Star Wars MMO Won't Go Free 'in The Foreseeable Future'

DC Universe Online's done it. Team Fortress 2's done it. World of Warcraft's done it (sort of). 2011's seen some of the biggest most ambitious massively multiplayer online game abandon the subscription-based business model and go free-to-play. Valve's shift to an F2P model takes advantage of a game already chock full of microtransaction content. And, in the case of DCUO, Sony Online Entertainment's been rewarded with an exponential increase in their player base. There's apparently plenty of upside in very big games going to F2P. So why is the freshly-launched Star Wars: The Old Republic charging a monthly free to engage in its online adventures?

"We think we've built a premium experience with The Old Republic," answers BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk. "We're launching with 19 huge worlds, and hours and hours of story and content to explore. And we're going to be adding to that for months to come," adds co-founder Ray Muzyka. Zeschuk argues that, despite Blizzard's decision to offer the first 20 levels of World of Warcraft as free-to-play, it's still subscriptions that power the game. WoW pricing's plans and those for the Old Republic match exactly: $US14.99 per month for a month-to-month recurring subscription, $US13.99 per month for a 3-month recurring subscription and $US12.99 per month for a 6-month recurring subscription.

The argument they're making is that TOR is a big-budget, broad appeal online experience built on an entertainment franchise that's captivated millions for decades. It's not the kind of thing that you offer gratis.

But, more than any economic realities surrounding MMO games, the partners say that a free-to-play model may not necessarily be a good fit for a game that switches to a no-subscription template. "Free-to-play works best when a game is built that way from the ground up," offer Zeschuk. "It affects the way you build the experience, how much time and detail you put into content and how you roll out and update." So, if Zeschuk knows all of this, could he or his partner envision The Old Republic making a move like DCUO or TF2 did? "We're not saying never ever, but we certainly have no plans like that in the foreseeable future. We're going to support the game to make it better and better as it goes on. It's going to be worth showing up for."

So there you have it. Muzyka and Zeschuk think that they and their compatriots have made a game that merits your $US15 a month. Now, of course, they need to prove it.

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Comments

    lets be honest. WoW didn't do it. It is free to level 20. Thats like, having a demo that doesn't end.

      It also took Blizzard over 7 years to release it like that... But yes, it is an unending trial.

      Also, free WoW to level 20 is awesome, some of the most fun I had in WoW was levelling characters, once you start getting past the 20 mark the game becomes incredibly monotonous.

    If this game is truly offering some well thought out, well executed story elements, game-play and lore, then really... I don't mind the subscription.

    The thing with a subscription is that if you're paying for it, the game is obviously offering you something you feel worth paying for. So when people still pay for WoW, it's because whatever it is currently doing, even if not much, is still something that is compelling to its playerbase.

    The Star Wars universe really does have a metric fuckton to pick and choose from, so this could be the best thing since sliced bread, or the last MMO of its nature :)

    I'll wait until it goes F2P for a WoW Clone with a Star Wars skin.

    WONT happen at all next year or even the year after that, in fact this games success is going to cause alot of the crappy f2p games that dont deserve to be called MMO's to close up shop.I say good riddance.

    200+ servers and most of them full to capacity.

    I don't get the outcry for every MMO out there to go F2P. MMOs are not like your dime-a-dozen on-rails crap-fest FPS that gets vomited upon the market every few months that you can blast through the campaign in 4 hours and then spent a couple of weeks playing online.

    MMOs often require years of server upkeep and near constant monitoring by technicians and customer support. How do you expect a company to deliver a first class gaming experience if they are just giving all that away?

    Even if they plan to make money off "box sales" such as games like Guild Wars do, you simply cannot expect the same level of service that companies like Blizzard and others charging monthly subs can offer.

    The whole reason so many MMOs have been forced to become F2P is because they sucked in the first place. FFXIV, DCUO, WAR - all great examples of games that were rushed out the developer's door and crashed in giant burning heaps of crap.

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