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

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.

Contact Us for News Tips, Corrections and Feedback

  • crewton
    Maybe I'll keep playing...
  • mari0_65
  • bustapr
    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?
  • shinmalothar
    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.
  • 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.
  • Thunderfox
    In other news, SWG is still dead.
  • proxy711
    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.
  • internetlad
    is this the same story as SW:G that everybody running around is a jedi and nothing makes sense?
  • Marcus52
    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.

  • proxy711
    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.