There's been a boatload of new announcements for Phantasy Star Online 2 in the past few days, and I'm here to round them up for you.
First off, as previously reported, the game is coming to both the PC and PlayStation Vita, but it will be completely free to play -- even the base client will be free. The game will be supported by (wait for it) micro-transactions (I'm expecting limited edition $100 Mags!). The PC version is set to release by mid-2012, but the Vita version is sadly coming sometime in 2013.
Additionally, there's going to be a Japanese closed beta, a pared down mobile version of the game (which will focus more on "social" elements), and an expansive character creator set to launch on April 5th. Siliconera has a ton of screens for all versions of the game for you to gander at.
As a huge fan of the PSO series, I'm pretty excited, so long as the micro-transaction model doesn't get out of hand. Read on for some of my thoughts on how this could play out.
To say that I'm a bit guarded on Phantasy Star 2 is an understatement. PSO has given me more entertainment than most video game franchises, but C.A.R.D. Revolution just wasn't my bag, and Universe left much to be desired. Basically, I've been waiting eight years for a true PSO game, but the SKU fragmentation and micro-transaction scheme has me worried.
My main concern is that having such a large disparity between the PC and Vita releases will cause people to "wait" for the Vita version, and miss out on what could be a year of progression. After all, the prospect of a "completely free to play" Vita game is fairly exciting and unique. Additionally, while I'm not going to claim that focusing another small team on the mobile "social" game is taking away from the core development time, I think it will just confuse people further as to what the core game really is (unless they do a good job at making this clear).
Another concern is the micro-transactions system in general, which isn't new to online RPGs, but is fairly uncommon with online dungeon crawlers. As I've said before, the main draw of micro-transactions for corporations is the element of competitive human nature. Simply put, if you're playing with friends, you want your sword to be bigger than their sword.
If the ability to just "buy" a larger sword is there, people will do it. I can remember distinctly competitively farming drops in PSO before hacking/training was rampant, and the look on people's faces when you'd come into class the next day and go "yea I finally got my Heaven's Punisher". With micro-transactions in a loot based game, depending on how they run it, it could ruin the loot race in favor of appealing to that competitive aspect of the human psyche. Of course, you could just as easily say this "eliminates the grind", which was smoke and mirrors padding designed to keep you locked in the subscription ("Hunter's License") required to play PSO.
However PSO2 turns out, given how invested I am I will be there to see how it goes, so expect some coverage later this year.
Phantasy Star Online 2 Will Be Free To Play On Both PC and Vita [Siliconera]