A few weeks ago, Microsoft announced that it would officially launch its free-to-play PC RTS game Age of Empires Online sometime this autumn. Today the publisher has narrowed down the launch for the game and its actually coming out sooner than expected. The game's official web site has confirmed that August 16 will be the launch date for the title developed by Gas Powered Games. It will be Microsoft's first PC exclusive game in the past several years.
As we reported earlier this month the game will still launch as a free-to-play title with two factions (the Greeks and Egyptians) via Internet download but Microsoft will also offer gamers the option to purchase a boxed retail copy of Age of Empires Online with access to extra content not found in the free-to-play version. Microsoft claims that the game will still offer over 40 hours of gameplay entirely for free. However it will sell content packs that will add new civilizations, new gameplay modes and more.
Gas Powered Games took over full development of Age of Empires Online earlier this year (the original developer, Robot Entertainment, decided to pull out to develop its own original games). In a recent interview, Gas Powered's founder Chris Taylor supported the rise of the free-to-play game business model for the PC game industry, saying he was "done" with paying $50 for a PC game. However Microsoft is still releasing a boxed retail copy of Age of Empires Online because the company feels that some gamers "still want to go down to the store and buy a retail product."