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Star Trek Online to go free-to-play by end of 2011

Yet another high profile massively multiplayer PC game will soon offer players a way to check out a large amount of its content for free. Developer Cryptic Studios has officially announced that Star Trek Online, the sci-fi title based on the long running movie and TV show franchise, will transition to a free-to-play business model sometime before the end of 2011. The game was first launched back in February 2010 with a monthly subscription model.

In today's press release, the developer announced that when the transition is completed, much of the game's content will become free to access. Current monthly subscribers can continue to play Star Trek Online as Gold members which allows them access to even more content and features. Gold members will pay $14.99 a month. A list of what will be available for free and for paid Gold members can be found on the game's official web page. Players who have lifetime subscription plans will always have Gold member status in the game. Cryptic Studios was recently purchased by Perfect World Entertainment for $60 million from its former owner Atari.

Star Trek Online will be just the latest in a series of MMO games that have decided to offer much of its content for free. Other MMO games that have decided to switch to this hybrid model after first launching as monthly subscription games include Turbine's Dungeons and Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online, Funcom's Age of Conan, and Cryptic's own Champions Online. In addition, Blizzard recently launched a "unlimited free trial" version of its MMO World of Warcraft that allows players to access and play the original game for free but doesn't allow the player's characters to go beyond level 20.

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