I suppose we kind of saw this coming but it was shocking news nonetheless. I view it this way. No gaming company goes f2p because they want to. If subscriptions are healthy and show a positive climb, then it escapes me why a company would decide to go f2p. It seems to me Bioware made this decision not because they wanted to, but because they were forced to.
I still like the game but I am worried about its long term viability. I can’t help but be reminded of the slag mess Star Trek Online became when it went f2p. Then again it was a slag mess before it went f2p and I left that game when it became apparent they were not going to fully support a Klingon faction. A lot of people point to Lord of the Rings Online as a game that has succeeded as f2p. But even so LOTRO is pretty lean on expansions and updated content. Because the f2p model doesn’t demand content but it does demand microtransactions.
Companies have this pretty well figured out. They know all the ins and outs of the sociological aspects of what drives customers to purchase extra stuff (carrots) using a f2p model. Of course, part of the disconnect here is that no game is free to play. Not if you want to experience the entire breadth of content. Dungeons and Dragons Online has figured this out to an art form. Yes, you can play the game for free. But you can’t experience the entire breadth of the game for free. Looks like Bioware now wants to dip their biscuit into that gravy while it is still hot.
I don’t like this move, personally. I haven’t had very good experiences with free to play games. I didn’t mind when SWTOR went f2p for the first fifteen levels. That’s a good way to get people to try the game and if they like it they can purchase a subscription. But, sheesh, this damn game hasn’t been free to play for the first 15 levels very long before Bioware went whole hog and made the entire game that way.
I think this says a lot about their subscription base and how soft it is. I honestly do not believe they would have made this move if the subs were healthy. And it doesn’t really take many subs (relatively speaking) to keep a game healthy. Look at Eve Online. It has about 400,000 subs and it’s still going strong and certainly shows no signs of even thinking about f2p. Then again Eve Online provides a playing experience no other MMO does. It’s a niche game. SWTOR, despite its excellent voice over work, is still a standard MMO when it comes to playability.
Oh, well, nothing can be done. Sad to say this appears to be somewhat of an epic meltdown as regards SWTOR. Too bad because as I said in a previous review I liked the story driven content. Which came as a surprise to me because I don’t like the Star Wars mythos at all. I also liked the voice over work and how it tied to story. It spoke to the writer in me, haha. I also thought the writing within the game along with the story arcs were pretty good. But I still have Eve Online to play and Skyrim…and let’s face it as a writer I need to be writing more than playing computer games anyway, haha. But I do like computer games. I have always found them a nice way to relax. We writers are already an angst-ridden lot. We need relaxation now and then, and computer games are how I relax.
I think I will let my subscription to SWTOR end and then I will move on. It’s really not a big deal because like I said I do have other games to play and I need to write a lot more anyway. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. And I’m really going to miss my avatar Gaella. 😦