Massively reported today that Marvel Universe Online will be free-to-play, feature Brian Bendis as its lead writer, and will have players controlling canon characters. This would make it the first western title to launch free-to-play.
More importantly, though, the article doesn't feature a single thing about creating your own character, and I assume that is done to mean that players will only be allowed to play as established characters. Which could be good or bad. Will this lean towards a Marvel Ultimate Alliance sort of scenario? Who knows?
Personally, I like it in the sense that it is breaking one of the sacred norms about MMORPG's: that we must create our own character. There are sites devoted entirely to insulting WoW players who claim to be related to characters from established lore, and yet here we now have a game that says "Here, go play as Wolverine. Have a blast." It's a refreshing change of pace.
Despite that, I have a feeling that this game will not feature an open world situation in any way, lest my title come true. It has plenty of promise though. Hypothetically, if they were to go the route of M:UA, they could create instanced scenarios where players could take on challenges, give bonuses to players who put together established teams (X-Men, Avengers) and hell, even collecting digital comic issues and alternate costumes for the characters could be a blast. Sure, it isn't an RPG in the traditional sense, but with an entry cost of free, what do we have to lose by trying it out?