In October last year Cryptic Studios and Atari announced that its most recent superhero MMO, Champions Online, was set to introduce a free-to-play option. At the time we didn’t have a date for introduction, but now we do.On January 25 new and existing players will be able to download the game for free, and sign-up to play for free. The official name for the new free game accounts is the Champions Online: Free For All. Restrictions will apply in gameplay, but this is limited to the Adventure Packs on offer. You are basically getting a fully-featured MMO experience for no money down.A paid-for Gold Membership option will remain in place that costs $14.99 per month. It unlocks most of the content including all the Adventure Packs that are either already available or set for release in the future.Even if you sign-up for the Gold Membership you may end up spending more money each month. Micro-transactions will be present in-game for specific optional items and costume pieces if you want to start customizing your characters. These are available to all players regardless of account type.Free-to-play models seem to be all the rage at the moment. Everquest II, Lord of the Rings, and even the recently shutdown APB is set to get a free model relaunch soon. Crytek is also planning a foray into the free-to-play model with the FPS Warface.Read more at Champions OnlineMatthew’s OpinionIf this works out for Cryptic, and the game sees an influx of new players and increased revenue, then it may be a model used for other Cryptic games. That means we could potentially see Star Trek Online go free-to-play. If that happens I may actually get around to playing it.I have no problem with there being free and paid-for versions of an MMO. As long as the incentives to pay each month are good enough then I don’t think a player enjoying a game minds paying. It only backfires if a developer tries to push the upgrade too hard by blocking content or making a player think they can do something only to find they hit a paywall.Cryptic has been doing MMOs too long to fall into that trap, though, and I hope this switch works out for them, especially in the face of growing competition such as the just released DC Universe Online.