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BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic Goes Free to Play

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 38 comments

In a not-so-unexpected move, EA announced that The Old Republic is going free-to-play... with some restrictions.

Unless you're World of Warcraft—which has been seeing declines of its own, mind you—the MMO market is a tough place to be. Following the example of Asian MMOs, most in the genre have ditched the subscription model in favor of free-to-play.

Even BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic, which started off with a strong launch—enough for it to be dubbed a possible "WoW killer"—has been facing heavy drop-offs in numbers. In the most recent months, SW:TOR's reported a 400,000 drop in subscriber base. It's really not surprising to see, given the fact that the MMO is story-driven and that the developer is pumping out new materials slower than the rate at which players consume them.

SW:TOR first dipped its toes into free-to-play earlier in July, when BioWare and EA announced that the game would be free-to-play for friends of subscribers up to level 15. Apparently, the scheme to get new players worked, as EA today announced that SW:TOR would be going completely free-to-play up to level 50.

The game's subscription model hasn't been done away with. Instead, BioWare and EA are offering perks to subscription members, who will gain monthly grants of the game's new virtual currency, Cartel Coins, to spend on in-game items.

Free-to-play members will have certain content locked out that can be granted when they decide to purchase them with Cartel Coins. However, in order to grab all content, a paid subscription must be had.

Starting in August, SW:TOR will go on sale for $14.99, with a month's worth of complimentary subscription.

The free-to-play with subscription model is a good one to have for a story-driven MMO such as BioWare. It'll hopefully motivate free-to-play players who hit the level cap or are drawn in by the story to shell out the subscription necessary to keep on playing.

 

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  • 11 Hide
    bustapr , August 1, 2012 10:13 PM
    gotta say its MUCH more appealing now that its completely f2p until lvl 50. if youre so diehard that you want every item in the game and want to enjoy it past 50, then pay the sub fee. I like this model, but is the game worth trying out?
  • 10 Hide
    shinmalothar , August 1, 2012 10:20 PM
    The game is great but its suffering from a over saturated declining market. WoW is still successful in the subscription model becuase of its heritage. People continue to play WoW because they have already invested so much time and money in it. People are not willing to start a new subscription MMO when the free to play market is getting better all the time (or they have already spent a fortune on WoW).

    SWTOR is definitely worth playing in a free model and once it has matured and been suplemented by more content it should become a very comprehensive MMO.
Other Comments
  • 2 Hide
    crewton , August 1, 2012 10:07 PM
    Maybe I'll keep playing...
  • 1 Hide
    mari0_65 , August 1, 2012 10:10 PM
    R.I.P
  • 11 Hide
    bustapr , August 1, 2012 10:13 PM
    gotta say its MUCH more appealing now that its completely f2p until lvl 50. if youre so diehard that you want every item in the game and want to enjoy it past 50, then pay the sub fee. I like this model, but is the game worth trying out?
  • 10 Hide
    shinmalothar , August 1, 2012 10:20 PM
    The game is great but its suffering from a over saturated declining market. WoW is still successful in the subscription model becuase of its heritage. People continue to play WoW because they have already invested so much time and money in it. People are not willing to start a new subscription MMO when the free to play market is getting better all the time (or they have already spent a fortune on WoW).

    SWTOR is definitely worth playing in a free model and once it has matured and been suplemented by more content it should become a very comprehensive MMO.
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , August 1, 2012 10:25 PM
    I played at launch. Good game, but I simply can't afford a $15 a month fee in my limited gaming budget. Can't wait for free to play so I can finish all of the character's stories that I had to abandon.

    SWTOR was a good game, but I never expected it to be a WoW killer. Nothing can kill WoW but Blizzard itself, as said as that is.
  • 7 Hide
    Thunderfox , August 1, 2012 10:34 PM
    In other news, SWG is still dead.
  • 8 Hide
    proxy711 , August 1, 2012 10:56 PM
    They will mess up the F2P model unfortunately. There's info out there saying they are going to limit the number of warfronts(pvp) you can do per week.

    So they are taking the only lvl 50 content that you can play repeatedly, since raids and heroics lock you out after a clear, and requiring payment to play more. That's not how a good F2P model works. This is almost has bad as LOTRO's F2P model where they require you do buy 2-5 dollar quest packs for each zone.

