A couple of weeks ago, Turbine announced that it was entering the free-to-play arena with the upcoming release of its Dungeons and Dragons Online expansion, Eberron Unlimited. Although most people view this as a last-ditch effort to save the game from obscurity in a rapidly expanding MMO market, some also feel that Turbine is testing the micro-transaction waters with this move. This is hardly surprising as more and more publishers are getting on the F2P bandwagon.
A good portion of the US free-to-play MMO market still consists of Asian-developed games imported by local publishers, but that's certainly beginning to change. Big players like Sony Online Entertainment, NCsoft, and EA are already in the picture with Free Realms, Dungeon Runners, and Battlefield Heroes, respectively, with more in the works. As far as popularity goes, the leader of the pack is still Maple Story, developed by South Korean company Wizet, with 87 million registered users, an estimated 10 to 15-percent of which are active players. But consider this: SOE's Free Realms recently reached the 3 million mark, barely seven weeks after it launched!