Update Oct. 2016
Free to play is happening check out the devblog on alpha and omega clones.
The idea of a free to play (F2P) Eve Online has been in the back of my mind ever since I read this comment on a EN24 article (http://evenews24.com/2013/09/12/yet-another-dev-leaves-for-riot-games/). Sadly the article isn't live but I couldn't confirm the comment even if it was.
Anonymous:Despite the twelve other rumors in the comment that deserve articles in and of themselves, the comment does make me think what would a F2P model look like in Eve Online? With the shift to unlimited skill ques and changes to the trial account is it viable in Eve Online to have a free to play model? And lastly you might argue is the game already free to play? Lets work through the questions and see what conclusions we can find.
Zulu and Soundwave were both in a camp in the company that believes that F2P is inevitable and that the next few xpacs should pave the wave for a 2015 F2P release. They had collaborated on a proposal that was shot down by the rest of the design team who believe that the game will continue to grow in sub numbers and that there aren't any other viable contenders in the genre to warrant the redesign.
There's some talk that is Sony buys us out, then we'll be going F2P anyway, but these two didn't want to see CCP go F2P under SOE.
My idea of an Eve Online F2P model would be allowing everyone to log on for free without the ability to train skills. If you want to train skills you have to pay $15 dollars for 30 days and or use a PLEX(These are not unique ideas.) This does several things it keeps the economy of PLEX for isk intact and probably increases it. It allows players that are currently subscribed to stay paying if they choose and continue to skill train. It keeps the character trading market intact. F2P model would also allow any old players to return free of charge if they choose. It allows every ones alt accounts to be playable as well.
It allows new players to try the game out with out any commitments. Give them the 30 day trial with training. They can choose to spend a little money and train up to fly other ships they can fly around with their venture and grind enough isk to get a PLEX. It allows casuals to stay casual it doesn’t punish veterans as you can’t just automatically fly a titan or have a titan.
Is it a viable option in Eve Online to have a free to play model?A little google searching will conjure up some scary scenarios. We find posts like these on the forums:
I also think, we will have 4~7 cloaky neutrals in every null sec system, that afk all day.These are important discussion items that would need to take place. Developers would be faced with a mountain of balance and server issues out of the gate. Do we want just any random internet Joe access to the client? With these concerns alone I don't think we would see a F2P model in Eve Onlines future.
Jita will stil be limited to roughly 2000 players, but instead. The entire constellation will be nearly full. Reaching Jita would be impossible.
Suicide freighter ganks are more easily attained. As 1 guy could get 150 free to play accounts and use rifters to suicide on 1 Freighter.
The bittervets and other old carebear people will quit the game. But instead for every one of them, eve online gets 30 free to play players (who would probably never pay or barely go for microtransactions).
Time Dilation is a natural thing, as it will affect everyone, for the whole time. Fleet op Fights will probably resulting in a lot of server crashes.
Is the game already free to play?This is anther important question to consider. The current model of using PLEX to pay for an account subscription may seem free to some. PLEX strikes the perfect balance between causal and hardcore allowing those with time or concentration to make in-game currency to pay their subscription dues. While others that want a boost in assets in-game can choose to purchase those through PLEX. Eve Online can be free to play depending on your valuation of time.
While I don't expect Eve to be F2P any time soon or even ever. The model of F2P will probably keep being considered as more and more F2P titles dominate player numbers.
Just my two cents.