After major game updates failed to stimulate player activity, with average server populations falling alongside approximately 25% of the paid subscribers, BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic began to show signs of trouble. Most MMOs cannot successfully require paid subscriptions and expect to grow the number of active players and so Electronic Arts and BioWare began exploring free-to-play options, something prior to the game’s launch seemed unacceptable.
The Old Republic is one of the most expensive MMOs ever created, partly due to the Star Wars licensing cost and partly due to development costs for things like having voice actors for every bit of dialogue in the game. Now, the game is starting to lose some of the staff behind it.
Gamasutra reports that SWTOR executive producer Rich Vogel, a veteran MMO developer for having worked on Ultimate Online with Origin/EA previously and Star Wars Galaxies with Sony, has left BioWare. The timing of his leaving coincides with reports that BioWare’s Austin office is about to undergo layoffs from EA.
The plan is to reduce costs so EA can continue development of the game and hopefully re-grow the amount of players. At this point, it’s inevitable that the game will eventually embrace a free-to-play model just as Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, Champions Online, Star Trek Online and countless other MMOs did beforehand. That’s just not a market for expensive subscription-based games outside of World of Warcraft and EVE Online.
Here at Game Rant, of the four of us who tried out the game, only one still plays. I left because of the linearity of the game and lack of space travel, something The Old Republic’s predecessor Star Wars Galaxies had but its successor dropped, but we all agree that there’s a solid story to explore for each character class, for those willing to invest the time (and money).
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.