Star Wars: The Old Republic Going Free-To-Play This November
After not even a full year of availability, Bioware’s MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic will be officially going fully free-to-play this November, as announced by its publisher Electronic Arts this afternoon.
This move has been an anticipated one since the MMO’s launch last December, but became all the more likely when Bioware made the first 15 levels free for all earlier this year. The game will now, however, be more aggressively embracing the free-to-play philosophy that so many modern MMOs have resorted to.
All content currently available in the game and leading up to the switch to the new model will become freely accessible by any player with a capable gaming rig and Internet connection. This includes all eight character storylines up to level 50. Newer content and some advanced features will be restricted to non-paying players, but can be lifted by purchasing access through Cartel Coins. This new currency will be introduced in the fall alongside the system change.
“Players want flexibility and choice. The subscription-only model presented a major barrier for a lot of people who wanted to become part of The Old Republic universe,” mentioned Bioware GM Matthew Bromberg in a press release.
Because of this desired flexibility, both free-to-play and subscription options will be available. Players will be able to purchase subscription plans or play some of the aforementioned advanced content by redeeming what Bioware is calling Game Time Cards. Those who pay a subscription fee will receive a monthly allowance of Cartel Coins to spend in the marketplace on gear and features designed for convenience or aesthetic.
“Since launch, we’ve been listening to feedback from our fans and adding new content and refining The Old Republic at a breakneck pace,” said executive producer Jeff Hickman.
“We believe we are in a position to help improve the service even more, not only by continuing to add new content, but also by expanding the game to many more Star Wars fans, increasing the populations on worlds and the vibrancy of the community.”
Bioware’s aim (from this point forward) is to increase the amount of content being added into the game up until the model switch (when the game goes F2P). Current subscription payers can also anticipate an August update that includes Cartel Coin grants and special in-game item access.
Star Wars: The Old Republic will go on sale in August for $15 and will include a free month of subscription. When November arrives, the game will transition to a choice system: free-to-play or subscription. You can get a complete idea of what is and isn’t free from the official chart over on the SWTOR site.
Additionally, EA announced during its investor earnings call that the MMO has officially fallen under one million subscribers, certainly a contributing factor in the game going free-to-play. The game has officially dropped from 1.3 million in last quarter to below one million in the first fiscal quarter 2013.
EA said in February that for the game to remain “substantially profitable”, the player base would have to remain above 500,000. For now, it appears that they’re in good condition.
You tell me — is this good or bad news for SWTOR?