EA & BioWare Exploring Free-to-Play Options For ‘Star Wars: The Old Republic’

Jun 17, 2012 by  

The Old Republic Free to Play

When MMOs first burst into the gaming mainstream, the monthly fees associated with them were accepted by players. In recent times however, the MMO landscape has seen a subtle shift from a full-blown subscription-based model towards a free-to-play model supported by micro-transactions. Facing competition from the growing genre, it appears that Star Wars: The Old Republic may be joining that trend in the future, potentially even switching over to EA’s Play4Free.

After announcing at E3 2012 that Star Wars: The Old Republic would be offering a limited free-to-play trial beginning in July, BioWare and Electronic Arts are currently exploring what other options exist to grow their MMO. The current free-to-play plan for The Old Republic will allow players to progress their characters up to level 15 and then begin to pay the regular subscription fees to continue further in the game. According to a recent interview with lead designer Emmanuel Lusinchi however, that may only be the first step towards more free-to-play options for the game.

In an interview that was posted by GamesTM last week and subsequently removed, Lusinchi alluded to the quality that some current free-to-play MMOs offer to players and the competition that they create within the genre.

“I think it’s more than the free-to-play model – it’s more that there is a lot of competitive offers. If it was just free-to-play games and they weren’t very good it wouldn’t even be a question but there are definitely good games out there and good games coming out, so of course all of this competition impacts your plan with what you want to do.”

Additionally, publisher Electronic Arts has spoken out about the possibility of free to play models coming to the BioWare developed MMO. While speaking with GamesIndustry International, Frank Gibeau, president of EA Games Label explained that the long-term success of SWTOR may require them to embrace the more accessible subscription model, adding that any switch to a free-to-play model will not be happening anytime soon and that the overall goal is to open up the game to those who are ready to give the game a shot but not yet ready to pay full price.

“We’re going to be in the business from a long term standpoint so absolutely we’re going to embrace free access, free trial, ultimately some day we can move in and embrace that model. It’s all a matter of timing and thinking things through.”

Even though Lusinchi cites competition from free-to-play MMOs as a possible reason for looking in to potentially dropping subscriptions, there may be a few underlying reasons driving BioWare towards a F2P
model for SWTOR. While competition from free-to-play MMOs is certainly a factor, The Old Republic has seen a 25% drop in its subscription base since launch and it also has to deal with the ever-looming shadow of MMO juggernaut World of Warcraft and its upcoming expansion. With a drop in population and one of the world’s biggest games as its main competitor, EA and BioWare may
have to take some drastic steps to draw players back in to the fight for the galaxy.

Ranters, do you think a switch to free to play will give The Old Republic a new hope or will the MMO fall to the dark side?

Star Wars: The Old Republic is available now for the PC.

Source: GamesIndustry International, GamesTM via Massively


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  1. this is good news b/c i’m sure alot of people held back b/c of the monthly fee for a sub par game (that is only good for its narrative).

    i shall give this a go when and if it goes f2p, heres hoping they dont screw you over to much with micro-transactions etc.

  2. The ironic thing about these free to play schemes is you end up paying more then using a subscription with all the transactions you make. Not so good for you but the company sure likes it. I’ve tried a few free to play MMO’s like Everquest 2 & Dungeons & Dragons Online. If you want anything good you’re forced to either subscribe or purchase stuff.

  3. Haha, i’d rather pay 15 bucks a month and have everyone in the game completely even. Then having to pay real cash for things that give me the advantage. Also the company stop caring for people who don’t buy stuff. I’ve played far to many F2P MMOS in my lifetime, and this will ruin the game. I will most likely not return if this game goes F2P. Stick with P2P and do something big that draws me back. I’ve had the game sense launch and got so bored with it.

    • obviously you havent played path of exile and to a lesser extent (read aimed at kids) adventure quest worlds (2d flash mmo), both those games balance things out for everyone the former only having cosmetics as purchasable items (like prettier looking spells etc).

      the problem is that the bigger the development team, the more they have to make to cover costs, that’s why indie mmo’s work best where as games like this will end up being a total load of bs (given biowares talent for screwing people in the rear end with extra content).

      i personally hope that money stuff is only for cosmetic items and nothing related to gameplay b/c that will truly ruin it for everyone (especially those that have been paying all this time).

  4. Never should’ve made this game, in my opinion. I would’ve liked KotOR 3. Instead… we get this… *sigh*…

  5. SWTOR could have been a good game and they screwed it up. World PvP was close to non-existent, warzones were terribly grinding (hutball is fun, till the thousandth time). There is nothing MMO about the game at all, it could easily be a single player game with options for multiplayer aspects. There is no housing, no cosmetics, no custom anything pretty much, no reason to play as an mmo. If it goes free to play, I’ll probably play through the class missions, assuming I won’t be forced to buy them, or sections of them, and then I’ll once again be done. I wanted to like this game…

  6. They should have made KOTOR 3 instead of this.

  7. I never tried this one but if it goes F2P I probably will.

    @ jwalka – I’ll give you an example of a regular MMO that goes free to play.

    I played Everquest 2 for awhile originally before expansions. I had a max’d dark elf warlock. When all that business with sony getting hacked they gave everyone like a month and half free time to play.

    I started playing again, got all the expansions and once my free time ended I was told, “Oh you’re playing a premium race & class and cannot use them anymore.”

    If I wanted to use the dark elf warlock I’d either have to buy the class/race via a microtransaction or simply subscribe again.

    So that game got uninstalled lol.

  8. I as a star wars fun was really looking forward to continue this amazing saga but when i heard that it needed monthly pays then i really lost interest in this. But if EA and bio ware finally realize that their fans out their praying that this will become a f2p i will without a doubt go first thing to the shops and buy knights of the old republic and continue what i started a long long time ago. I know i also speak for many of my Star wars friends when i say this EA, Bio ware their is a chance to redeem your self MAKE THIS GAME A F2P AS IT ALWAYS WAS AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN!

  9. They should of made it B2P like Guild Wars 2.

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