It’s official– BioWare and EA are taking Star Wars: The Old Republic to a new side of the galaxy, and adopting a free-to-play model with an optional subscription. This model is sometimes known as hybrid, or “freenium,” because it offers rewards for both free-to-play players and subscription players. Jeff Hickman, Executive Producer, issued a letter to the community, in which he summed up the reasons behind this major switch:
Since launch, our team has spent a lot of time trying to find new ways to be able to bring the Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ experience to as many potential players as possible. We quickly became aware that our subscription only model was a major barrier for a lot people who wanted to become part of The Old Republic universe. In fact, many players who have left the game said they would happily come back if they could play without the commitment of a monthly fee.
We feel that flexibility and choice in playing our game is important for all current and future players. For that reason, we began the exploration of expanding the game to include a Free-to-Play option.
Read the full letter as he dives into more details about the switch, and read on for more information.
Now, what does this model include exactly? We don’t know all the details yet, but BioWare has released quite a bit of info today. We know that subscription players will continue to have full access to the game, while free-to-play players will have restricted access.
Free-to-play players will see restrictions in quite a few areas– character creation, character races, character slots, inventory and bank slots, limited flashpoint, warzone, and space mission access, no operation access, limited GTN access and travel features, restricted official forum permissions, and automatic server queues when their server reaches full capacity (subscription players will receive priority access during queues, basically). Check out this chart BioWare put together for a quick comparison.
We’re still waiting to hear the details on the specifics of these restrictions, but one thing has been made clear– free-to-play players, despite these restrictions– will still be able to experience the full class stories, all the way to level 50. Classes won’t be restricted. This is good news for players mainly wishing to play through some of the story quests and try out the game, and that seems to be the intent here– to bring in new players who may dislike subscription models while still maintaining a healthy subscription population of endgame players.
Starting this fall, when the free-to-play model opens its gates, we’ll also be seeing the addition of the Cartel Coins system. This is SWTOR’s new cash/microtransaction shop. We know that players will be able to purchase customization items, fun “fluff” items, leveling boosts, and game features such as additional character slots using the Cartel Coins system. Current subscription players, returning players, and Collector’s Edition owners will receive bonus Cartel Coins based on how long they’ve had their subscription for when the new model goes live. Players who choose to continue their subscription afterwards will also receive bonus coins every month.
BioWare is also offering an extra reward for players who keep their subscriptions until the feature goes live. They’re calling this reward a “Fan’s Choice In-Game Item”, and players are able to vote on what item they’d like to see. Additional information on the item choices and the Cartel Coins system can be found here. There is also a Free-to-Play FAQ available.
One more thing– new content is also on the way, along with a plan to deliver more frequent Game Updates when the free-to-play model hits. From the FAQ:
We are planning to deliver more frequent Game Updates. We remain committed to providing a high quality, dynamic, live service. Our team is completing exciting new Game Updates including new Nightmare Mode content, a brand new Operation on the planet of Asation, a new heroic mission series on the prison planet of Belsavis, and a brand new Warzone for our PvP lovers, with more on the way.