If there’s one thing the doctors at BioWare must be tired of hearing about it has to be free-to-play. Their highly anticipated MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic, hasn’t even been (officially) available on store shelves for a full week and they are already being asked about changing their business model.
Many consider The Old Republic to be the last of the premium, subscription-based MMOs, and the last bastion for the floodgates of free-to-play. Just this year we have seen so many games flounder in the subscription business model arena, and turn to free-to-play only to enjoy a tremendous upsurge of users (i.e. DC Universe Online).
But this is Star Wars: The Old Republic after all, a game that essentially delivers seven KOTOR sequels in one MMO shell. With that in mind, Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk feel like the subscription-based MMO model still works for them, and is still viable. It might not be for everyone, but there’s still a place for it.
"You look at the online space in general and it's fragmenting into all these different areas, but the core still works. The subscription model still works. We know a lot of people say, 'Oh, everything's just going free-to-play.' But that's just one slice. There's one slice that's free-to-play, there's one slice that's social, there's traditional subscription still going."
In Zeschuk’s mind there is no way that a free-to-play MMO could ever deliver the same type of experience as a subscription-based one. Far less resources and time can be devoted to something that doesn’t generate revenue in the traditional sense, and that’s one of the primary reasons why we may never see The Old Republic go free-to-play.
The cost alone to secure the Star Wars license -- and BioWare is no slouch in the story or content department either -- certainly ensure that the subscriptions will stay for quite some time. But that doesn’t mean BioWare is against the idea of free-to-play, or as they like to call it play for free. In fact, one of BioWare’s fan favorite IPs might be making a reappearance in this business model.
"We have some other stuff we haven't announced yet coming from our play-for-free team that I'm really excited about. It's gonna bring back some IP that people have a lot of fond memories around."
What that could be we don’t know, but based on BioWare’s library we are sufficiently excited. And if one day The Old Republic does go free-to-play perhaps its greatest competition will also be a BioWare product.
In the case of whether The Old Republic will go free-to-play, is it a matter of if or when? What BioWare property would you like to see re-imagined as a free-to-play MMO?
Star Wars: The Old Republic is out now for the PC.