Cryptic Studios has announced that their MMORPG Star Trek Online will be free-to-play by the end of the year. The differences between the subscription model and those features available to everyone haven't been nailed down yet, but the current model is bringing up a lot of questions as the closed beta begins. (Feature comparison is here:

As with many MMORPGs, Star Trek Online had a lifetime subscription model that roughly paid itself off after about 20 months, versus the month-by-month subscription. Since the game has been available for just about 20 months now, I can't help but think they've just pissed off the most loyal part of their fanbase.

Said Jack Emmert, CEO of Cryptic Studios, "transitioning to a free-to-play model is a natural way to share all we've built with a broader community of players and we couldn't be more excited." This leads one to wonder if their servers have seen an alarming decline in traffic, even though the developers have kept adding heaps of content at a decent rate. The game is in its "4th season" (a.k.a. major content update) and a 4.1 update is set for September 22.

Taking place in the year 2409, Star Trek Online lets fans both new and old experience unparalleled adventures within the Star Trek universe. Players have the opportunity to become high-ranking Starfleet officers and participate in missions structured like episodes that take them into the depths of space, across exotic planets and inside other starships.