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Star Wars The Old Republic Going Free to Play

Updated on July 31, 2012


Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) launched in December of 2011 to the waiting arms of nearly two million subscribers. Set during a cold war over 3,000 years before A New Hope, the MMO offers players sixteen different, if not distinct, advanced classes, nine playable races, and two separate factions, all within the Star Wars universe. As an MMO, SWTOR also brought unprecedented attention to story and immersion, providing class-specific quests, branching storylines, and a fully voiced world with over 900 hours of audio for both player characters and NPCs.


Wiki It!

If you're still not clear what exactly I'm talking about, check the Wikipedia link for Star Wars: The Old Republic. It's not all inclusive, but it should get you up to light-speed.

Que the Imperial March

But, SWTOR has had trouble maintaining its subscribers. Update 1.1, "Rise of the Rakghouls", ushered the first world event for the game, and Update 1.2 revealed an inventive "Legacy System" that offered new roleplaying options and even greater character customization in addition to other tweaks. Still, in early July, Bioware, the developer behind SWTOR, announced a new trial system.

The trial system would allow players to test each of the eight available classes to level 15. Even with trial's limitations, players could complete quests on both the class' starting planet and the faction's home planet, choose and improve an advanced class, tinker with all the crafting options, and bit more. Like the trial offer for World of Warcraft, SWTOR's system gave players great freedom with an early portion of the game, allowing them to invest time and, hopefully, resources once they've enjoyed the game enough to warrant subscribing.

Unfortunately, the trial plan seems to have come too late.

So Much for the Younglings

Now, Bioware has opted to convert the trial system into a free-to-play system alongside the current subscription system. Although unsurprising given SWTOR's difficulty maintaining subscribers and various free-to-play promotions within Electronic Arts (the publisher), the announcement is still somewhat bitter. After months of fighting the free-to-play panic and clearly no design intention of including such options, SWTOR has finally folded. So, the issue now becomes how will a F2P model improve SWTOR? And, honestly, I don't think it will.


A Bad Feeling

As a player and a fan, I'm not particularly inspired by Bioware's effort to expand its subscriber base. Granted, F2P could make a huge difference. I just don't think it will, and here's a few reasons why.

  • Bioware never meant for SWTOR to include F2P. Even with predetermined flexibility, transitioning between a subscription system and a F2P system is difficult, and I don't think Bioware can do it without great pains.
  • SWTOR also cost seven years of production and around 80 million dollars (or half-a-billion) to develop. With investment like that, the micro-transactions of a F2P system would have to earn Yoda-level yields to make the transition an even exchange, to say nothing of actually benefiting.
  • The best, though certainly not all, free-to-play systems focus on freedom and micro-transactions. Rather than limit the player's efforts, the system allows near-total freedom and simply charges for accessories -- early access to a mount, an additional character slot, extra inventory space, special (though unessential) gear, and so on. According to the official site, Bioware seems to adopt the opposite philosophy, imposing harsh limitations upon players in an effort to frustrate them into paying for services that really are essential to the game.

A Trandoshan Standoff
A Trandoshan Standoff | Source

My Only Hope

Is that Bioware knows what it's doing. After all, I've been involved with SWTOR since early beta builds, and Bioware's always done right by the franchise and the fans. Early access, relatively bug-free, heeding fan input, solid updates and patches, clever Legacy System, great gameplay -- honestly, if my computer weren't in need of an engineer, I'd probably be playing SWTOR right now, instead of writing this hub. And even with the desperation of the gaming industry, Bioware has the capabilities to make this work. I really don't see how it could make this work, but it could turn out for the better. They could be the chosen one, the one to restore balance to the force of gaming...though that didn't turn out very well for the Jedi. Oi.

What do you think? Is this a good deal or a disturbance in the force? Have you played SWTOR before (please, tell me you weren't a Pub)? Is your subscription active? Leave some comments below.


