For a player shaped world like EVE, this is a massive change.
In a genre dominated by World of Warcraft, which is a complete and total behemoth of the arena, any MMORPG that actually manages to attract monthly subscriptions to it is laudable and incredibly resilient- it means that the MMO is offering a viable niche, or alternative, to World of Warcraft, that people are willing to pay for.
One of the games that has survived in a WoW dominated world all this time has been popular space MMO EVE Online, which still requires a monthly subscription for you to be able to play it. However, that will now be changing- this November, with the release of the new expansion, EVE Online will become free to play.
There will be caveats, naturally- free players will be able to play the game indefinitely, but they will find a lot of skills locked from them. Since skills determine what all you can do in the game, including what all ships you can fly, they will generally find themselves playing a more limited game than paying subscribers, who will continue to have full access to everything that the game has to offer.
Developer CCP are emphasizing that in spite of all of the restrictions, free players will be able to mine, explore, run missions and take part in the game’s huge fleet fights- so the bulk of the game’s baseline content will be available to them. Subscribers who stop paying will find access to higher abilities locked, and free players who start paying will find all abilities unlocked.
Given that EVE‘s world, and everything within it, is entirely based on player agency and action, making EVE a truly emergent game, it remains to be seen how a potentially larger player base, which this move will doubtless attract to the game, will change what happens in EVE. One thing is for sure, it will be an exciting time to be an EVE player in the coming months.