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Free Realms, the free-to-play family-friendly online world created by Sony Online Entertainment, has turned three years old. To celebrate, Sony is inviting the game’s 20 million registered users to a variety of in-game activities and new content.

Free Realms is one of the most successful Western online games. When it debuted three years ago, it was the first major Western world from an established video game company to experiment with free-to-play, where users play for free and pay real money for virtual goods.

Now, a few years later, most massively multiplayer online game worlds have shifted to free-to-play or embraced the freemium business model in some way. Players have come to expect free-to-play, which started in Asia as a means to combat large-scale piracy.

The fantasy-themed game is now on the web-based PC, Mac, and PlayStation Network. Free Realms now has 59,000 in-game items such as customizable pets and unique clothing such as a Skeletal Hoodie. Players have started more than 112.8 million collection quests.

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The world will feature a bunch of birthday story quests, daily birthday rewards, and an epic in-game world event featuring the return of one of Sacred Grove’s favorite villains, Cakenstein.

“We’ve seen the community grow exponentially in the past three years, and celebrating this birthday is a great testament to the success of the game,” said John Smedley, president of Sony Online Entertainment. “Our goal at SOE has always been to keep our players engaged through new content and rich experiences. To further support this goal, in the next few weeks, we will be bringing players an opportunity to go deeper into the world of Free Realms, and I can’t wait to see and hear their reactions.”

Smedley unveiled Free Realms and its plan to target children and parents with the game at the GamesBeat 2009 conference in San Francisco.

All players will get a special birthday hat. They will be able to purchase unique items, such as a party Piñata pet, birthday furniture, and more.

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