What’s In Store For SWTOR’s Free 2 Play Model?
So it looks like Bioware have a vendetta against my Hard Reset articles. The announcement of Star Wars the Old Republic’s Free 2 Play option, arriving this fall, came just as my previous SWTOR article was being lined up for publication. As it was too late (and would’ve made one helluva long article) to include my thoughts on this major reshuffling of the SWTOR payment scheme, let’s start with a shiny new article that delves into what we can expect when SWTOR goes F2P later this year. Just try and keep your major announcements to yourselves for a few minutes okay Bioware? I don’t want to have to run another postscript relaying information about the newly announced Ewok species… Hint, hint…!
Right, let’s get stuck in with the most important question of all: What can the free to play crowd expect to be getting? The F2P model gives players the ability to game all the way to the current max level of 50 on every available class. With the entire current storyline becoming a free experience, this is ideal news for Knight of the Old Republic fans who perhaps shied away from SWTOR and its subscriptions fees, as they can now fully explore the fate of Revan, the Exile, and other events that took place in the original singleplayer RPG series.
However free players will be restricted on pretty much everything else. If you’re thinking of committing serious time to SWTOR, it looks like a subscription will be your only option. Whilst most things such as PvP Warzones, PvE Flashpoints and Space Missions will be available to the F2P crowd, each of these features will have a restriction that limits the amount they can be accessed on a weekly basis. Indeed, Operations, the PvE raiding content of SWTOR, will be closed off entirely, so any player attempting to enjoy the endgame content on a freebie account is going to struggle with things to do. A subscription will of course alleviate all of these restrictions, as well as adding several boons, such as priority login access, but Bioware have also hinted that certain F2P restrictions can be unlocked with Cartel Coins.
Oh, sorry! Is that “What are Cartel Coins?” I hear you crying? Well, like most free to play titles these days, SWTOR will also be offering an option to exchange real currency for an in-game counterpart in the shape of Cartel Coins. For now, we know that these coins will be able to purchase a wide variety of cosmetic character upgrades, including armour, items, and non-combat pets. Indeed, bonus batches of the micro-transaction currency will be rewarded to players who have remained faithful subscribers over the months leading up to the F2P release. Bioware have also stated that another perk for the recurring subscriber will be a monthly allowance of this precious vanity cash, although the developers have remained tight-lipped as to the price rate for those wanting to purchase their Cartel Coins outright.
In a recent developer blog, Bioware cited “flexibility and choice” as the reason for expanding SWTOR into the Free 2 Play market. But with recent announcements showing that subscriber numbers have dipped below the one million mark, it’s easy to assume that flexibility and choice weren’t the only major factors in driving the game toward including the freebie option. If you’re reading this paragraph and are finding my remarks flippant in nature, I apologize. Hell, I welcome the change to free to play; this way, more people can experience what I’ve come to recognize as quality MMORPG. In my previous article I stated SWTOR was well worth re-subscribing to, and I stand by that remark whole-heartedly.
Previously, I was worried that the all access/heavily restricted access split of subscribers and F2Pers would cause a divide in the game’s community, as well as not giving enough to the on-the-fence free players who might be contemplating a possible upgrade to the monthly subscription. Ultimately, the success of SWTOR’s upcoming F2P will rely on exactly what restrictions will be able to be lifted with the Cartel Coins. The option to shell out, say, £10 for a couple of month’s access to all flashpoints could prove immensely popular; the low cost would draw in players, many of which would then be amenable to paying for other unlocks in the future, or perhaps committing to the full blown subscription plan. Bioware have a truly enjoyable, underplayed game in the shape of SWTOR. With any luck, this new F2P model will remove the latter of these two qualities.