The free-to-play strategy title will have premium content packs available to purchase at launch.
Just a year after its announcement at GamesCom 2010, Microsoft's Age of Empires Online will be launching on Aug. 16 as both a free download and a retail release. The free-to-play MMORTS will feature "more than 40 hours" of gameplay, although Microsoft has shared the pricing details and there is an up-front cost if you want the full version of the game. Premium Civilization packs will set you back $20 and while some of the content will have to be unlocked through gameplay, the premium packs nonetheless include rare equipment, new advisers, exclusive tech trees, and additional game modes.
Microsoft also plans to pull in profits with a few smaller expansions. Booster packs will cost $10 and add new game modes or story content, while Vanity packs will be $5 and are exactly that. They provide players with decorative items like fountains, shrubbery, and statues that don't have any serious impact on gameplay. Booster and Vanity packs will be available at launch and you won't need to be a premium player in order to have access to the additional content.
Age of Empires Online is being developed by Robot Entertainment, a studio comprised of former Ensemble employees. Ensemble created the original Age of Empires and Age of Mythology games and worked on Halo Wars before closing down in 2008.