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A million new players have signed up for Sony Online Entertainment’s massively multiplayer online game DC Universe Online following its transition to a free-to-play business model last month, the company said.

DC Universe Online, for PC and PS3, originally required a paid monthly subscription when it launched in January this year. But Sony announced in September that the game was becoming free-to-play, with income being generated through micro-transactions and an optional subscription package. It was a gutsy maneuver, given the potential change in revenues for the title.

This move seems to have paid off, certainly in terms of player numbers. “DC Universe Online’s transition to free-to-play has been welcomed by the community and gamers with heroic enthusiasm. In just one week alone, 1 million new players have joined DCUO, with a 50/50 split between PC and PS3” Lorin Jameson, executive director of entertainment at Sony Online Entertainment Austin, said today.

Under the free-to-play business model, DC Universe Online now boasts a three tier access structure, as detailed below:

Free Access: New players have access to the base game content in DC Universe Online, including Gotham City, Metropolis, and all current raids and alerts outside of dowloadable content (DLC) packs. Free Access lets players create two characters and join a League, among other benefits. Free-level players can also purchase DLC packs, additional character slots and more in-game.

Premium Access: Any player who has spent at least $5 qualifies for the Premium Access level. Premium-level players get additional character slots, additional inventory slots, and higher cash limits. DLC packs, additional character slots, and more can be purchased in-game. All previous subscribers are automatically granted Premium Access.

Legendary Access: Legendary Access provides the most content, features and benefits of the three access levels. Loaded with enhanced features, Legendary Access is available for a $14.99 monthly fee (multi-month discounts available) and includes access to all DLC packs at no extra cost, more than 16 character slots, over 60 inventory slots, the ability to form Leagues, and many other benefits.

With SOE’s solid record of creating world-renowned MMO games, such as Everquest and Free Realms, it will be interesting to see whether this move pays off in the long-term. Getting gamers to sign up for a free-to-play MMO is one thing, but making sure they stick around and spend some money is another challenge altogether.

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