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Star Wars: The Old Republic – Free to Play or Free to Fail?

/ Nov 7th, 2012 7 Comments

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?

The Changes

[adsense250itp]For those who have a subscription running, or who plan to start up a subscription nothing is really going to change. Those players will still have access to everything that they do now, with the added bonus of a potentially higher user base. The only real addition will be the new in-game store. In this store players can purchase various vanity items and legacy races, along with early piloting skills and access to some new areas. This store will use the new currency of “Cartel Coins” which are acquired by spending real money.

Free Players

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

The new Cartel Market is coming with the free to play change!

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.


Alec Levine

Alec Levine

Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Alec is an avid PC gamer who has been gaming for over 15 years. In addition to playing RTS, MOBAs and RPGs, he enjoys annoying his girlfriend and chasing neighborhood cats.
Alec Levine
Alec Levine

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  • Dustin

    I kind of feel like this is a classic case of too little, too late. I myself played SWTOR when it launched, and while it was entertaining for a few months, it quickly lost it’s appeal. As you mentioned, I believe that was mainly due to a lack of content and many bugs. But I also think that it’s model had a striking resemblance to that of WoW, which is something that I believe also made players gravitate away from it. A friend of mine said, “Why would I play a clone of WoW when I could just play the real thing?” Well that was an excellent question, and one that BioWare simply did not have an answer for.

    • Alec Levine

      Yeah, it felt like a Sci-Fi WoW clone to me, but luckily I like Sci-Fi and Star Wars enough to overlook that. But I have to agree with you. A wise man once said: “Certain games may do certain aspects better/different than WoW, but WoW’s entire package is better than any game out there.” Still, I’m hoping that Free to Play injects a bit of life into SWTOR, because I genuinely find it fun.

  • JayR

    I really don’t believe the game has a unique leveling experience. It’s the same grindy questing we’ve all come to expect from the standard MMOs; possible even moreso than most. The difference is in the storytelling and this is its main redeeming quality. To be honest, the controls/combat are a little clunky the graphics are average at best. The only reason to play this game compared to any other MMO is the story.

    • Alec Levine

      Yeah the Story was easily the best part, but it made the entire leveling experience more enjoyable than in other MMOs. Instead of “Kill Lizards until they drop their glands” you were immersed in a story line that actually tied into the questing.

  • Gary

    It would be nice if Bioware gave us an exact date of when it will go Free to Play. I’ve always wanted to play this game, but I never really had a good enough computer to play it. That, and I hate having to pay $15 a month, especially when I hear the end-game content isn’t that great.

    Now that I do have a good enough computer, and that it will be free (with some… odd restrictions), I can finally try it out.

    Though they could have done what DC Universe Online did and made everything free, and have some cool bonuses you can buy, and DLC you can buy as well, AND if you do buy something over $5, your account gets a small upgrade to it forever.

    Time will tell how this will be, though… I hope Disney doesn’t shut it down, though.

    • Alec Levine

      Yeah, it all comes down to how Bioware handles the situation. SWTOR is in a position to succeed, as long as everything is done correctly.

      SWTOR is definitely worth the try though, the MMO story itself makes it worth any amount of time you invest into it.

      Bioware announced today(Nov. 8) that the free to play option will launch next Thursday(Nov. 15).

  • Zwolf

    The F2P option is way too restrictive. There is little chance a F2P user will contribute to reducing end game WZ ques because they will leave once capping levels due to these restrictions.

    If BW wanted a healthy, active community they would focus on PvP. There is way too much emphasis on PvE and NONE on PvP.

    Too few WZ’s (almost all of which use the same tired capture-the-flag based mechanic), too many PvP hackers, too much PvP lag, PvP imbalance, etc.

    For the record, I enjoy both PvP and PvE. But this is my case:

    PvE’ers raid a few times per week, and hide inside their cliques, adding very little to the sense of community. PvP’ers play daily and add much more to the sense of community by more often leaving their bubble of PvP allies and joinging ques ungrouped.

    SWToR PvP is unplayable, and for an MMORPG that is a recipe for disaster.

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