The Old Republic Goes Free-to-Play
Less than a million subscribers just called out and I can’t bring myself to finish this sentence.
A surprise? Not really. The Old Republic has failed to capture players’ hearts in the way BioWare, LucasArts and EA have hoped. Partly that was due to the game not having enough end-game content ready at launch to satisfy the hardcore fans, partly due to some frankly hilarious bugs, and partly due to the fact that the game is, or was, running on a subscription model.
That last part was always going to be a stumbling block for the game. When it was announced before launch, it raised eyebrows, given that more and more MMO games are moving away from the subscription model. World of Warcraft and EVE Online still run that way, but these are established games, with a massive volume of fans for the former and a fanatically loyal fanbase for the latter.
In an excellent editorial about this change, Jim Rossignol of Rock Paper Shotgun sums up subscription models with: “The fundamental truth must be this: we will pay a subscription if we judge it worth our while.”
It’s worth pointing out the details of the changeover. The game isnt gong to be completely free-to-play. There will be two payment structures: Subscription and Free-to-Play.
When it relaunches in the Autumn, the game will introduce a new virtual currency – Cartel Coins – which can be used to buy “valuable items including customizable gear and convenience features that will enhance the game play experience.” Subscription players will receive a monthly grant of cartel coins – amount unconfirmed – while those on free-to-play accounts will have to pick them up themselves.
You can read the full press release here, although it’s fairly light on details.
An interesting development, but one that quite a few people saw coming. With the playerbase having dropped to around 900,000 players, rumors were flying thick and fast that this change was in the pipeline. Having less than a million players shouldn’t be considered a failure – EVE Online has around 400,000 – but it won’t be the numbers the moneymen will have been looking for.