Star Wars: The Old Republic Goes Free-To-Play This Fall, Says EA

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There’s been a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of paid subscribers for Star Wars: The Old Republic suddenly cried out in rage and were silenced. It appears that EA has finally bent to the demands of the online market, as BioWare and LucasArts’ popular MMO will officially be free-to-play this fall— although subscriptions won’t be going away.

It was an inevitable change that EA been fighting ever since SWTOR first launched in December 2011, even when the development team was hit with layoffs last May and subscriber rates stalled declined from 1.7 million active players before that.

To its credit, SWTOR built quite a lot of hype in the lead-up to its launch, managing to hit 1 million subscribers in just a few days after its official release date. However, the world’s extremely steep drop off apparently just couldn’t justify the paid model any longer—not when so many free-to-play MMORPGs are stealing away users.

Here’s how the two service will work from here on out, according to the PR spin:

Starting this fall, there will be two different ways to play Star Wars: The Old Republic:

Subscription – A service designed for players who want unrestricted access to all the game features via ongoing subscription or by redeeming a Game Time Card. In addition to gaining access to all game content as our current subscribers do now, subscribers will receive ongoing monthly grants of Cartel Coins, the new virtual currency that will be introduced later this fall. Cartel Coins can be used to purchase valuable in-game items including customizable gear and convenience features that will enhance the game play experience.

Free-To-Play – The first 50 levels will be Free-to-Play, with restrictions on access to new content and advanced player features. Some restrictions can be “unlocked” with Cartel Coins.

It’s been an extremely interesting case study in MMO development at the very least, as we’ve had the opportunity to see EA’s shifting stances on F2P as far back as last June. Star Wars: The Old Republic is far from the first subscription-based MMO to move to a freemium model, though, as World of Warcraft and Team Fortress 2 went free-to-play after years as paid products.

Source: Business Wire