My Opinion: Star Wars The Old Republic Subscriptions Plummet and is Now Going Free-To-Play

Cartel Coins the birth of a new conspiracy logo.

BioWare have announced yesterday that its top budget MMORPG will be adding a free-to-play option by this Autumn. The game will also be going on sale in August for $14.99 (£9.61) with a free one month subscription included for people who might want to get involved in the game before free to play changes happen. As Star Wars: The Old Republic is going to free to play get ready to hear about Cartel Coins a lot.

All existing and former subscribers to Star Wars: The Old Republic will receive some Cartel Coins to spend in the in-game cash shop as a way of saying thank you for their loyalty. The amount you receive will be based on your previous purchases of the game box as well as how long you been a subscriber. So if you got the collectors edition and been a subscriber since the beginning you can expect better rewards. Cartel Coins can be bought for real money like other free-to-play games. Cartel Coins can be used to purchase consumables, cosmetic items and access to more in game content through the store.

From “Cartel Coins will be the new in-game virtual currency used for the Cartel Market. Cartel Coins may be used to purchase specialty items that allow you to customize and equip your character with shades and hats.  With Cartel Coins you will be able to purchase in-game items including customizable gear and convenience features that will enhance the game play experience. Cartel Coins will also be available for purchase from our website in various price packs.”

Matthew Bromberg BioWare Austin general manager has said that having a free-to-play model will allow the developer to release content on a more frequent basis. Bromberg says “Every six weeks or so, we’re going to provide a warzone, a flashpoint, an event, an operation, that sort of thing,” Which I say is a load of rubbish surely if you are paying a monthly subscription fee content should keep on being added? not the other way around. “The basic idea is that free-to-play players will pay for those content updates with cartel coins. Subscribers will get those updates free as part of their subscription.”

The class storylines that go from character creation to max level will be completely free to all players. Matthew Bromberg says “Our goal was to bring as many players as we can into the core experience to enjoy the game, and then to provide experiences on top of that for people to upgrade to. We’re really excited about putting our best foot forward.” Other parts of the game such as space missions, flashpoints, PvP warzones and more will only be available as a limited access basis to free players. Raid operations will require a subscription to take part in.

Players will have to either have an active subscription or a cash shop purchase for their characters to be able to equip certain tiers of high level items like top raid items and equipment. However the company has said it wont be selling equipment in the cash shop.

Having an active subscription will give players access to all content new and old, and no item use restrictions as well as some Cartel Coins to spend in the cash shop likely free Cartel Coins will be giving to the player every month like in Turbines Dungeon and Dragons and Lord of the Rings Online games.

BioWare wont change the structure of existing content to accommodate the move to free-to-play. Jeff Hickman Executive producer says that the biggest changes apart from having a cash shop are on the technical side. “We have a large server initiative we actually put in place months ago. Our populations on our servers are huge even now and are capable of handling much, much more than we need.”

Many have said why didn’t they go free to play from the start? BioWare says “We’ve really been looking at this since the first day we launched. It really, for us, became a question of ‘when.'” Matthew Bromberg says. “The market for MMOs is a free-to-play market, and so it’s something we’ve been thinking about for a long time.”

While this has been announced Electronic Arts have also said yesterday total subscribers for Star Wars: The Old Republic have dropped below 1 million. Electronic Arts did not give a new number but have said it’s “well above” the 500,000 subscriber mark the publisher needs to break even. So about 500,001 subscribers then. Numbers dropped from 1.7 million after the game’s launch to 1.3 million and now to it’s currently figure of just above 500,000.

Electronic Arts Labels president Frank Gibeau has said that “The message from players exiting the game is clear. 40 percent say they were turned off by the monthly subscription and many indicated they would come back if we offered a free-to-play model.”

A lot of people might be excited to hear that Star Wars: The Old Republic is going to free-to-play, I won’t be one of them. The reason is that I haven’t played the game at all yet and don’t plan on doing so. Why? I was disappointed in what I saw from videos and feedback from within the industry about the game. It was supposed to be quite revolutionary, in the end it turned into an expensive World of Warcraft space game. I’m all for hot key MMORPGs but I don’t like the way this one looks or seems to play. For one thing the characters look like poor Mass Effect or Dragon Age characters. They look odd and don’t give me a Star Wars feel but more like a Dragon Age in space feel.

Star Wars: The Old Republic is going to end up being one liek of Turbine’s games. Sure it looks like you can play the game fine without ever buying or paying for everything but in the end you are disabled by the restrictions in place. You will end are buying Cartel Coins with real life money for more bag space and to remove other restrictions so by that the point your either stop playing or start paying a subscription fee, exactly like in Turbine’s games. What this shows is that BioWare and Electronic Arts have tried to milk as much money as they can from their loyal subscribers to recover the cost and more for making the game. Now the game is going down hill they are switching to free to play to keep it alive. In the end they will likely make even more money from going free-t0-play so again why didn’t they do that from the start? Maybe they are just greedy,  have no concept of marketing or lack forseight.

However this news is good for people who want to try out the game and see if they like it. One last thing I would say is that be warned like all free-to-play games you will have to spend some money in the end. The world like MMORPGs don’t run with out money involved.

Some of my other opinions: