It was so cute to watch BioWare and EA try to stave off suggestions that Star Wars: The Old Republic would be going free to play for so long. They didn't want to admit that they had made a World of Warcraft clone and had to go free-to-play like all the other WoW clones. Now the truth is finally setting in and EA has embraced their destiny.
Its destiny is that Star Wars: The Old Republic will be going free-to-play, with some restrictions, starting this fall. EA can't fully admit that TOR was a bust so they're going to keep saying that this is just an expansion of their current business plan. Take this comment from Jeff Hickman, executive producer on TOR, for example:
"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."
In other words, BioWare didn't anticipate that the game would bleed over 400,000 users within the first six months. To get those players back and attract new players, they're going to have to move to a free-to-play model. This isn't good news for anyone besides the players who never played the game in the first place because of the subscription.
Anyway, if you haven't yet experience TOR, you can start playing for free starting this fall. Like other failed subscription MMOs, there will be a few limitations placed on the free players though. Free-to-play users will only be able to play up to level 50 and have their access to new content and advanced player features restricted. To get any new features, free-to-play users will have to purchase Cartel Coins, a new in-game currency being introduced in the fall.
If you feel that you must pay for a continued subscription, you will get access to all the game content that's been available since day one. You will also get monthly grants of Cartel Coins which can be used to buy in-game content.
To set up the move to free-to-play, TOR will go on sale for $14.99 starting in August. Those who buy this edition will also get one a month's subscription for free. Current players, no doubt a little upset that they spent $60 for the game, will receive additional benefits.
To be honest, you would have to be naive to not see this coming. It's hard for a game to compete in the MMO market and WoW clones never succeed for one very simple reason. WoW players are going to keep playing WoW. They don't care about the Star Wars universe enough to leave their precious game that they've put years of their life into.
Here's hoping BioWare will be able to keep some money flowing into the project to avoid further layoffs. It would be sad to see the game shut down after only a few years when its predecessor, Star Wars Galaxies, lasted for almost a decade.