BioWare announce a hybrid subscription/Free-to-Play business model for Star Wars: The Old Republic as EA’s 2013 Q1 Earnings Conference Call confirms SWTOR subscriptions have dropped below the one million mark.
It has been a tough few weeks for SWTOR developers BioWare/EA. The departure of SWTOR executive producer Rich Vogel, a new round of lay-offs and a baffling new launcher function, sparked rumors of an imminent transition to a full F2P model for the Star Wars MMO. The lackluster Game Update 1.3 Allies and EA CEO John Riccitello speaking out on behalf of F2P didn’t help either. It’s been a bleak quarter for SWTOR.
SWTOR confirms switch to Free-to-Play
SWTOR going F2P comes as no surprise. The transition of SWTOR to F2P is a pure business decision. To understand this you must look beyond SWTOR. With empty SWTOR servers and a gaping $130 million hole in its quarterly report, EA was forced to act.
The decision to expand the SWTOR plan with Free-to-Play is believed to make SWTOR more attractive to old customers and more accessible to new players. While BioWare has been hard at work squishing bugs and improving game play and performance, SWTOR still suffers from bad press. The introduction of F2P will give more players a chance to experience the current state of the game first hand.
What does F2P mean for SWTOR?
As the implementation and restriction of the Free-to-Play model is still a bit sketchy it is not yet possible to go into detail. However, there will be restrictions to Flashpoint and Warzone access while Operations will be off limit altogether. There will be restrictions on race class combos. How this will affect already created characters has yet to be declared by EA/BioWare.
Subscriptions will include most updates, while some will cost money. BioWare’s competitor and market leader Blizzard has raised revenue by withholding pets and mounts from updates. Rather they are sold as vanity items through Blizzards own shop. It has drawn little to no bad feedback from the WOW gaming community. EA will look to do the same.
In SWTOR F2P customers will get a chance to purchase Cartel Coins for acquisitions in game. Cartel coins will be available to regular subscription holders for purchases as well. However, BioWare has guaranteed that regular subscription holders will not need to purchase items to be competitive in game.