In the world of massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG), World of Warcraft holds all of the power. Over the years many small MMOs have tried to challenge WoW’s total control. At the end of 2011, Bioware‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) tried to challenge WoW’s dominance. However after a few months, several major bugs and a distinct lack of content, SWTOR faded away into obscurity, like many MMOs before it. However, Bioware is trying to resuscitate its dying MMO by making SWTOR free to play. Will this move bring players in, or shove them away?
Now for those who are planning on playing SWTOR without a subscription, there are a lot of restrictions in store. Free players cannot participate in “Operations” which are SWTOR’s version of WoW’s Raids. Additionally, free players can only do a limited amount of Flashpoints (dungeons) and Warzones (Battlegrounds) per week. However there will be options in the Cartel Market that allow free players to increase the amount of Flashpoints and Warzones they can do each week; and grant them access into Operations. There are several other restrictions that free players face. They cannot sell items on the Global Trade Network (though they may purchase items), they can only employ one crewskill (profession), they have lower priority in the login queue, and there are several items that will be restricted. But most of these restrictions can be alleviated if the player spends real money in the Cartel Market.
Free To Play vs Subscription
With all of the restrictions that are imposed on free players, is this game even going to be worth playing without a subscription? Well for people who either: A) have never played SWTOR, or B) have no interested in playing on anything other than a casual level, this is a great move by Bioware. It will bring in more players, which will mean more warzones will happen at any given time, more flashpoints will happen at any given time and more trades will happen on the Global Trade Network. This will help revitalize the game for people who enjoyed it earlier this year. This may even lead to more people subscribing if they find they really enjoy the game. Bioware really needed to do something to prevent SWTOR from going in the same direction that Warhammer Online did, and the move to free to play was the best choice.
SWTOR is still hanging in there, despite its losing players each day. The core mechanics are there, with a truly unique leveling experience, and its story its unmatched by that of any other MMO. Unfortunately, all of those good points were tarnished by a shaky release and a rocky start. Hopefully the move to free to play will bring a lot of new players in, and attract some of the veteran players back. While it is doubtful that SWTOR will be able to take control of the MMO market away from WoW, it is definitely possible that SWTOR will be able to stay afloat and be successful. It all hinges on how well the move to free to play goes, and how well Bioware deals with the major complaints that drove players away in the first place. The free to play option in Star Wars: The Old Republic is set to launch sometime in November.