This announcement came out of left field. I really didn’t expect Cryptic to announce this for another few weeks. One the plus side, I think knowing that the free-to-play launch won’t be until January 17th of 2012 will help assuage some of the forum drama that’s been rampant lately with people worrying that Cryptic and Perfect World were going to try and launch in December.
The more interesting bit from the announcement is this quote from Stephen D’Angelo, Executive Producer on STO and Chief Technical Officer:
We’ve always wanted the game to be free-to-play, in fact we tried to make it free-to-play at the original launch, but our publisher (Atari) didn’t want us doing that so we didn’t do that.
I don’t completely believe that since STO was their second game for Atari and I never heard anyone at Cryptic say Champions was always intended as a F2P game. Then again, with the way sector space is laid out in blocks, maybe there is something to that. Certainly going with a combination of subscription and in-game store shows a muddling of both models.