After the record lengthy Buddy key thread, and discussions about why don't they just simply put up a trial, well, here it is
At first, with the membership upgrade they removed the buddy keys (kept available but only for a very limited amount and not automated). Had a post about it back then:
I think it had collisions with the new membership benefits, and they had to smoothen the issues. Just a guess, don't take my word for it
It took some time, but finally they made it, and they're not simply giving back the buddy keys, they're launching a trial option instead.
Was announced in the Streaming Ones last night, anyone can just go to https://play.thesecretworld.com/
and signing up, then try out the game for 10 days (instead of the former 3 days from buddy keys).
In the light of this trial, the pre-loading client change with the update yesterday makes even more sense (now there's an option to quickly download only a minimal client with Kingsmouth, and downloading the rest while playing the game). I wondered, how many new or returning players are out there, to justify the dev time and money of this change, but if there will be a constant stream of new players, it's more worth it I guess
Tested myself (not the new client download mechanic, it's more than 50 Gb, no thanks
the trial option), and it's pretty good. The mail you receive after sign-up has the info about joining the Sanctuary channel, which is a very good advice for new players and was told to Funcom numerous times to add the info somewhere into the new player experience - now at least it's in the mail.
Gameplay-wise, it's like playing with an existing non-subscriber account (no discount in the store, no xp bonus, longer mission cooldowns, etc.), I think that was one of the reasons they had to change the buddy keys, those had discounts. There's a faint TSW Trial Account text displayed in the upper left corner, even through the cinematics, that's a change too
And on the top bar it's listed as well, aongside the remaining time of the trial.
In-game store always opening up with an offer page, and the same offer page occasionally pops up with loading screens: buying a membership during the 10 days of trial (even a 1 month) unlocks the game. So if there's no sale somewhere on the web for the base game, it's cheaper to grab the trial and sub for a month. (though I guess this means from now on the box price will always be lower than $15)
Another change, buddy key gave the xp-boosting ring at the completion of Polaris, it's not tied to the dungeon anymore, trial players get the ring automatically when they arrive to Kingsmouth. There was also a $10 worth of bonus points in the buddy keys, I'm pretty certain they removed that offer too
Not 100% sure though, so when I finish the 10 main mission which was the condition for that bonus, I'll update this part.
There. No more buddy keys, just a mail address and 10 days of play. I think that's maybe enough time to play through the whole Solomon Island region. Hope they know what they're doing at Funcom... (but I was against the b2p change too, and that turned out quite nicely, so maybe I'm wrong again. I mean, there's no point for goldsellers to come here, PAX is useless