Star Wars: The Old Republic Goes Free-to-Play

Thu, Aug 2, 2012

Free-to-Play, MMOG, PC

BioWare has announced a F2P option coming this fall for players of its MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Players will have access to all eight character classes all the way up to level 50 in the the fully-voiced, choice-driven narrative that has come to define BioWare titles. Playing as a Jedi Knight in my first play-through, I found it incredibly difficult not to take the Dark Side path at the conclusion of the first chapter, because hey, lightsabers.

The news comes shortly after publisher Electronic Arts confirmed in their latest earnings call that SWTOR subscriptions dropped below 1 million for the first time. The Star Wars MMO touted a steady pre-release buzz as a World of Warcraft-killer, and enjoyed an impressive launch. Advertisements boasted that the 1 million subscribers within the first three days of the release made it the world’s “Fastest-growing MMO ever.”

Read a play-by-play of SWTOR’s long journey to the free-to-play model on Gamespy.

“Players want flexibility and choice,” said Bioware Austin GM Matthew Bromberg. “The subscription-only model presented a major barrier for a lot of people who wanted to become part of The Old Republic universe.”

As a huge fan of BioWare’s first entry in the Star Wars universe, 2003’s Knights of the Old Republic, I can understand the sentiment. Many gamers grew discouraged at the monthly fee required to jump back into the Old Republic world, which can best be described as a kind of futuristic antiquity. BioWare managed to develop its own ancient lore to the popular sci-fi franchise and fans were attracted to the mix of familiar Star Wars elements and unique BioWare-style characters and questing.

Happily, SWTOR features plenty of the charm that made KOTOR’s single-player experience so memorable. But the game could never quite accrue the subscriptions needed to compete with World of Warcraft’s dominance in the MMO arena.

It doesn’t appear that BioWare and Electronic Arts are admitting defeat by making SWTOR a free-to-play title, however. It feels more like a tactical retreat. Keep in mind that only the subscription fee has been retired. Acquiring a license of the game will still be at a cost, but at a drastically reduced $14.99. Could this move stimulate a renewed interest in the Star Wars MMO?

What about you? Have you got a level 50 SWTOR character sitting around that you’re considering dusting off for some more Flashpoint adventures? What are your thoughts on the free-to-play move?

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