In what will be a surprise to no one, Star Wars the Old Republic
is treading the path to free-to-play status as so many other MMOs have done before. Rather ambiguously, EA has stated that "this fall" the game's first 50 levels will go F2P, and as a first push towards this new initiative the game will go on sale for $14.99 in August, with a free month included in the bundle. While there will be certain restrictions on various items, abilities and features--there always are with F2P--it looks like players will have access to a good chunk of the game without ever having to lay down a single republic credit.
It's an unfortunate coming of age for the game, but expected. Although it started very strong, Bioware's ambitious replacement for the troubled Star Wars Galaxies has been hitting some poor subscription numbers lately. It's just a hard truth of the MMO business: WoW's toxic combination of operant conditioning and peer pressure makes it very difficult to switch to another MMO, even if it's much newer and better than WoW. People can barely juggle a single MMO with multiple characters, guilds and servers to feed, and sadly not even the cultural juggernat that is Star Wars can overcome Blizzard's de-facto monopoly over the MMO business.
EA EXPANDS AWARD-WINNING MMO STAR WARS™: THE OLD REPUBLIC™ WITH FREE-TO-PLAY OPTION THIS FALL
New Free-to-Play Option Will Open Up the Critically-Acclaimed MMO from BioWare and LucasArts to Millions of Additional Star Wars™ Fans and Gamers Worldwide
AUSTIN, Texas – July 31, 2012 – BioWare™, a Label of Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA), announced today that it will be expanding the story-driven, massively multiplayer online game Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ by adding a new Free-to-Play option this fall. This option will give players access to each of the eight iconic Star Wars character class storylines, all the way up to level 50, with certain restrictions*. Unlimited game access, including new higher-level game content and new features, will be made available through individual purchases or through a subscription option.
“Players want flexibility and choice. The subscription-only model presented a major barrier for a lot of people who wanted to become part of The Old Republic™ universe,” said Matthew Bromberg, GM of BioWare Austin.
Jeff Hickman, Executive Producer of Star Wars: The Old Republic added, “Since launch, we’ve been listening to feedback from our fans and adding new content and refining The Old Republic at a breakneck pace. We believe we are in a position to help improve the service even more, not only by continuing to add new content, but also by expanding the game to many more Star Wars fans, increasing the populations on worlds and the vibrancy of the community.”
Starting this fall, there will be two different ways to play Star Wars: The Old Republic:
Subscription – A service designed for players who want unrestricted access to all the game features via ongoing subscription or by redeeming a Game Time Card. In addition to gaining access to all game content as our current subscribers do now, subscribers will receive ongoing monthly grants of Cartel Coins, the new virtual currency that will be introduced later this fall. Cartel Coins can be used to purchase valuable in-game items including customizable gear and convenience features that will enhance the game play experience.
Free-To-Play – The first 50 levels will be Free-to-Play, with restrictions on access to new content and advanced player features. Some restrictions can be “unlocked” with Cartel Coins.
As the first step towards adding the new Free-to-Play option this fall, Star Wars: The Old Republic will go on sale in August for $14.99 USD, including one-month of free subscription.
Current and former players will also find additional benefits as part of this program. BioWare will be increasing the frequency of game content updates, with the first of many new releases coming in August. In addition, current subscribers will receive Cartel Coin grants and qualify for access to special in-game items. Even former players who re-activate now will qualify for special benefits. To learn more about these rewards, please visit www.StarWarstheOldRepublic.com/FREE.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is one of the most critically acclaimed MMOs of all time, having won MSNBC’s “Game of the Year” award in 2011, “Editor’s Choice” awards from IGN, PC Gamer and “Best MMO of 2011” awards from Game Informer, GameSpy, AOL Massively, Ten Ton Hammer and more. The game is set thousands of years before the classic Star Wars movies, with the Galactic Republic and Sith Empire locked in the middle of an epic, galactic war. Players choose one of eight iconic Star Wars character classes, including the Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Smuggler, Trooper, Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitor, Bounty Hunter and Imperial Agent, becoming the hero or villain of their own personal Star Wars saga.
For more information on Star Wars: The Old Republic, please visit www.StarWarsTheOldRepublic.com/FREE, follow the game on Twitter at http://twitter.com/swtor or “Like” Star Wars: The Old Republic on Facebook at http://facebook.com/starwarstheoldrepublic.