Sony’s free-to-play online shooter Planetside 2 will pack 2,000 players in an arena (interview)

First-person shooter games have become a multibillion-dollar market. But no one has really succeeded in the massively multiplayer online space with high-end hardcore shooters. Sony Online Entertainment hopes to change that with the upcoming launch of Planetside 2. John Smedley, head of SOE, believes that the game will set a new bar for online shooters, with more than 2,000 people fighting together in the same region. He also believes that the free-to-play business model for the game will attract a much larger audience than is typical for an MMO. Smedley also feels that Sony Online learned some important lessons from last year’s hacker attack, which brought down the company’s network of games for weeks. We caught up with Smedley at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) video game conference in Los Angeles. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

Free-to-play games catching MMO subscribers’ attention (and wallets)

The successful launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic notwithstanding, the business model of mandatory subscriptions for massively multiplayer online (MMO) games seems to be on its way out. A new user survey by online core gamer network Curse indicates that free-to-play games and microtransaction purchases are gaining ground even among subscribers of MMO market leader World of Warcraft.

GamesBeat weekly news roundup

Here’s some of the stories that ran only on GamesBeat this week. We’re running more stories exclusively on the GamesBeat section of VentureBeat now, particularly when the stories are mainly of interest to game readers. The broader interest stories are running on VentureBeat as well. And please visit the GamesBeat section to catch up on game news. We’re ramping up our game coverage, so you’ll find more and more news at GamesBeat.

Will Trion’s Rift be cataclysmic for World of WarCraft?

Rift is one of the biggest bets in video game history. Trion Worlds has been building the fantasy role-playing online game world for almost five years and has raised more than $100 million to build the game and the dynamic online platform that hosts it. The game will finally debut on March 1 in North America and March 4 in Europe. The beta has been out for a while and Trion Worlds announced Thursday that more than 1 million players have registered to play it. Yesterday, the players who pre-ordered the game started playing in advance of the launch date.