With Champions Online the fourth sub MMO to go F2P, I think we can safely say it’s now a trend.
I don’t think it’s a good trend though. While I am fine with the specifics of how they plan to do it, the bigger problem is that they’ve punished all the “early adopters” by doing so. Lifetime subbers paid for a game that has just gone F2P in one year and a few months, which sucks because the point of lifetiming is the point of F2P: being able to jump into the game with no worries about a sub fee. Normal subbers have less to complain about, but still do because of how this will affect the genre.
I think a danger now is that more players simply will wait out games till they decide to go F2P. Not only because of spending money, but because of how the game itself might change based on the transition. You might find yourself paying for a different game than when you started.
I also think this is not good in that we are devaluing the creative work of a MMO. One of my worries about creative works in general is that the free and low-cost is driving out a lot of quality work. Call it the Wal-Mart effect. This is going to lead to a lot of lowcost F2P games, and Megahits. It’s going to crowd out the mid-range MMO in the same way Wal-Mart destroyed the mid-sized regional retail chains through price competition. You’ll have the MMO equivalents of Wal-Mart and the dollar stores.
Eventually we are going to see a blowback as too many companies wont be able to make money, and will probably flee to different platforms. That’s the downside of low prices. If the companies cannot deal with saturation and piracy, they’ll have no incentive to make quality games as opposed to cheap ones.