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The strange case of SWTOR F2P

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SWTOR LogoLike many others, I quit SWTOR a while back, I think it was in May. My SO and I had played less and less because she had other commitments or interests, like her MUSH or her horse. I never really wanted to play much without her. For me, there was something missing from the game, this addictive rush, the compelling play that makes you sit at work longing to be able to play, or makes you research the game outside the game. When we played, it wasn’t unfun, we always enjoyed it. It also was a game where you couldn’t just login for 30 minutes and knock out some quests. If we’d logged off on the Imperial Fleet, getting to a planet would take like 15 minutes before we could get started.

While I am listing things that weren’t so great about SWTOR, it is that my experience in TSW has made it obvious that outside of the class stories, the questing fell short. You had a ton of rather generic Kill Ten Rats quests that were slightly improved by voice acting, but often translated into some sort of drudgery. As example, I like to list Nar Shadaa, a planet we generally both hated beyond the class story. Booooring. I think every SWTOR player I know has at least one planet they don’t want to touch with a ten-foot-pole.

But aside from the not always brilliant sidequests, you had a solid game. A game that I still uphold is the best duo experience you can have. From the conversation system, to flashpoints, to heroic quests: two players and their companions make for a fantastic group that can really have a lot of fun. TSW fails terribly in that respect, with it’s considerable amount of solo instances, where solo really means solo.

When we quit, we both said that we would go back once the game goes F2P. It had been talked about often enough that this seemed like a likely option. I happily would put some money down for unlocks and go back to the game. When their F2P announcement came, I was rather excited, and got even more so when I read their comparison chart.

F2P comparison

The full comparison between subscription and F2P

Full access to the story for 50 levels? Really? Inarguably, the reason that people play SWTOR, to experience the class story. They’re giving that away for free. Wow. My previous experience with F2P was mostly in LotRO, and I fully expected SWTOR to adopt a similar model, to do as well as LotRO. In LotRO you have access to all zones, but you only get quests in the race starting zones + Breeland. They might have made more quests available by now, but that was what they had when F2P started. LotRO is grindy enough as it is, so the first thing I purchased were quest-packs for three additional zones, and a mount. They had regular sales, so it was easy to snatch them up.

I think a similar model would have worked great for SWTOR as well. Give F2P access to Act I of the class stories, pay money to buy more Acts. Give Sith players access to Korriban and Dromund Kaas, buy planet packs for further quests. Sell mounts. Sell bagspace, sell bankspace, etc. The way SWTOR is set up makes it pretty easy to adopt an F2P model.

Instead, they went with free questing, and are selling their operations and unlimited warzones and space missions as the non-F2P perk. I am sorry, but the disconnect between actual players and publisher seems vast. Can they even see the other side? I have not once heard that SWTOR operations are what keeps people subscribed to the game. Sure, there are raiders, but what’s universally been praised was their famous story pillar, something no MMO had done before to such an extent.

As a result, wherever I read blogs, people state that they don’t understand this F2P model, or that they’re unsubbing, because what they enjoy most will soon be free. Problematic. This announcement probably made them lose more paying players than can be balanced out by the rush of non-paying customers they’ll have. Mikro at SWTOR Life posted an analysis of the earnings call, and it doesn’t paint an encouraging picture, at all. Between all the Bioware layoffs, the non-faith inspiring earnings call, and now there are rumours that Dr. Greg Zeschuk is leaving Bioware. Where’s the light at the end of the tunnel, to keep current subscribers hopeful that they’re not paying for a dying product, but for a product that will still receive updates?

I am worried for Bioware. I am worrying that I might never get to see Dragon Age 3, which would make me very very sad.

Other noteworthy opinions about the strange F2P model EA/Bioware is adopting here:

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