Ubisoft's Gamescom 2012 press conference and the publisher's key message came through loud and clear: free-to-play is where it's at. The hour-long presentation focused entirely on Ubi's lineup of current and upcoming F2P offerings, covering everything from the pew pew of ShootMania Storm and Ghost Recon Online to the world-building of Anno Online and The Settlers Online, and more besides.
Stealthy, deep-sea naval warfare in Silent Hunter Online. Multiple flavors of Might and Magic, as a card game (Might and Magic: Duel of the Champions), as strategy RPG play in your browser (Might and Magic Heroes Online), and as an action-RPG (Might and Magic: Raiders). Every single one of these titles is free-to-play, either right now or in the near future.
The presser closed with Ghost Recon Online, developed by Ubisoft Singapore. The game is now up and running in 40 countries across North America and Europe, offering players the opportunity to participate in 8v8 showdowns in two different game modes on any of four maps. Can it possibly hope to compete with 2012's excellent Ghost Recon: Future Soldier? Probably not. But it's totally free, and you can try it right now at ghostrecononline.com.
Might and Magic got a lot of attention as well, with two new F2P game reveals that offer a different sort of play than the popular multiplayer card game, Might and Magic: Duel of the Champions, does. Might and Magic Heroes Online is a browser-based take on the Heroes line of strategy RPGs. Players will customize their Heroes, gear up, recruit armies, and march to war with co-op buddies at their side. Take a peek at mm-heroesonline.com.
Less was revealed about Might and Magic: Raiders, though you can sign up for updates at the game's official website. The press release outs Raiders as a F2P action-RPG featuring four character classes and co-op play. The story is set before the events of Might and Magic Heroes 4, and the play is designed for "20 minute bursts of action" as players defend Hammerfall with their fellow raiders.
Also among the new reveals was Anno Online, a browser-based free-to-play version of Ubi's Anno 1404. The game is the work of 1404 and The Settlers dev Blue Byte, and it essentially carries the content from that earlier game into a massively multiplayer space. There's a re-designed user interface to help make the world-building challenge a bit more accessible, which makes sense since the game is designed to work on any device that has an Internet connection and a web browser. Anno Online isn't live yet, but you can keep up with the latest happenings at AnnoOnline.com.
Lastly we have Silent Hunter Online, a F2P makeover of the complex submarine combat sim for PCs. Players will be able to team up and form a Wolfpack of their own for co-op play in "Battle of the Atlantic," a dynamic campaign built around real-time missions and rewarding individual successes. Silent Hunter Online is expected to launch in Q4 2012, and you can watch for updates at SilentHunterOnline.com.