After yesterday’s big SWTOR news– the free-to-play reveal– EA held a quarterly earnings conference call that revealed a little more information about the financial reasons behind the game’s model switch. Some hints as to BioWare and EA’s first moves during the switch were also discovered. So, how bad were Star Wars: The Old Republic’s subscription numbers? Here’s a quote from the earnings call found on Darth Hater:
EA: First, the game many of you have been tracking closely, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Although it launched well, subscriptions have been on a declining trajectory and have now slipped below one million. Last year we announced that the breakeven point was roughly 500,000 subscribers. And while we are well above that today, that’s not good enough. The message from players exiting the game is clear – 40 percent say they were turned off by the monthly subscription. And many indicated they would come back if we offered a free-to-play model. Our plan now is to pivot and provide a two-tiered pricing plan which will make the game more accessible and grow the audience. The new pricing will go into effect in November.
Given this bit of information, it seems the number of subs wasn’t as drastically low as many players speculated, but the actual number may still be considerably off, especially considering the fact that many SWTOR 6-month subscription plans are still timing down. There’s also, of course, the fact that SWTOR was an extremely expensive project, costing the companies far more than other MMOs in recent years. Whatever the exact reasoning, it seems clear from this bit of info that EA hopes to do better financially with this duo-model implementation.
Here’s another tidbit from the call:
Giving people choice along side subscriptions should give people plenty of options and drive players to the game. Mentioned break even point was 500,000, SWTOR is well above that but under 1 million total subscribers. Offering two-tiered pricing plan in November. For players who cancelled their subscriptions, feedback provided as they cancelled indicated that 40% were turned off by the monthly subscription fee.
40% seems like a pretty large number here, although it seems plausible that many disgruntled players said something to the effect of “SWTOR isn’t worth a subscription fee” when cancelling their subscriptions. Feedback of this nature was also popular around the community as we’ve seen, and although it doesn’t necessarily mean those who canceled will return when the free-to-play model is added, it does mean that many players, both new and returning, will be giving the new model at least a test run.
SWTOR will retail for $15 along with a free month of subscription. Premium players: $15 a month, currency for boosts, customizations, and faster level progression. Free: players move at their own pace and comfort level, can buy new stuff when/if they want.
Here we go– some new information on what types of Cartel Market goodies we’ll see for continued subscription players. Boosts might be referring to player buffs in the form of consumables, ones that may grant temporary extra experience, currency, or even combat effects. Lord of the Rings Online and Guild Wars 2 both have similar “boosts” categories in their microtranscation shops. Customizations seem pretty obvious– here we’ll see costume types, vanity pets, mounts, and other fun “fluff” items.
Faster level progression? That one’s interesting. Free players will be leveling slower, presumably, but does this mean that the free leveling system will slow down compared to what it is currently, or will the Cartel item speed up leveling times considerably? We’ll have to see what future information updates yield.
For more information, check out Darth Hater’s Electronic Arts Q1 FY13 Earnings Call.