Players gain Experience Points (XP) by killing enemies, aiding allies, and capturing objectives. As players increase their Battle Rank they earn currency (Certs) which can be used to unlock ability upgrades and new weapons. Rather than serving as direct upgrades, unlockable weapons provide tradeoffs, often sacrificing versatility to perform better at a specific role. Players are able to specialize into specific classes or vehicles with Certs to better fit a their preferred playstyle. Daybreak Cash (DBC), a premium currency, is purchasable with real-world funds and unlocks weapons and cosmetic items; weapons bought with DBC are functionally identical to those purchasable with Certs.
Outfits are persistent player-run organizations that function as PlanetSide 2's clan system. The dominant Outfit that captures a facility gains resources, which can be crafted into tactical tools which include on-demand vehicles, shield bubbles, and orbital strikes. Outfits can also call down massive spacecraft known as Bastion Fleet Carriers to the battlefield for a limited amount of time, which are capable of providing ground and air support. Outfit Wars, a limited-time in-game event, allows Outfits to compete against each other in a competitive setting.
The wormhole appears yet again in 2640, and this time Connery leads an expedition consisting of Terran Republic officers, New Conglomerate representatives, and scientists seeking extraterrestrial knowledge. The wormhole collapses before the entire fleet is able to pass through, however, and 40,000 individuals are trapped on the other side, unable to return to Earth. Months pass, and as chances for survival become increasingly bleak, New Conglomerate insurgents begin launching attacks against Terran Republic forces, killing Connery in the process. In response, draconian laws are forced upon all passengers by the Terran Republic. The scientists onboard, led by Briggs, begin to distance themselves from both sides of the conflict.
Vehicle designs for PlanetSide Next, including those of the Galaxy aircraft and a New Conglomerate tank, were teased in early 2011 by Smedley. The game's working title was changed to PlanetSide 2 later that year, shortly before the game's website was updated with a trailer showing early gameplay and the new graphics. The game was revealed to be a "reimagining" of PlanetSide, with faster-paced first-person shooter mechanics, "triple-A" graphics, and a greater focus on capturing and defending territories. During the 2011 SOE Fan Faire, Smedley publicly announced that both PlanetSide 2 and EverQuest Next would use ForgeLight to support seamless worlds and realistic physics using Nvidia's PhysX API. SOE announced later in 2011 that comic book writer Marv Wolfman would be authoring episodic stories to establish the game's background and expand upon PlanetSide's original backstory.
During the 2013 Game Developers Conference, more PlanetSide 2 features were unveiled. A companion app for iOS and Android devices in development would allow players to view guides, use the in-game voice chat, track their character, and see a real-time PlanetSide 2 world map. Future updates to the app would allow users to affect battles by launching "drone strikes or orbital strikes" according to senior art director Tramell Isaac. The app was released in April 2013.
The game's developers have indicated an admiration of the freemium business model presented in League of Legends. During PlanetSide 2's development, SOE president John Smedley said the game would "not sell a more powerful gun or vehicle," with purchases using real-life money being only an alternative to unlocking items through gameplay. In 2012, creative director Matt Higby elaborated on PlanetSide 2's business model, stating that "no weapon, vehicle, attachment, continent, class or certification" would be inaccessible by free-to-play characters post-launch.
In 2017, Implants were released, which were time-limited perks obtained through loot boxes purchasable with in-game currency and Daybreak Cash. The system was initially received negatively by players due to perceived unfairness, leading the development team to entirely redesign the feature.
Players are able to create cosmetic items (such as helmets, armors, and decals) for the game with the Player Studio, a revenue sharing program where the creator of the item is paid each time their in-game item is purchased. Some participants have earned thousands of dollars from their creations.
Shortly after PlanetSide 2's official release, SOE partnered with Internet personalities TotalBiscuit (John Bain), SeaNanners (Adam Montoya), and Tobuscus (Toby Turner, later replaced by LevelCap Gaming) for the "Ultimate Empire Showdown", an event where each YouTuber represented one of the game's factions. Bain, a long-time PlanetSide fan, had begun working with SOE to promote PlanetSide 2 before the game's release and hosted a live showcase of the game during E3 2012. Bain was allowed access to the game during its development stages and regularly livestreamed early gameplay with the developers.
The world record was beaten yet again multiple times in 2022 as part of the game's 10th anniversary celebration. A peak of 1,530 players was recorded on a single continent prior to a server crash, with the highest stable player count reaching 1,241. 2b1af7f3a8