In ultra exciting news SWTOR is going to the free to play model.
Now how is this different, we should ask, from say DC Universe Online.
First I’d like to address the newly released The Secret World. Now five months ago (before launch) they announced a Life Time Subscription for the game. And of course in typical Troublmaker style I threw out a controversial video in which I coach people to not get the life time subscription because it is a scam. It is a scam because at the time it was clear to me The Secret World would go free to play as Funcom’s other two titles (Anarchy Online and Age of Conan) had both adopted free to play. It was then my opinion that dishing out $200 (that would pay itself off after a year) was not worthwhile because you would be getting the game unlimited for free sooner rather than later anyway.
I however did not say do not purchase nor did I not say do not play The Secret World. The game is released today and of course in traditional Funcom numbers it is posting average review numbers.
I’d like to differentiate the Funcom transition to free to play from this first time Electronic Arts transition into free to play. Funcom moved to free to play because they stopped making money with a subscription model. SWTOR is moving to free to play because it is a better business model. This can be evidenced by the fact that Warhammer Online… in its 5 year glory is still yet to go to free to play despite being dead for quite some time.
SWTOR going free to play addresses the primary problem people had with getting the game in the first place, that is they wanted a single player experience but did not want to pay a subscription. SWTOR, unlike other games, is not dying so quickly. To compare Rift went from 500,000 to 150,000 in under a month, Age of Conan went from 1,000,000 to 100,000 in a month, DC Universe Online went from 1,200,000 to 100,000 in a month, Warhammer Online went from 750,000 to 5,000 in a month.
SWTOR went from 1.7M to 1.3M over a period of 4 months and only recently dropped under a million. They’re not waiting to die off to make the switch.
It’s time for developers to face it, World of Warcraft was a commercial oddity that no one will ever hit ever again. Blizzard successfully created a social club with a monthly entry fee.
The new Bioware model will be very similar to the Sony Online Entertainment model. You will be able to do the quests to Level 50 for free. If you want more character slots you have to buy them (or delete your character), if you want to PvP you have to pay for that, if you want access to PvE dungeons you have to buy a dungeon pass.
The odd part of this is that unlike Sony Online Entertainment games…. the leveling content is what people want to do. Honestly, no one cares about leveling in Lord of the Rings Online. In fact I’d argue that the leveling is the most painful part of that game as if you don’t purchase bonus zones it becomes tedious and almost impossible. The same is true of Dungeons and Dragons Online and DC Universe Online. Leveling sucked in these games, you WANTED to do the dungeon and end game content.
The problem for SWTOR so far comes in with that there is no reason to make the jump from arguably the best and funnest part of the game (solo leveling) to their group end game content. SOE created guest passes whereas if you purchased dungeon access you could (as leader) bring your group into the dungeon. The content is largely
What Bioware does with their free to play model will in the end decide whether or not the game will succeed or fail. By having questing up to Level 50 free I have no doubt that the game will have capacity servers on free to play launch, but I don’t know how they will do on the money side of things.