Once labeled the “Fastest Growing MMO” of all time with over 1 million subscriptions in just three days after its launch, Star Wars: The Old Republic looked as if it was well on its way of silencing dissenters and critics who claimed that the MMO market was simply too turbulent and unpredictable during these troubling economic times. It wasn’t long after that BioWare began to at least acknowledge those critics, as the prominent developer hit a rough patch in terms of releasing new content for SWTOR, keeping players content, and ensuring servers were filled. Since February, Star Wars: The Old Republic has seen an astonishing 400,000+ subscribers drop. In a recent interview (since been pulled from the site) with Games(TM), lead designer Emmanuel Lusinchi stated that BioWare isn’t ruling out taking the game down the F2P path.
“The MMO market is very dynamic and we need to be dynamic as well,” he said. “Unless people are happy with what they have, they are constantly demanding updates, new modes and situations. So we are looking at free-to-play but I can’t tell you in much detail. We have to be flexible and adapt to what is going on.”
We’ve seen the free-to-play model work pretty consistently over the last several years, specifically within the MMO genre which is naturally contains the most demanding work and update cycles for developers, as well as the most demanding fanbase who crave new content on a regular basis. The question for BioWare, like every other developer that oversees a free-to-play product, would be the issue of how they would monetize the game and begin to make up for all of those paid subscriptions they’d lose.
Though we can’t officially announce that you’ll soon be traveling the galaxy and wielding lightsabers for free, it appears that given the recent problems Star Wars: The Old Republic has undergone and received community backlash from are simply too much for BioWare to continue asking for a paid subscription. Lusinchi stated his belief that the term “free-to-play” in no way implies a drop in game quality:
“If it was just free-to-play games and they weren’t very good it wouldn’t even be a question but there are definitely good games out there and good games coming out, so of course all of this competition impacts your plan with what you want to do.”