For about 15 US bucks a month, you can play World of Warcraft or most other massively multiplayer online games. That's the genre standard. Could the next big MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic shake that up?
In an interview with Kotaku at Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco last week, Ray Muzyka, general manager of BioWare, the studio creating The Old Republic, said that the game's not-yet-publicised pricing plan will "be more of the traditional business model with maybe some twists as well".
While the publicity machine for The Old Republic has churned out trailers, screenshots and even hands-on opportunities with the game, the people behind the forthcoming online epic have kept quiet about two essential details: When the game will be out and what it will cost.
That release date remains a mystery, but at least one sign popped up last year, with the apparent sighting of support for micro-transactions, that The Old Republic would not stick to a conventional pricing plan to hook gamers on what every MMO maker and gamer ideally wants - a game that a player can play forever. Micro-transactions, flat fees for items in games, are often used to finance free MMOs. Those free games let anyone play for no cost but tend to coax some players into paying a little extra - and then a lot extra - to make their character more powerful or interesting to look at.
Muzyka made no mention of micro-transactions and declined to specify which "twists" he was referring to. But he did elaborate on the general plan for how BioWare and parent company EA hope to charge consumers for The Old Republic:
"With Star Wars: The Old Republic, we haven't announced anything yet. But what we're striving to do, to clarify what I said earlier, is to make sure the fans and the audience that we're trying to reach feel they are getting something they understand and feel that it is a good value for their money - and feel that there is a way they actually want to engage in the experience, both in how they play it and how they pay for it. That's our high-level goal."
Many contenders have failed to knock World of Warcraft from its spot atop the MMO genre. Could a change in how gamers pay for an MMO do the thing?
Until BioWare, EA and Star Wars licence holder LucasArts divulges the money details, we can only speculate on which twists could compel consumers hooked on $US15/month online games to switch over to Star Wars: The Old Republic.