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Star Wars: The Old Republic is Free to Play a Gift or Curse?

/ Dec 11th, 2012 No Comments

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.

[adsense250itp]While the move may have succeeded in drawing in new players, it did little to incentivise veterans to return. EA took the free to play model to the extreme, and charges free to play players for almost everything; including interface options! Returning players will log in to find that their credits are limited, their titles are inaccessible and that their quick bars are limited to two. While Bioware has stated that they are going to give players who are of preferred status (players who have previously owned the game or who spend money in the in-game store) access to four quick bars, this is still a slap in the face. All of the “features” that these players previously had are not unattainable however they just cost copious amounts of money PER character which, needless to say, is not a good thing.

A group of Empire players capturing an area in the Novare Coast Warzone.

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.

This is where people want to get their loot from, not from a random chest in the Cartel store!

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.

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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