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Star Wars: The Old Republic: F2P: How Soon Is Too Soon?

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,581MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

With the announcement that Star Wars: The Old Republic would be going F2P, many people expressed surprise that it had come so soon. In a new column today, we look at that notion and tear it apart. Check it out!

SWTOR is going F2P this fall. It launched just before Christmas in 2011. That means it will be less than one year since BioWare’s massive investment stormed the sales charts… and then promptly saw its subscription numbers falter. The answer? As is the current trend: make it a hybrid F2P game and drop that pesky purchase and subscription barrier. If you can get players playing your game for free, by the thousands, chances are you can get a few of them to buy something for a small fee once they’re hooked. When I spoke to Jeff Hickman and Matt Bromberg this week, one of the things they were completely open about was that SWTOR should have been F2P all along. But is the conversion coming too soon, too late, or just in time?

Read more of Bill Murphy's F2P: How Soon Is Too Soon?

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Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

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Comments

  • starstar Seattle, WAPosts: 1,101Member
    No Garrett...?

    image

  • RemyVorenderRemyVorender Riverside, RIPosts: 3,265Member Uncommon
    They are correct about one thing: SWTOR is definitely a F2P caliber title.

    Played: AA, AC1, AC2, Aion, AO, AoC, CO, CoX, DAoC, DCUO, DN, EVE, EQ1, EQ2,
    ESO, FE, FFXI, FFXIV, FF, GW1, GW2, Istaria, L2, LoTRO, MO, MxO, NW, Rift, RoE,
    Ryzom, SB, SWG, SWTOR, TERA, TSW, WAR, WoW, WURM...

  • OsirrusOsirrus CheshirePosts: 55Member

    i think this is a trend were seeing from  a lot of developers now.

    release game as subscription based.

    make there initial investment back through box sales and monthly subs.

    milk the monthly sub for as long as possible.

    say game was alway meant to be free to play

    and switch to a FTP model that has been in developement since before launch.

    I understand this is a way for the games companies and investors to make the investment back asap. but as a gamer it always make me feel like the games company pulled a fast one on me and if i had only waited x amount of months i could of gotten 90% of the game or w/e free ...

  • ReklawReklaw Am.Posts: 6,474Member Uncommon
    Aslong developers continue to make online combat games or in the case of SWTOR a online story driven game then those limited games should be F2P from release. Personally I do not consider these type of games MMORPG's due to the lack of freedom they offer.
  • causscauss sonnegaPosts: 668Member

    I will say this. Bioware + Star Wars + The highest budget ever on a MMORPG and they manage to screw it up this hard. SWTOR is a game without ANY creativity and vision and is a joke to the MMORPG genre (SWTOR prefers to be called a co-rpg). Well, we now know BioWare can only copy their own games (and not WoW).

     

    Look, it was never their intention to go F2P, but now they have to. That right there, is failure. Why? Just look at the development time and budget. Sure more people will come in when it's F2P, but why would those people stick? The game does not get any better because of F2P. The foundation of the game is bad, F2P won't change that.

  • fenistilfenistil GliwicePosts: 3,005Member

    "How soon is too soon?"

     

    It is always too soon.  You don't have to start playing a subsciption game right at the start.

    There are many people that start playing certain p2p tilte let's say 3 years after release.

    Then 3 months after they start to play game change into freemium or f2p.  It will be way too soon to that person as well.

     

    But few months after release is like slap in a face. Actually anything up until 3-4 years would be.

    Guess I am one of few people that want to play mmorpg's long-term though.

     

    Tbh with all those conversion to freemium / f2p - since I don't like those models (speak from personal experience) I am reluctatnt to even START playing mmorpg now. 

    I don't have any warranty that I will have no cash shop no rmt enviroment to play in next 3 months.

     

    Want to make good transition to freemium or f2p for me?   Leave or create new (with option to free single character transfer) ZERO cash shop p2p server (s) alongside f2p / freemium servers.

     

    I don't care if someone buy thousand lockboxes or anything else as long as I can play in zero cash shop zero rmt zero rmah enviroment.

    Obviously it would create additional costs as certain things would have to be implemented diffrently as some mechanics in f2p / freemium servers go into cash shop or are modified to fuel CS sales, etc

     

    Just saying how from my player point of view it looks like.

     

    I tried to adapt to few freemium models and each was bit diffrent.  In model that is perceived by some as 'one of best' namely Lotro I tried to adapt for like 8 months after game went freemium (was playing p2p version before) and I went to great-lenghts convincing myself that it is ok. Paying sub for VIP status, etc

    It ended up as quite traumatic experiecne. NEVER AGAIN.

  • starstar Seattle, WAPosts: 1,101Member
    I can't help but but believe that this was partly planned by BiowareAustin/EA. there have been rumblings about this for months now, and given that the subscriber woes were pretty well documented, I can't see how this would've been 'avoided' (avoided in quotes because I don't believe it's a bad thing - the game should've been B2P from the start, but the gross arrogance for the producers seemingly limited their scope. Hubris is a bitch.)

