This is a topic that has been hotly debated for years on SecondLife. For those of you not familiar with SL, it is not a game, but a virtual community where one can be or do almost anything imaginable. Besides socializing, building and buying/selling real estate are the two biggest forms of "working" within SL. The lindens (SL's form of plat) can be converted to RL $USD and some people actually have a rather lucrative part-time and, in rarer cases, full-time income from SL.
There are two types of accounts in SL: bacic (free) and premium. The premium service, which is in a price range of $9.95/mo-$6.00/mo depending on the choice of paying monthly, 3 months, 6 months, or yearly, offers the following benefits not afforded to free players: a weekly stipend of 300L (if one opts to pay for the yearly premium subscription, the stipend basically makes the account "free" as the stipend offsets the payment), the ability to purchase "mainland" (as opposed to estate land which is privately owned and is rented from the estate owner), a free home in one of the SL-built communities (as opposed to buying or renting land and buying or building ones own home), access to phone and live chat customer support, premium member-only "sandboxes" where people can build if they don't own enough land. Public sandboxes are the equivalent of pick up joints, so this is a decent feature. A few other things here and there are included throughout the year.
The SL debate is much like one or two posts in this thread - one side thinks SL should be totally subscription-only to weed out griefers, etc. The other side expresses that even though they don't pay a monthly subscription fee, they purchase a lot within SL, thus keeping the economy vibrant. The middle group likes the two choices, citing people who may be disabled, out of work in our current economy, etc. and who cannot afford another luxury item in their budget but are contributing residents within SL. Others think the premium service should include more things to make this option more attractive.
During the 3 1/2 years I've been in SL, nothing has changed; the basic & premium accounts are still offered and the forum debate continues.
My personal view is similar to the middle ground of the SL debate - I personally think more people would return to EQ and stay consistently if it was free. One of the reasons I quit was not being able to justify the $14.95/mo when I didn't play regularly and now my financial situation has changed which results in my purchasing game cards and playing sporadically here and there. (I also went from a premium to basic SL subscription as well.) I do like the idea of offering both paid and free access to EQ with the paid subscriptions having more benefits, features, etc. Only offering content to a certain expansion, for example, I think is a wonderful idea.
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Intellectually honest, not politically correct