I'll get the good news out of the way first. In five to seven weeks time when a Summer Update arrives, Age of Empires Online (PC)
will become entirely free to play if you so choose. How is this so? There will be an entirely new method of paying for content in the form of Empire Points as revealed in an official blog post
Empire Points are earned while you play and players can currently earn these points. At the moment, these points are used to buy certain items from stores within your Capital City. However, after the Summer Update, these points will be the ONLY way that players can purchase extra civilizations, booster packs, vanity items or store items. For players who spend a sufficient amount of time playing this game, you will "eventually" be able to unlock all of the previously DLC-only content. If you don't want to spend a lot of your time playing the game and want the content immediately, Empire Points will be available for purchase in real currency. These Empire Points can then be spent on anything that you may choose.
You may be wondering what happens to all of the content that you've already paid for. The answer is absolutely nothing. You will keep all of the DLC that you have paid for and the content will apply to all current and future cities that you may create. All of your existing Empire Points will be converted to coin so that you can use them as you choose. Once the update is applied, any new Empire Points will now be associated with your account instead of being associated with a specific city. They will be usable in any of the cities that you own or any that you may create in the future.
How about holders of the Season Pass? Up until August 15th, 2013, the expiry date of the Season Pass, holders of this pass will be gifted with regular amounts of Empire Points on a fixed schedule. This schedule will be announced near the time when the Summer Update is applied.
Gas Powered Games also wanted to confirm that they will still be releasing new content for the game. New consumables and new vanity items were the two types of content mentioned in the blog post, but more details on this are due to be revealed next month. We'll let you know when we find out more!