In recent years, many MMO's have adopted free-to-play business models instead of asking players for monthly subscriptions. However, Star Wars: The Old Republic director James Ohlen says that this F2P trend had no affect on their game's development and that they always planned to have a subscription for their MMORPG.
"We felt, and we still feel, that there is a place for subscription-based games and if you're going to build a subscription-based game it's got to be huge in scope," Ohlen told IGN. "People have to feel that it's worth paying a subscription fee every month, so the scope of the game has to be much bigger than the free-to-play games. The quality, the polish has to be very, very high, and then you need to have a plan to continue to deliver free content on a regular basis. If you do those things, I think you can succeed as a subscription-based game."
World of Warcraft is the top subscriber-based MMO, with over 10 million players. Ohlen doesn't believe that WoW's success prevents other MMOs from flourishing as well, though.
"Obviously, there can only be a few subscription-based games. There is a limited MMO audience and not a ton of that audience is playing more than one MMO, but I still think there's room for more than just one really successful online game. I think Star Wars: The Old Republic can coexist with World of Warcraft and other successful games like Rift. You can have multiple MMOs with a subscription being successful as long as those games fulfill the requirements of high quality, good polish, lots of content, and continuing to do high value updates on a regular basis."
Old Republic is off to a promising start. In its first week, the game snatched up one million registered players. Still, a successful MMO needs to be a marathon runner instead of a sprinter. The test is whether or not BioWare will be able to retain subscribers in the long term.
BioWare has been patching the game on a near-weekly basis since launch. Last week they released Update 1.1, the first major content patch. The next content update, due in March, will expand the game's Legacy system.