    A sad death for a MMO that had so much hype.
  • 6 Hide
    internetlad , August 1, 2012 11:16 PM
    is this the same story as SW:G that everybody running around is a jedi and nothing makes sense?
  • -2 Hide
    Marcus52 , August 1, 2012 11:34 PM
    Right; a company is bringing in $20 million on its current player base, and it's "a tough place to be". We should all have it so tough.

    Here's the new business plan for an MMOG: Make a decent game, sell the game for a price that pays for its development costs, charge those people who paid $60 up front another $15/mo because, well because you can and that's what they expect, then go "F2P" to bring in more players and sell them in-game goods that will end up costing most of them more money than a subscription would.

    Why should EA settle for $20 million/mo when they can bring in $30-40 million by going F2P?

    I can think of how this could potentially turn around to bit the industry in its soft parts, but at this point the business model works and makes a successful product even more successful without near the investment it took to make it. That's why publishers are doing it - not because the industry is in trouble or saturated (seriously?), but because they can basically do a little hat-trick and make some easy money.

    ;) 
  • 4 Hide
    proxy711 , August 1, 2012 11:49 PM
    They aren't making $20 million a month. They have less then 1 million subs now. The amount of people that started to quit was so bad they gave another month free to max level players a few months into the game.

    With the two recent waves of layoffs of Austin Bioware employees, the continued loss of player base, They probably aren't making a lot of money after all the expenses are factored in.

    With GW2 being F2P and coming out this month the fact they are going F2P in the fall is an attempt to keep as many players as they can from leaving. I played Swtor for four months got 2 max lvl characters geared and cleared all content on both of them, then got bored and quit. I can honestly say GW2 does almost everything better then Swtor.
  • -3 Hide
    xerroz , August 1, 2012 11:52 PM
    It's a solid game but subscription is a dead model. SWTOR pretty much came between the time when subscription was starting to get negative reactions and F2P becoming the norm, so in a way that's definitely hurt it. Was a pretty good game back when I tried it in closed beta so no doubt it's gonna be even better coming November. Worth checking it out imo
  • 1 Hide
    tomfreak , August 2, 2012 12:00 AM
    I tot GW2 is using their existing GW1 subscription model? 1 time pay and F2P forever until the game shutdown?
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , August 2, 2012 12:22 AM
    Lack of opvp killed it for me. I only sub because of the promise of opvp, but Ilum turned out to be a joke.
  • 2 Hide
    leongrado , August 2, 2012 12:25 AM
    This saddens me :( . I don't understand why more companies don't adopt a B2P model (buy the game and play free forever). This way I know the company is getting profit from the price of the game and not from players buying an advantage. Apparently, F2P models are extremely profitable and that's why so many MMO companies are shifting to it. Still I just don't like that feeling when you play a F2P game and you know you're eventually going to have to spend real money to buy gear. I just feel cheated.
  • 0 Hide
    Raid3r , August 2, 2012 12:28 AM
    I will be playing this fall it seems.
  • 2 Hide
    memadmax , August 2, 2012 12:49 AM
    Hello people, this is EA we are talking about here, the same company that can take over any successful company/game series and pump it so full of sewage that it explodes like a giant sh it sandwich.....
  • -1 Hide
    syrious1 , August 2, 2012 1:32 AM
    memadmax +1
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , August 2, 2012 1:42 AM
    People quit this game because it got released too early. No group finder? Admit it or not, a lot of SWTOR players came from WoW and got accustomed to certain functionality. At a minimum they expected what WoW could do and more. The game didn't deliver. People stick with WoW because they have a 7 year investment in their toons. That doesn't exist here.

    F2P won't save it. Not by locking out the raids and the only content anyone 50+ would want to play. People will play the "story mmo" for the story, and quit right after.
  • -2 Hide
    Kami3k , August 2, 2012 1:49 AM
    ThunderfoxIn other news, SWG is still dead.


    Odd, I guess I don't have a guy surveying in the background....
  • -1 Hide
    Kami3k , August 2, 2012 1:49 AM
    internetladis this the same story as SW:G that everybody running around is a jedi and nothing makes sense?


    SWG took place in a time were the number of Jedi was in the single digits. SW:TOR takes place when there are 10,000s of Jedi and Sith.
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