|Developer(s)||Sony Online Entertainment|
|Publisher(s)||Sony Online Entertainment|
|Platform(s)||PlayStation 3, Windows, Mac|
April 28, 2009
March 29, 2011
November 2, 2010
|Genre(s)||Massively multiplayer online, adventure|
Free Realms was a massive multiplayer online role playing video game, developed by Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) for the PC, Mac, and PlayStation 3, set in a fantasy-themed world named Sacred Grove. The game was released on April 29, 2009 for Windows. The game restricted to free-to-play up to level 20, although there was access to additional game content via a membership fee. The game allowed the player to fight, interact with other players, and more. The game was shut down on March 31, 2014; SOE stated that they no longer had enough resources to maintain the game's servers.
The game was available to download and play free of charge. The PC version was accessed via the Free Realms web site or, through game arcade sites Candy Stand or Miniclip. During character creation a 3D client downloaded in the background and then streamed as the user played; the same method was used to download new content or updates, which reduced file size and download times. A version of FreeRealms for Mac was announced at SOE Fan Faire 2010 for release "within the next 3 months." The Mac version was released on November 2, 2010.
Free Realms offered an optional membership for a single player, which allowed for 3 characters to be created per account (plus other benefits such as member-only quests, jobs, and items). Only one character can be played at a time; the game will kick extra active characters. Before Free Realms was shut down, SOE planned to offer a "family" membership that would allow multiple logins at the same time. Separate to memberships is the Station Cash currency which can be used for premium features across Sony Online Entertainment games (including Free Realms).
In the New York Times, Free Realms was well received. The reviewer, Seth Shiesel, noted "For Sony Online, Free Realms is a triumph of the company’s own reinvention." USA Today reviewer Marc Saltzman gave Free Realms a 4/5 score, noting "Sony Online Entertainment's Free Realms is an extraordinary online adventure that is sure to please tweens and teens looking for a fun and free fantasy world." Eurogamer gave the game a largely positive review, MMO editor Oli Welsh describing the game as "an effortlessly light and addictive indulgence". MMOHuts gave the game a 4/5 and noted that "Free Realms is one of the most feature-rich free MMORPGs currently available and it’s all delivered in a beautiful package". In a review of Free Realms at USA Network's Character Arcade, David Chapman stated that the game "is a surprisingly deep game experience for a free to play model. There's never a shortage of things to do ... even if you never pay a dime to Sony." 
John Smedley, president of Sony Online Entertainment, revealed that one million users had signed up to Free Realms 18 days after its launch; a month after release Free Realms reached two million users, and registrations have continued growing at a steady rate since then. As of July 24, 2009, it had nearly five million registered users. Sony Online Entertainment announced in February 2010 that the game had eight million registered users. In April 2010, it was announced that the game had ten million players, with two million players signing up in March 2010.
A Free Realms tie-in comic, published by DC Comics' Wildstorms and released for $4.99 per issue, held twelve issues each of which contained an unique one time code redeemable for an in game virtual reward. The comic was written by J.S. Lewis, writer of the "Gray Griffon" series of young-adult fantasy books, with art by Allen Martinez and Jon Buran.
The comic featured Dane Kensington, an aspiring Brawler who set out on his adventure in hopes of becoming stronger.
Shortly after the game shut down, a small team of community developers known as Kaldron Interactive announced plans to revive the game via an emulator known as Free Realms: Sunrise. Development on the emulator began in late 2015, and the application experienced a short period of alpha testing in April 2017. As of early August 2019, it is still unknown when the emulator will receive a beta release.
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- "Free Realms: Sunrise FAQ". Retrieved June 19, 2019.