As a surprise to some, and not so much to others Bioware has announced that they will be implementing a free to play option this fall. Some of the details regarding the change of policy came out with this just past earnings call from EA, stating that the game has fewer than a million players the exact number being “…well above..” the break even 500 thousand mark. Additionally the feedback surveys taken upon a customer’s cancellation revealed that 40 percent of the quitting players placed the monthly fee as the main reason for discontinuation. While this is definitely not the whole story, declining subs and a general feeling of low value received from the game (especially at endgame) seem to be the driving factors behind the new model.
How it Will Work
While the details out there regarding the new model are fairly general and small in number, the overall picture is easy to make out. Players who pay a monthly fee will have free (not counting the sub of course) and immediate access to all of the games content, any future content, and will also accumulate “Cartel coins” each month which can be used to purchase in game items of the cosmetic and vanity variety. If you choose to keep your money in your wallet, you’ll still be able to play the entirety of the game from level 1-50 but will have restrictions on everything else.
Some of the limitations that non-subbed players will experience are as follows.
- Limited amount of character creation choices (Species are noted in particular)
- Players will only be able to run Warzones and flashpoints a limited number of times each week
- Operations are completely unavailable for those not subscribed
- Non-subs will not have access to all of the modes of travel in the game (Possibly fleet pass or the like)
- If there is a login queue, players who are subscribed will receive priority and get in the game faster.
- Subscribed players can post up to 50 items on the Galactic Trade Network while non-subs will only have “limited” access
- Space missions will have a weekly limit for non-subs
It’s seems as though Bioware’s plan is to make the “single-player” experience, or levels 1-50, available to all comers with the hopes of enticing them to pony up for the exclusive end-game content like operations and warzones. For those of you who are not into operations and are strictly of the PVP variety it has also be stated that “…higher-level game content and new features will be made available through individual purchases or through a subscription option.” Meaning you don’t have to buy the whole cow if you just want the steak. How purchasing this new content will affect the weekly play restrictions (ie. Flashpoints,Warzones)has not been said, although it makes sense that they be removed.
What are Cartel Coins?
The Cartel coins are the new form of currency being implemented to award subscribers. Those who choose to dish out the 15 dollars will receive a certain amount of Cartel Coins each month (exact number not yet mentioned). If you’ve been a loyal subscriber for any period of time before the upcoming Free to Play model is activated you will receive a sum of Cartel Coins based on a variety of factors which you will find in this chart. Anyone who is not subscribed can purchase the coins using plain old cash as they are the method for unlocking the locked up content, features, and removing restrictions. An in game method for acquiring Cartel Coins has not been mentioned yet.
Some of the known in game items that can be purchased using the coins are a special chair, a pet, and a new headpiece all pictured below.
Current Subscriber & Collector’s Edition Bonuses
Those who have been loyal subscribers to the game are set to receive some bonuses come the day Free to Play goes live. The first of these bonuses is a grant of Cartel Coins, the exact number of which will depend on how long you have been subscribed. For every month subbed prior to July 31 2012, players will receive 150 cartel coins. Being subbed from August 1 2012 up to the launch of FTP will net you 200 a month with an additional 250 given out on the day of launch, and an in-game item.
Hardcore fans who shelled out for the pricey collector’s edition will receive some exclusive rewards of their own. An unknown item called the “Heroes’ Banner” and an additional 1000 Cartel credits will be received at launch. Remember to read the fine print though, as you will still need to have an active subscription on FTP launch day in addition to your purchasing of the collector’s edition to receive the rewards.
What do you think of SWTOR’s new pricing model from what we know so far? Let us know in the comments below.