Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Worst Case Scenario: SWTOR Goes F2P

Apologies for the delay in posting, I've had some silly fiascos involving a broken down car.

So, as the title implies, SWTOR going Free to Play is a Worst-Case Scenario for me. This coming from someone who was once the lore columnist for Force Junkies and is no small fan of the setting. I have long since stopped playing the game, but the fact that the developers are openly discussing F2P has some very troubling inplications.

Now, many of us have our attention diverted for the moment, what with the Secret World out, and Guild Wars 2 and Mists of Pandaria on the horizon. It seems that SWTOR, once vaunted for its devotion to the 4th pillar, has been largely left by the wayside. By the way, did you know they are up to patch 1.3 now and added a dungeon finder? Oh, and they are adding a companion based off of HK-47. Didn't know that? The Devs know that you don't. And they are trying to get attention back to their game.

Why is it bad though? So many games have started with subs and moved on to the F2P model. But here's the issue: None of those games were Star Wars: The Old Republic. This game had an IP that drew on two huge fanbases. It pumped its marketing into the fact that it would be story based, the next big thing for MMORPG's. It put itself on a pedestal and failed to live up to the hype. Now it's got a long way to fall, and it could take big budget subscription MMO's with it.

Let's forget WoW for a moment, as it has proven itself a sustainable and profitable subscription game. It is an oddity in the MMORPG market by that virtue alone. No, SWTOR was supposed to be our last hope. It was supposed to prove that with a good IP and a solid budget you could create a game that could sustain itself on subscriptions. We were wrong. They didn't make the game fans were hoping for, and because of it they were largely forgotten. Let's face it: Strip away the storytelling and you basically have a very pretty, science fiction version of WoW during Burning Crusade. The Legacy system is a stand out feature, but it wasn't enough.

This -will- make companies hesitate before spending money on MMORPG's. You may think that this would make them shift to F2P titles, but we all know that the box sales do the company wonders for paying off all the work it took to make the game. That boost is required to pay the bills. Launch a F2P title and people will try it, hate it and not spend a dime.

No, this failure will bring something worse than just a lack of investors in the MMO industry. This will bring a scary trend where companies will deliberately release a game with a subscription and a box, and then switch to F2P once the crowd dies down. This won't become a strategy for lackluster games, this will become the status quo for any large company looking to invest. And it's completely legitimate because it's the last proven business practice left in the industry. Subscriptions can no longer sustain a game.

SWTOR going Free to Play is the title on my list that is most likely to come true, and I believe it will. And I certainly will not be enjoying the fallout.


  1. I'm a huge fan of subscriptions for MMOs. I don't want to be trading in tokens on a monthly/weekly/daily basis to go about my game playing. So I do hope that if the game does eventually have a F2P option, they also keep the full service subscription.

  2. Subs do make things incredibly easy for the average player. I've always been a fan of Turbine's and NCSoft's F2P models where they don't change much for the subscription players, yet allow in many free players. It's the best of both worlds. The problem that SWTOR can't get around is that going F2P is considered accepting failure.