Changes are coming quickly for Bioware’s troubled freshman MMO: First they announced a World of Warcraft-style free teaser effective earlier this month allowing players to play for free up to level 15, and today the developer has revealed a full-on free-to-play option for Star Wars: The Old Republic that will be available starting this fall.
Rather than transition the entire game to a F2P model, the plan is to basically make the entirety of the base game – which accounts for the full class storylines for every class – available for free. Any additional content, currently existing or still in development, will only be automatically available to subscribers. Free players will be able to gain access to new content (as well as various cosmetic elements) through the use of in-game cartel coins bought with real money, but remain locked out of certain high-level gear such as raiding sets unless they subscribe.
“We’ve really been looking at this since the first day we launched,” Bioware Austin general manager Matthew Bromberg said. “It really, for us, became a question of ‘when.’ The market for MMOs is a free-to-play market, and so it’s something we’ve been thinking about for a long time.”
Existing subscribers will be rewarded with additional cartel coins as a thank you for their loyalty and continued use. Bromberg expressed his intent to continue making the game appealing for veteran players as well as trying to draw in a new audience:
“Our goal was to bring as many players as we can into the core experience to enjoy the game, and then to provide experiences on top of that for people to upgrade to,” Bromberg said. “We’re really excited about putting our best foot forward.”
The Old Republic will go on sale for $14.99 (bundled with a free month of subscription) this August to advertise the new F2P features and revitalize interest. Considering their recent history and the game’s dropping subscription rate, though, we can’t help but feel like this move is more continued damage control on Bioware and EA’s parts than part of any long-spanning plan they purport to have.