    I know I'll be reinstalling when this goes live - the game is good, just not worth a sub, especially with GW2 a month away. And I think, as was highlighted in the editorial yesterday, that was/is a big reason the sub fee has been goin the way of the dodo the past 2-3 years. There are just so many quality games that are free/buy-to-play, that the player base is becoming more and more wary of that 15/month fee. Call it propaganda, but it was really... Disgusting to see that chart NCSoft released laying out their costs; Jesus Christ it costs nothing to keep the servers running, and they were making bank off of just box sales and MT.

    Annnnddd rambling.

    image

  • erictlewiserictlewis Cottondale, ALPosts: 3,026Member Uncommon

    I have to Say in this case it is way to late.  With all the lies the EA/Bioware spun about having 2.4 million in box sales, 1.7 million active accounts.  We all knew it was a large load of BS.  The were called on it.  Folks would get warning and temp bans for calling out EA for their shenanigan's.   Some of us were even told we had tin foil hats on.

    We could all see this coming our way, all the warning signs were there.  Empty servers, enough hate on the official forums and other mmo web sites.

    Now lets get down to the fun factor.   My first toon was fun all the way though the end of the story line,so was my second toon.  By the time I got my 4th alt to 50 the fun was gone.  The main reason why the fun was gone was it was all repeatable quests.  Aside from the limited story line arc's all the other stuff was not fun.  After running 4 alts to 50 on the empire side, I was in no mood to run another 4 alts on the republic side.   What we got was shallow questing and limited questing.  Fun if your not running many alts, however once you hit 50 you either raise alts or you grind dailies.  

    So saying all that free to play only works if 2 things happen.  Your players have to be happy, and they have to like what is in the store.  Will EA/Bioware be able to copy what Turbine did.  That is yet to be seen. 

    Can EA turn this game around and save it.  I doubt it very seriously.  I don't think it will be here next year this time.

    The reason why I say that is sure it is going free to play, however you have to look at what drove your players away in the first place and fix that. They have not fixed the problem that drove away the players, until you do that your game is going to suffer.

    I still have to say this is an example of how not to spend 200-300 million making a game with no substance, it should set a precedent that if you make bad games they will not play.

     

     

  • AnthurAnthur StolbergPosts: 686Member Uncommon

    Too soon ?

    Flame me if you want to, but the way SWTOR is designed it never actually had enough mmo content nor replayability value to be a P2P game. Should have been F2P, maybe B2B from the start.

  • zhivikzhivik SofiaPosts: 38Member

    I risk being accused of being a troll, but Bill, sites like yours also bear some of the blame why this is happening. I regret to say that just a few months ago, you were giving rave reviews of the game, which were apparently not based on a long enough experience with it. The very concept of an MMO is that it should last for a couple of years at least, so preparing a review as if you are writing about an offline game is simply not working. I mean, you yourself say you don't subscribe to SWTOR anymore, and this shouldn't be happening, if your review reflected the actual state of the game.

    Regarding the topic of the article - it is too soon in this case, because even if we believe that F2P was intended all along, then it is a blatant ripoff of those who paid the box price (I admit I was one of them). In fact, I think this is going to cause a lot of damage to subscription-based games, as people will always wonder whether they will turn F2P just a year after release. After all, SWTOR was designed by Bioware and published by EA, companies that are hardly inexperienced or lack funds. If they fail, everyone else can, and the damage to new MMOs trying to be subscription-only will be considerable.

  • TheocritusTheocritus Gary, INPosts: 3,734Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Osirrus

    i think this is a trend were seeing from  a lot of developers now.

    release game as subscription based.

    make there initial investment back through box sales and monthly subs.

    milk the monthly sub for as long as possible.

    say game was alway meant to be free to play

    and switch to a FTP model that has been in developement since before launch.

    I understand this is a way for the games companies and investors to make the investment back asap. but as a gamer it always make me feel like the games company pulled a fast one on me and if i had only waited x amount of months i could of gotten 90% of the game or w/e free ...

             I've taken the wait and see approach since WoW came out in 2004 (last MMO I bought the box for)......If you can get past the "I have to be first in line" mentality that so many gamers have, it will save you alot of money.....

  • CenthanCenthan Toms River, NJPosts: 483Member

    I think this is a great trend, not only for online games, but for life.
    Whenever you have a failing industry, make it "free" (and I use that term loosely).


    Healthcare industry?  Make it "free".

    You're having open heart surgery, and they are only allowed to work on the left ventricle for free.   Then, mid-surgery, they wake you up from the anesthesia and inform you in order finish the work on your aorta, they're going to have to verify your insurance and you're going to have to pony up the dough to pay what isn't covered.  They then ask if you would like them to continue with the operation or not?

