The 2009 ZAM Awards

We've concluded our inaugural end of the year awards, which featured the best-of-the-best in massively multiplayer online gaming. Read more to find out which title won our Game of the Year!

FIRST PLACE: DDO Unlimited, Warhammer Online Turn to Free-to-Play Models

The first place honor is somewhat of a tie, but we feel both stories can be paired together to give us a glimpse at what the future may hold for MMO subscription fees. In June, Turbine made the shocking announcement that Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited was abandoning its subscription-based model to become a free-to-play game with a micro-transactions store. The news may have come as a surprise back then, but we feel DDO Unlimited has proven that switching to a free-to-play model can be successful. Whether you choose to buy new adventure packs or simply enjoy the free content, DDO Unlimited offers something for every type of gamer.

As if this news wasn't enough to shake the foundation of subscription-based MMOs, in Warhammer Online’s October newsletter Mythic announced that the game would be going free-to-play through Tier 1. While this unlimited free trial isn't as drastic a change as Turbine's switch for DDO Unlimited, it goes to show that studios are beginning to reevaluate the monthly subscription fees that are tied to our favorite genre of games. We recently tried out WAR's endless trial coupled with the New User Journey adjustments, and we can honestly say there's never been a better time to try out Warhammer Online.

So what does all this mean for the future of subscription-based MMOs? To put it simply, only time will tell. Funcom is currently offering an unlimited free trial for Age of Conan through Jan. 1, 2010, which shows that the company is toying with WAR's model. The new Champions Online demo gives players access to unlimited gameplay through level 15, and you can now explore Alganon for free for 30 days at a time. Even Blizzard is selling two World of Warcraft in-game companion pets for $10 each, although we're sure the behemoth won't be going free-to-play anytime soon. Still, it does demonstrate that there's a hint of change in the air.

SECOND PLACE: World of Warcraft's Woes in China

The saga of keeping World of Warcraft up and running in China has been a major story for MMO media outlets throughout the year. The news is incredibly convoluted, but we'll try to sum it up as succinctly as possible. In April Blizzard announced that NetEase was getting the license for WoW in mainland China over The9, the game's previous operator. Blizzard was then accused of entering an illegal joint venture with NetEase, which was followed by WoW entering closed beta in China in July.

The closed beta event was only supposed to last for a week, but the wait for authorization from China's General Administration of Press and Publication forced NetEase to continue the beta for longer than anticipated. The game remained free-to-play during testing in August and the GAPP suspended NetEase's approval to operate WoW in November, although the Ministry of Culture claims the game is ready to go. These events demonstrate that even the world's most popular MMO can get caught up in the red tape surrounding the GAPP and the MOC in China.

THIRD PLACE: Richard Garriott Sues NCsoft

Richard Garriott, the man behind games such as Ultima Online and Tabula Rasa, has had quite a year. His flight to the International Space Station as part of Operation Immortality in October 2008 made headlines throughout the world, which was immediately followed by announcements that Garriott was leaving NCsoft and that Tabula Rasa was shutting down in February 2009.

While the events leading up to Tabula Rasa's closure this year are enough to warrant its placement on this list, Garriott surprised us in May by suing NCsoft for fraud to the tune of $27 million in damages. Garriott alleges he was forced out of the company and didn't leave voluntarily after all. Any story that begins with a trip to space and ends with a lawsuit is certainly worthy of a spot in the 2009 ZAM Awards.


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The 2009 ZAM Awards
# Dec 11 2012 at 9:38 AM Rating: Decent
Awards for the past year 2010 are going to be a lot interesting.
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# Jan 11 2012 at 5:51 AM Rating: Decent
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Thumbs Up to the Great Online Gaming Idea
# Oct 31 2011 at 11:53 PM Rating: Decent
The fact that it is free-to-play is an excellent marketing idea. An ideal way to launch a game is to make it free and have a nominal subscription once it rises in popularity. I enjoy online gaming and will share this post on Facebook!

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# Aug 26 2010 at 3:18 AM Rating: Decent
It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenter here! It's always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained! I'm sure you had fun writing this article.

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# May 26 2010 at 1:25 AM Rating: Decent
Need more info about it thanks for kept me updated.

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# Jan 05 2011 at 2:41 AM Rating: Decent
the awards for the past year 2010 are going to be a lot interesting.i have a few mmo games in mind that i think have done splendid
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# Mar 16 2010 at 5:19 AM Rating: Decent
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D&D free
# Jan 11 2010 at 7:45 AM Rating: Decent
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D&D free?
# Jan 04 2010 at 11:16 AM Rating: Decent
D&D online won an award for being free to use.

When i goto there website it is talking about a monthly fee to play.

So my question is, is it free or not?
D&D free?
# Jan 04 2010 at 2:21 PM Rating: Excellent
295 posts
sunwolfy wrote:
D&D online won an award for being free to use.

When i goto there website it is talking about a monthly fee to play.

So my question is, is it free or not?

DDO Unlimited is free-to-play. However, players can choose to pay a subscription to become a VIP member and gain access to extra content.

But yes, just to make it clear, DDO Unlimited can be played for free. All you need to do is create a free account and then download the game.
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