Wednesday, October 31, 2012

SW:TOR Not Really Free to Play

The game cannot sustain itself with subscriptions alone.  We gave the subscription model the best possible chance we could and it couldn’t generate the revenue needed to maintain the game.

The next move is to go free to play, an approach that has been proven by big IP mmos (STO, LOTRO, DDO) to be financially successful.  However, we’re not going to follow the model that has worked for other games, where all aspects of the game are truly free, and the publisher makes money at the game store and by producing new content. 

Instead, EA is going to try a hybrid system where they essentially continue the subscription model but offer a shareware version of the game as well.  The big questions is, will SWTOR experience the same kind of financial benefit from this shareware model that true F2P MMOs are getting from theirs?

Three months after F2P launch, will we see more subscribers or more free players?  This depends on whether the free model is a success or not.  If as EA hopes, the shareware model works for them and results in an influx of new players, then we will have far more free players than subscribers.  I’m seeing 75-25%.  If they have botched the F2P model, and this 2-tier system doesn’t entice free players back, then the ratio will be reversed.  However, this will overall be bad news for the game. 

All players and supporters of the game should want to see a huge bounce in the number of players.  This is the only thing that will maintain EA’s interest the game.  If they don’t see a huge bounce, we’re likely to see less support, less development of new content, less chance of major expansions.  We might eventually see Makeb, and that’s it.

Another way to look at it is to say that EA is firmly committed to the subscription model, but they are willing to lower the subscription fee depending on which features the player wants to regularly access.  While $15 a month gets you everything, maybe $8 a month gets you PvP, and $12 a month gets you raiding, and a mere $4 a month gets you space missions.

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