ArcheAge is one of those sneaky in-development MMOs that's likely to surprise a great number of gamers, rather like WildStar in the months leading up to release. Witch a huge emphasis on open world (open sea?) PvP, housing, and some of the most intense crafting I've seen in an online game. Currently the game is in alpha with access available via "Founders Pack" purchases. Hoever, today Trion and XL Games are happy to reveal the upcoming closed beta.
Closed beta for ArcheAge will start on July 17, expanding teh playerbase of the previously extremely limited alpha. Trion Worlds is offering three different "Founder's Packs" which provide access to the games at $49.99, $99.99 and $149.99. All of them offer beta access, and only one offers alpha access. Here's a hint, it's the most expensive one. In addition to letting in more founders, Trion Worlds will also start sending out invites to registrees. Basically, beta will have a ton more players than alpha. Makes sense, ya?
Unfortunately closed beta will not introduce the base free-to-play experience, instead making all players "Patron" level. ArcheAge is an interesting type of MMO using a hybrid system where "patrons" have generous advantage over non-patrons. This includes features like the ability to own property and build houses, post auctions for sale, and a variety of features that speeds up tedious features and provides additional resources. It's a harsh reality, but Patron status is quite literally pay-to-win. Trion World's response to this is by offering players the ability to purchase Patron status with in-game currency. Whether that's good enough to treat free-to-play players like second class citizens or not will disappoiningly not be realized until full launch.
There's current no announced release date for ArcheAge, but it is planned for 2014. Like many titles that feature a free-to-play option, however, it could live in beta perpetually. Expect them to full launch whenever they please, for funding reasons or any other.