainment today announced that the game is doing just that... sort of. EverQuest II Extended is slated for a beta launch on August 17th, and features a separate server set providing all of the game's original content via the insanely popular F2P business model.
"The very nature of an MMO is change, and the decision to create Extended was fueled by evolution of the industry landscape," says EQII lead producer Dave Georgeson. "By offering two services side by side we have given the power to our players to determine the program that best fits their game play style."
Extended will allow access to all zones through The Shadow Odyssey, sans subscription, credit card info, or software purchases. Players will be able to purchase additional perks (such as races, levels 80 - 90, statistical gear, and potions) through the marketplace. Existing EQII subscribers will also be able to transfer their characters to the F2P servers, albeit without their gold. Bags, no-trade items, and attuned items will be transferred. Extended also offers a yearly subscription priced at $200 USD, which equals out to $16.66 per month. SOE is chipping in 60 Station Cash to make up the difference.
Check out the membership matrix for all the details on the new service, and stay with Massively for our interview with Dave Georgeson later today.
[Update: That interview can be found here.]