It should come as no surprise that EA and BioWare are looking to add a free-to-play model into Star Wars: The Old Republic. Despite its success at launch, the MMOG shed 25-percent of its player base between February and the end of March: down from 1.7 million subscribers to 1.3 million. One report even suggested that an average of 334 people were on each server as of May.
To get players interested in the MMOG again, EA and BioWare may introduce a free-to-play model, allowing fans to play within the Star Wars universe without a subscription, and purchase virtual items when they choose. Other competing MMOGs have already moved to this scheme -- EverQuest and EverQuest 2, Dungeons & Dragons Online, etc -- and apparently it works.
In an interveiw with lead designer Emmanuel Lusinchi (that seems to have been pulled as of this writing), Lusinchi admitted that the publisher is looking into adding a free-to-play mode. "Free-to-play games wouldn't be competitors if they weren't any good, but "there are definitely good games out there and good games coming out, so of course all of this competition impacts your plan with what you want to do," he said.
"The MMO market is very dynamic and we need to be dynamic as well" he added. "Unless people are happy with what they have, they are constantly demanding updates, new modes and situations. So we are looking at free-to-play but I can't tell you in much detail. We have to be flexible and adapt to what is going on."
EA and BioWare may need to do something quick in order to keep The Old Republic out of the red. Funcom is launching its subscription-based supernatural MMOG The Secret World nest week. ArenaNet's long-awaited subscription-free Guild Wars 2 and Blizzard's World of Warcraft expansion Mists of Pandaria is also slated to arrive sometime in 2012.