In MMORPG.com’s free-to-play interview held last week with Jeff Hickman, one very interesting question was touched on– how will the free-to-play model switch affect the already-announced Game Updates, including the introduction of HK-51? Here is what the article stated on the matter:
I asked if HK51 would then be free for everyone, if he came before the F2P launch, and Jeff said they really haven’t decided because they’re not even sure when he’s going to launch just yet. The goal is to work on the content and get it out as soon as they can, and if some comes after the F2P transition, then they’ll evaluate what is free and what is paid.
First of all, we know that SWTOR’s free-to-play model will be launching this fall. In November, in fact, if we are to believe the last EA Earnings Conference Call. This means that HK-51 may or may not make it to live servers before then. If HK-51 isn’t released before November, then what? The answer provided above doesn’t give us much information to work off, of course, but in one thread on the official SWTOR forums, players have began speculating about what we may see happen.
Some players feel that HK-51 will undoubtedly become a part of the Cartel Market if the droid is released after the model switch:
“I can almost see that they would sell it… after all, even subbers would pay for an additional companion they could send on missions/crafting and make an ingame profit out of it…
It would be worth paying something for it if when it comes it has all its associated voiceovers , quests, and storyline like all your companions do, that’s a heck of a lot of work when you think about it, and you have to do the dialogues for all classes , even if just for coherency’s sake , you’ll more than likely still have to record some stuff even if you can reuse most of it for everyone.”
Others feel the companion will not be obtainable as a whole, but partially, as to still require players to go through the originally-intended complicated quest line and duo-faction alternate character requirements:
“What they will probably do is make it a quest line pack to be purchased on the store.”
This seems very likely. Perhaps the quest purchasers will be able to skip certain parts of the initial quest line that paid subscribers are granted by mail. Alternatively, the initiating quest could be only made available through the shop, and paid subscribers would be able to simply use their bonus Cartel Coins to grab it.
Other players feel HK-51 should only be obtainable by players who have a continued paid subscription:
“They initially said that it would take a level 50 on both factions, along with other stuff to do, to obtain him. They need to stick by that statement! HK should be a reward from hard work, not a hand-out.
And he should only be avail to subscribers. F2Pers want him? Subscribe!”
The problem here? BioWare would be losing out on a potential source of F2P income. Since companions aren’t allowed in all aspects of gameplay, as long as they are properly balanced when added, any additional companions probably fit under BioWare’s definition of customization items. Players of all subscription plans will be interested in the companion, and there’s no reason why the Cartel Coin quest line, if this is the route BioWare takes, can’t still be complicated, and require a bit of effort. There’s also the fact that HK-51 is pictured on the free-to-play announcement page.
This is all pure speculation at this point, however. We won’t know HK-51′s fate for sure until more information is released.