Star Trek Online has gone where nearly every MMO that doesn't end in "craft" has gone before; free-to-play.
Players with a current or past subscription to Star Trek Online have had access to the new, subscription-free version of the MMO since January 5th. Those players who've never picked up a phaser or diverted power to shields before have to wait until the 17th.
Just because the game is now free, doesn't mean you have to unsubscribe. Subscribed players will become "gold-tier" players and will have access to more features than their filthy, F2P-peon, "silver" counterparts. This handy chart breaks down the differences between the two tiers. Gold players will receive a monthly stipend of 400 promotional points, have free access to respect tokens, receive 2 additional bridge officer slots per rank and enjoy ad-free voice chat, amongst other things. Players who paid for a lifetime subscription will be automatically entered into the gold tier.
While going F2P is seen as a sign of failure by some of the MMO crowd, it seems to me that it's now a natural part of the MMO cycle. The 15 dollars-a-month price tag is becoming increasingly untenable, and several MMO's, including the upcoming Guild Wars 2, are shipping without any subscription costs at all.
Not being a fan of the series, I can't think of a suitable Star Trek reference to close this article. I'm sure you'll supply your own.
Source: Star Trek Online Blog