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    • TDaniels profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Somewhere Else

      Mcbel, Bioware posted a brief chart distinguishing between the new F2P system debuting this Fall and the current subscription benefits: . Basically, you have full access to the class quests within the world, but either limited or no access to everything else -- character creation, PvP, Galactic Market, Operations, etc.

    • mcbel profile image


      6 years ago from New Hampshire


    • JohnGreasyGamer profile image

      John Roberts 

      6 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

      Mcbel, from what I understand, the F2P players get access to most stuff, but Subscribers get all features they used to. ^^

    • mcbel profile image


      6 years ago from New Hampshire

      I may have missed the answer to this by skimming it to quickly, but is the free to play feature different from the payed version, or do free players get full access to the entire game?

    • TDaniels profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Somewhere Else

      @mmo-games That's a fair point I hadn't thought to mention. Bioware wouldn't have went F2P without reason, so they must think that's the only way to boost their user base. Given recent turnouts, that seems reasonable to me. It's also true that the game will ultimately drive user involvement; however, League of Legends was intended as a F2P, while SWTOR wasn't. That will make a difference, at least in the short term. "The Secret World" definitely feels ripe for F2P. Thanks for the comment.

    • mmo-games profile image


      6 years ago from MMO World

      The free to play business model has worked for many titles but at the end of the day, it all comes down to the game itself.

      As long as the game is addicting and the developer keeps it fresh with new content, game modes and events, there is no reason for either business models to not work for the game.

      Bioware's main goal must be the number of users. They were sure they were not going to reach that goal as a subscription based game and they have decided to go f2p.

      Look at some of the f2p titles out there, like World of Tanks or League of Legends. They all work just fine for their publishers.

      The only MMO that will surely stay "paid" is Eve Online and both the CCP and the user base is happy with the way things are.

      All the other games, for instance Funcom's new MMO "The Secret World" are candidates for f2p transformation...

    • Keith Engel profile image

      Keith Engel 

      6 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


      You can review my entire MMO Series of Articles that go into precisely about the problems with MMOs and why the genre has stagnated. TOR follows the same base model of core mechanics and design that WoW and every MMO has had since WoW has come out, hence it is a WoW Clone.

      The only thing it does to set itself apart from WoW, the fluff feature set in this instance, is the story line aspect. Every other aspect of the game follow the same Core Model.

      This is were GW 2 comes into play. You can then read my GW 2 articles to learn more about how GW 2 is changing everything from the WoW model. Nothing is stock when it comes to GW 2, everything is almost changed from how you play and experience an MMO since WoW.

      TOR and Bioware was unwilling to take the risk to actually try to change HOW players play the MMO at its core. It played it safe by following a model that is 7-11 years old, if you count EQ into the picture since WoW copied many of its aspects. Players have been playing basically the same game, the same way, with the same end game purpose for all these years.

      It's time for a change, TOR could have delivered that change, but failed. Guild Wars 2 on the other hand delivers change on a large scale to the MMO RPG that it plays completely different than many MMOS out on the market today.

    • TDaniels profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Somewhere Else

      @JohnGreasyGamer Yeah, I think the player influx won't help with the number of players that will leave. What about DCUO do you think could help SWTOR? I haven't played it since it first hit shelves, but the current subscription/free system doesn't seem that different than SWTOR's plan. (And thanks for the tip on the links. I'm still trying to get over citing every little notation, ha.)

      @Keith_Engel Eh, I'd disagree on the clone theory. It shares many features with WoW, because WoW set the standard for MMOs, so that's logic. I think SWTOR does a lot for itself, though. I have heard a lot of discontent over the end-game, which does seem to be largely PvP, which gets old. I'm sure Bioware will do more with that, but they probably needed more earlier on, so it might be too late. What about GW2 is special? I wasn't fond of the first, but it had its own charm. GW2, even if it's pay-once, seems stock from what I've watched.

      @Warchild75 Go for it, man. Fair warning, though: SWTOR offers the great story and great characters like KotOR, but the gameplay is very different. Even so, I think you'll like it.

