It has been nearly a month since EA and Bioware’s flagship MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic(SWTOR) made it’s move to free to play. The dust has finally settled, has The Old Republic survived its shift to free to play?
The main purpose behind the move to free to play was to get new players interested and to bring veterans back. The move to free to play has succeeded in one aspect: drawing in new players. In conjunction with the consolidated servers, SWTOR players have seen a significant rise in population. There are now hundreds of people idling on each fleet, and there is never a shortage of groups to join. On each planet, the population growth is definitely noticeable. Players are chatting, and always looking for groups for the heroic mission. It’s nice to see players interacting and talking to each other, instead of the entire planet being dead silent.
That’s not all that EA is charging for. In addition to the previously known limits on Warzones, Flashpoints and Operations, players will have to buy unlock tokens for each of their characters to allow them to equip any new artifact quality piece of gear. Not only will players who want to play the game at a somewhat casual level have to spend $2.50 American for each week of a Warzone, Flashpoint or Operation they’ll have to spend $10 to give their character the ability to wear new artifacts. Each of these unlocks is character specific, so players who enjoy playing multiple characters may end up spending more money on Cartel Coins than they would on a subscription.
Finally, there is the issue of the cosmetic items located in the Cartel store. Some are available to be bought outright for a small sum of Cartel Coins. However some require the buyer to “pull” them out of a randomized chest. This is similar to buying a pack of Magic the Gathering cards hoping for that one rare to pop out; if that rare card was a cosmetic item in a video game. While that model may have worked for Wizards of the Coast, it isn’t working for an MMO. If people are going to spend even more money on the game, they don’t want to take a gamble and hope that they get the item they want. This is a bad move by EA.
While the move to free to play may not be the force that will bring back old subscribers, it is definitely doing a great job at bringing in new players. The game is still as fun as ever, despite the few free to play gimmicks. Additionally, Players who want to sub will continue to have their old experience, with added bonus of 500 free Cartel Coins each month they remain subbed. This may not have been the remedy that saves SWTOR, but it does fix the huge problem that was its abysmal population. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done. Perhaps Bioware will add some sort of incentive for players to return in the future, but for now there will just be an influx of new players. Either way, SWTOR is heading down a better path than it was just a few months ago. Hopefully Bioware will continue to try and draw both new and old players in, and SWTOR can return to its former glory.