…our Free-to-Play option has arrived! For players who want to experience the dynamic world of Star Wars: The Old Republic without committing to a monthly fee, there is a truly viable option to experience all of the incredible content the game has to offer. Free-to-Play players can now play all eight classes up to level 50 without committing to a monthly fee.
We also now have our Cartel Market up and running so players can purchase unique items like the Gamorrean Axe or Cartel Packs that hold fantastic treasures such as the Kowakian Monkey Lizard and the Overlord’s Command Throne, in addition to allowing Free-to-Play folks the opportunity to purchase unlocks for Free-to-Play restrictions .
-From the Producer’s Letter for Game Update 1.5
So there it is, Star Wars: The Old Republic has now joined the rebellion against subscription-only MMOs. They announced it back in August, but now the plan is in place. They have turned off the subscription requirements computer and are going to let the economic force of free guide their path.
This, along with their plan for regular content updates every six weeks (has anybody been tracking that?) is the plan to keep the game afloat.
I obviously have no real insight into the economics of the game, but the number floating around was “500K,” as in “the game needs 500K subscribers to be viable.” And I find it difficult to believe that this move will give them the cash flow they are looking for.
Of course, I remain dubious of free to play in general, so you have to take what I say on the subject with that in mind.
While I like the idea of not having a subscription running for games I may only play occasionally, what the conversion does to games, how the economic model forces them to throw some garish new shiny things in your face every other week, does not endear the model to me. It tends to drive me away.
Anyway, we shall see what the future holds for SWTOR in the free to play galaxy. Will it be a new hope, or just a false hope?
Certainly, less likely scenarios have come to pass in the Star Wars universe.