      @dannyhodge Y'know, until I really started chatting with people in forums and such, I never really gave that argument much credit, that people were disappointed with SWTOR 'cause it wasn't KotOR3. But, I believe it now. And, you're right, aside from some time limitations, the class story experience is entirely free, and lots of people will love that. But, SWTOR isn't a single-player experience; it's an MMO. It can't survive by shunning the social experience and focusing on a single player experience that will end, 'cause then players will just leave. The society is what keeps players coming back (among other things). So, you're totally right, I just think more people will get frustrated and leave than will be wooed to the free-to-play side.

    • dannyhodge profile image

      Daniel Hodge 

      6 years ago from Britain

      The changes don't seem too drastic to me - for a F2P game, the fact that you are still permitted to do the whole of the main storyline for each character, which is what a lot of people want to do.

      I watched TotalBiscuits (a YouTube star if you haven't heard of him) opinion on this, and i think he is right actually. He said that the majority of people wanted a third KOTOR, not an MMO, so only being limited on the multiplayer aspects (by majority, anyway) wont really affect people.

      But the people who were excited by the idea of it being an MMO may have the opposite opinion.

    • warchild75 profile image


      6 years ago from Lancing, West Sussex, England

      I really wanted to subscribe to this when I first heard about it months and months ago but cant justify the spend as moving house, now there is a free version on the way I may just dip my toes, Never played a MMMo before but love the Kotor series on the original xbox!!.

    • Keith Engel profile image

      Keith Engel 

      6 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      Well, at the end of my article about SWOTOR offering a free week of play to former players when the Legacy patch released, I asked when will SWTOR be going free to play.

      Unfortunately, I and many others on a forum I post at predicted SWTOR would not be as successful as hoped. It is a WoW clone, a very well done and polished WoW clone, but a a WoW clone all the same. MMO players have grown tired of playing the WoW clone and the archaic system that is found within the MMO Model as it currently exists and expect more for the 15 dollars a month that they are paying to actually play the game.

      The issue with TOR was that it promoted itself as a sequel to a single player game and it should have focused more on this single player aspect. They didn't have an aggressive enough end game plan as far as I am concerned and fell into the same trap of WoW and other MMOs thinking that end game is just about dungeon running and PVP. Bioware should have had an alternate release method of content, one every month. One month new story is added and expanded upon while another month saw new Dungeons and the like added.

      As far as my playing SWTOR, I never paid for a subscription. I had reached level 40 in my first week of free play for preordering the game and when I bought the game only played for the free month, and level up a few other characters to level 30 roughly, but stopped.

      As far as future prospects of SWTOR, it all depends. LOTRO is doing quite well for itself as far as F2P is concerned. Yet, then again LOTRO was developed by a MMO game company in Turbine. Then you have a little something called Guild Wars 2 coming out at the end of this month a game that will be restoring balance to the force so to speak. Why?

      Simply put, since I first started playing MMOs, this is the first game that I have played that meets the vision and idea of what I thought an MMO actually was and should be in the end. Guild Wars 2 will be a game changer, Bioware could have done that, but they "Played it Safe" and copied WoW instead of gambling. They lost.

    • JohnGreasyGamer profile image

      John Roberts 

      6 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

      Great article and I'm glad I heard the news. You don't need to be Nostradamus to see this coming along. What's worse for me is though is that it will thrive as an F2P model but not for very long (see Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes). It will bring in new and different players but a lot of its playerbase will go because it thinks its "pro", and look for something that sees to their needs. Yeah, like that's gonna happen.

      If you paid for this game, I apologize. But at the same time, many of us saw it coming when the free weekend system was implemented just moments after the game's release. It will survive and it will make money, but not as much as it could've before. If it hopes to survive with its fully voiced questing, then I suggest the devs just take one look at DC:UO.

      Voted up, useful, funny and interesting. Just a hint of constructive criticism: please remove some of those links, it makes the article harder to read and makes it look very promotional. Not to worry, I'm not one to flag. ^^


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