Star Trek Online details its free-to-play transition

Space, and the all the frontiering to be had with it, will soon be a lot cheaper. Star Trek Online is going free-to-play, and now we have details on just why and when that’s happening.

“We’ve always wanted the game to be free-to-play,” Executive Producer and Chief Technical Officer Stephen D’Angelo told IGN. “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.”

But the transition won’t be as simple as switching models for the game. Developer Cryptic will also be tweaking the game’s economy  to give players an easier time as the start and begin to challenge them towards the end. Dilithium, an item used to obtain high-end kit, will become available via auction. Players can spend Cryptic Points (bought with real cash) to pick this stuff up should they not have the time to earn it from quests.

As D’Angelo explains: “Dilithium buys you the cool gear. People who buy Cryptic Points can go to our store and can buy the cool ships, but they can’t get the cool gear. We’re going to let people sell their Dilithium to other players for Cryptic Points.”

But when is all this change coming? January 17, 2012. Is that too far off?