Following the move by fellow superhero MMO Champions Online to adopt a free-to-play basic mode back in January, Paragon Studios' PC/Mac title City of Heroes will offer a new gaming package by the end of 2011 that will cost gamers zero. City of Heroes Freedom will launch for free later this year, giving those who haven't tried out the game since its launch in 2004 a chance to dig into a limited choice of features for as long as they like. Of course, players will still have the option to pay for a premium subscription to access the game's full content plus exclusive costumes, powers and other options.From City of Heroes' official announcement:

In City of Heroes Freedom, dive into new stories and features right away and enjoy more of them in the future. Freedom kicks off with a new free update, Issue 21: Convergence, and increases the pace of quality, high-energy content with regular new Issues, monthly signature story arcs, new weekly in-game store items, and high-level Incarnate Trials. Issue 21 packs in the First Ward co-op zone, gripped in mystical conflict, as well as the Time Manipulation Power Set, the IDF and Defense Costume Sets, and the Underground Incarnate Trial. Signature story arcs, free with VIP players' subscriptions, let you fight alongside iconic Heroes and Villains in story arcs that make a difference in the City of Heroes universe.

Judging from CoH's Fact page, current subscribers needn't sweat the switchover as their accounts will automatically adopt VIP status. There's no firm release date for City of Heroes Freedom just yet, but a shift in rewards for current subscribers kicks off on July 1, so playing for free could happen sooner than later in 2011.

[Via Joystiq]