Star Wars: TOR Sinking, BioWare Eyes Free-To-Play Conversion

By William Usher 2012-06-15 20:55:47 discussion comments
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Remember last year in an interview with GI.biz, BioWare's head honcho Ray Muzyka was saying that Star Wars: The Old Republic was different from other free-to-play MMOs and that the subscription model best suited its design structure? Well, scrap all that.

With The Old Republic's sub numbers dropping off faster than a flimsy dress malfunction on an attention-starved celebrity at a red carpet event, the lead designer of The Old Republic is talking about the consideration of a free-to-play model.

Talking with GamesTM lead designer on The Old Republic, Emmanuel Lusinchi, has changed the tune of BioWare from the confident mind-frame they had last year when discussing Star Wars: The Old Republic, saying...
"The MMO market is very dynamic and we need to be dynamic as well," .... "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."

I guess this is good news for people who didn't want to bother with the game because of the high price of admission: $60 to buy the initial game and then an extra $14.99 each month to play the actual game.

Originally, BioWare and EA thought that the game could sustain itself with the tried and not-so-true method of monthly subscription fees. Co-founder of BioWare, Greg Zeschuk originally made the bold claim to Industry Gamers, in regards to premium MMO services, that...
"We think the market is ready for it. There's a lack of something new and fresh and really powerful; we have research that shows that a lot of people have been waiting for this game.

"We're seeing huge demand for it, and we plan to support it long term."

Looks like The Old Republic wasn't that fresh and that new if they're now considering a free-to-play approach. Gamers obviously didn't think that this newest Star Wars MMO was "new" or "fresh" enough.

Emmanuel Lusinchi lamented to PC Gamer that the MMO genre is a tough business and the scaling back of the BioWare staff at the Austin studio has been in result to the declining subscription numbers. Lusinchi further added that...
“The players don’t really care about all that, behind closed curtains, but they want what they’re paying for which is a service with new content, new systems, that’s what they’re asking for and we listen to them. That’s what we mean to deliver.”

BioWare plans to make a few tweaks and additions to the game for accessibility purposes in the upcoming 1.3 patch, but don't expect any free-to-play shenanigans to drop anytime soon. The game was originally designed around a pay-to-play, subscription model so it will definitely take time to rework the system for free-to-play gamers.

I haven't played The Old Republic but my general impression was that EA tried to market a World of Warcraft clone as a Star Wars game in hopes of gaining massive subscription numbers and making money on an eight year old concept. I don't think it really panned out quite so well, especially with truly innovative titles on the horizon like FireFall, Hawken, C9 and Age of Wushu, all of which are also free-to-play.
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