Before the start of Free MMO's way back in the start 90's, the costs needed to power an MMORPG to cover its servers and constantly needed game upgrades forced managers to sit back and discover a new perspective on where this kind of money can be pulled from.
First glance developers decided on top of buying the title, a annual subscription would also be needed to be maintained from its players for the title to continue to pay for its constant surge of bills and wages. Some of the early payment models actually had the gamer instead of paying monthly like we have and know of now, but making them paying by the hour!
This led to gamers concentrating on one title at a time due to them not wanting to pay for a second. Bring on the birth of "World of Warcraft". This mmo swooped in and grabbed control of the market. Gamers where enticed in by its emense array of combat mechanics and social grouping systems plus its ever expanding nature of new game expansions and new content which left gamers with always having something new and interesting to do.
even on this day World of Warcraft benchmarks the MMO gaming market. If you're going to pay for a title better off paying for the one that has the most content and player base to talk to right? This was the kind of question that would have sparked off the new era of payment models. Not paying for a thing!
The first Free MMO's started to show not to far after WoW claimed its position on the P2P (pay to play) market. At first these small under devolped tiny games were reviewed as being poorly coded and a shadow compared to their P2P (pay to play) brothers so were disregarded by the general gamer. For the most part this was a correct assumption.
Although with all fingers pointing in the direction of failure these free MMO's started to aim in the other direction. Raking in huge amounts of gamers from all over the world and lead to a new payment option, the micro-transaction. Basically Free MMO's are for the most part free although located within these little money spinners usually contains an in game shop.
These shops can be used to aquire all types of trinkets for your online experience. From items to help you level faster or clothing to make you stand out from the crowd, this kind of money market started to do just that and companies were seeing intense amounts of income from gamers.
Now we are starting to see the bigger developers take on the area of Free MMO's with big title MMO's such as Lord of the Rings Online, Star Trek Online and Conan all making the change from pay to play to free to play (F2P). And that's just 3 at top of my head, there are huge amount to choose from and with the added bonus that.