If you are a current or former player of Star Wars: The Old Republic, you probably spent the last few months wondering when Bioware would finally take the plunge and embrace free to play (FTP) gaming. Well, my friends, your waiting days are over, and starting on November 15, 2012, Star Wars will offer a true free to play alternative.
Players will be able to choose between a monthly subscription for $14.99 or the free to play option. Subscribers will continue to have full access to every part of the game and FTP users will be able to level from 1 to 50 without restrictions. Apart from leveling, there are several important limitations on FTP accounts.
Free To Play Restrictions:
Daily Locks on Flash Points
No Armor Painting
Weekly Locks on Battlegrounds
Later access to Mounts
Lower Experience gains
Limited access to Galactic Market
No Character Title Display
No Legacy Name Display
Time restriction on General Chat usage
Bioware will offer FTP users the opportunity to increase their access by paying a fee to the in-game store (The Cartel Market). If you love raiding, you can pay a small amount and get unlimited monthly access to all the flash points and instances. If you thrive on Player vs. Player, it will cost you a few dollars a month to gain unlimited access to the battlegrounds. This is a brilliant move on Bioware’s part; it allows players to pick and choose the parts of the game they truly enjoy, instead of continuing to pay for the stuff they will never use.
Subscribers to Star Wars: The Old Republic may be tempted to feel a bit put out after paying $60 or more for the game and $14.99 a month for almost a year. However, Bioware is doing their best to make sure players who continue to make a monthly payment will be rewarded. In addition to unlimited access and all perks that go with it, subscribers will be given Cartel Coins to spend in the Cartel Market. They will receive coins for time played prior to the introduction of free to play and more coins for each month going forward. Subscribers will also receive special in-game perks including two more quick slot bars and a new Cargo Hold tab.
What Does This Mean For Gamers:
Fans of Star Wars are hoping FTP will be just what the doctor ordered to save the troubled game. Everyone had such high hopes when we played the game for the very first time on December 20, 2011. Sadly, SW: TOR did not perform up to expectations. Players were disappointed by the lack of end game content and PVP was a total mess. Over a period of a three or four months, SW: TOR went from a peak of 1.7 million paying customers to 700,000 subscribers.
During the last couple of years, the online gaming industry slowly accepted the free to play model. Players welcomed the change; times are tough financially and there are plenty of good games available that don’t require a monthly fee. Even World Of Warcraft has seen a drop in their subscriber base, and the highly anticipated title from Funcom, The Secret World, struggled to attract players willing to spend $14.99 a month.
Many top tier titles have already made the move to free to play, including Aion, Lord Of The Rings Online and Guild Wars 2. Several other popular games are about to switch over completely or offer limited versions of FTP. The dominance of subscription based gaming may be coming to an end.
What Does This Mean For Star Wars: The Old Republic:
While games like Rift, Tera, and The Secret World may be able to survive with 300, 000 to 500,000 subscribers, Bioware spent 250 million dollars to create Star Wars: The Old Republic and the company expected to give WOW a run for their money. SW: TOR needs three to five million regular players to consider this game a major success.
Now we have a free to play option for SW: TOR and we can only hope the game makes a comeback. It would be wonderful to see old friends and guildmates playing again. It would also be great to welcome a flood of new faces, who are finally willing to try Star Wars: The Old Republic because they don’t have to pay $14.99 a month and $60 for the game.
The Vaiken Spacedock is a very lonely place without a good guild and raiding in a pick up group is not my cup of tea. Rejoining the game as a solo player will be similar to starting from scratch and I don’t look forward to the experience. No matter how skilled a player may be, it is not an easy job to find a new guild and earn a spot in their main raid group. Returning to any MMO, after a long absence, can be a very frustrating and daunting affair under the best of circumstances and Bioware will need to provide a real incentive to inspire players to make the effort.
Even if millions of players are attracted to SW: TOR by free to play, Bioware should accept reality and fix the game. They must add new content on a regular basis, improve world PVP, and vastly expand the all important endgame. If they can do that, then old players will return and new players will stay with the game. If Bioware ignores the game-play issues and only focuses on free to play, then they will fail and Star Wars: The Old Republic will be finished. There may still be enough good will in the player community to give the game a second chance but they certainly wont give it a third chance. Its now or never for Star Wars: The Old Republic.