    Auto industry?  Make it "free".

    They give you a brand new car, you're driving down a long country road at night with no street lights.  Your headlights suddenly go out, and your car chimes in that your "illumination period as expired, have a nice evening".  You discover you have to somehow get back to the dealer to pay for more "illumination time".

    Red light industry?  Make it "free".

    The most beautiful vixen of your dreams gets you just to the point of...

    Well, you get the trend...
     

  • wartyxwtwartyxwt margatePosts: 172Member

    Sorry, still don't give a crap. Just another case of the devs flipflopping on their intent/direction which is exactly why I never could get into the idea of the game.

  • RocknissRockniss Youngstown, OHPosts: 1,034Member
    Going to have to second the wait and see aproach, especially after star wars, just wait and see, give them a chance to work out the bugs, clear out the over crowding, and gives you a chance to get some reviews that are real, mmorpg does give good previews, but let's face it they are optimists for the most part and should be its good for the community but not always work for you.
  • hawok01hawok01 mragowoPosts: 2Member
    Originally posted by causs

    I will say this. Bioware + Star Wars + The highest budget ever on a MMORPG and they manage to screw it up this hard. SWTOR is a game without ANY creativity and vision and is a joke to the MMORPG genre (SWTOR prefers to be called a co-rpg). Well, we now know BioWare can only copy their own games (and not WoW).

     

    Look, it was never their intention to go F2P, but now they have to. That right there, is failure. Why? Just look at the development time and budget. Sure more people will come in when it's F2P, but why would those people stick? The game does not get any better because of F2P. The foundation of the game is bad, F2P won't change that.

    Actually TOR was suppose to be a f2p game, even devs were saying so. Until all of a sudden one day they made U turn and announced the game will have sub based system.
     
    It seem to be a new trend to release a game with monthly fee, get initial investment (or as much as possible) back through box sales and monthly subs and then switch to f2p.
     
    F2p is just way more profitable for the company, the hybrid model with subs and store at same time works wonders. With the ability to atract both, hardcore players willing to spend money on sub, casuals players and people who just dislike the p2p model because they fell forced to play or the money spent on the sub goes to waste. It’s a win-win situation for the company. And couple of hundrad people saying "i quit if..." won't change that, becouse if thats enough for them to quit, they wouldn't be around for long anyway.
    "Free" games aren’t the same crap it was 10 years ago.
  • TardcoreTardcore MinskPosts: 2,325Member

    "What I’d rather see though? I’d like to see games start releasing that give us a reason to subscribe every month. And if they cannot do that, when there are so many options on the market, I’d like to see them have the courage to launch from the gate as F2P, and let us decide when and how we want to give you our money. If you give us a reason to, most of us will gladly pony up."

     

    Have to say I agree with this. However until fans AND certain people in the gaming media stop letting their enthusiasm override their pragmatism, and stop treating each new game release as the second coming of Jesus, this ain't gonna f*cking happen. Why? Because companies now know they can release a substandard and/or unfinished product, soak the proles for box sale and possibly lifetime subscriptions and then if the game tanks, free fall into the safety net of free to play and soak players even further by selling them the same shitty game peicemeal.

     

    Also I find your question about how soon is too soon to go FTP irrelevant. WHEN matters f*ck all. The reason WHY the game went FTP is what counts. In SWTOR's case it seems they made a game that didn't offer anything outside the story portion of the game that gamers couldn't do in other longer established games. So once they burned through that content they just went back to where they came from. Going FTP will certainly get new people in to kick the tires and try a spin behind the steering wheel, but unless they make some changes (Dungeons and Dragons Online anyone) those people aren't going to stick around either. It reminds me of when Frank Gibeau of EA said that the reason fro the massive subcription dip was that casual players didn't want to pay a sucbsription. When in fact I beleive that its just the gamers didn't find SWTOR to be WORTH a monthly subscription fee, which is a massive, MASSIVE difference.

     

     

     

     

     

    image

    "Gypsies, tramps, and thieves, we were called by the Admin of the site . . . "

  • KothosesKothoses GalwayPosts: 758Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Centhan

    I think this is a great trend, not only for online games, but for life.
    Whenever you have a failing industry, make it "free" (and I use that term loosely).


    Healthcare industry?  Make it "free".

    You're having open heart surgery, and they are only allowed to work on the left ventricle for free.   Then, mid-surgery, they wake you up from the anesthesia and inform you in order finish the work on your aorta, they're going to have to verify your insurance and you're going to have to pony up the dough to pay what isn't covered.  They then ask if you would like them to continue with the operation or not?

    Auto industry?  Make it "free".

    They give you a brand new car, you're driving down a long country road at night with no street lights.  Your headlights suddenly go out, and your car chimes in that your "illumination period as expired, have a nice evening".  You discover you have to somehow get back to the dealer to pay for more "illumination time".

    Red light industry?  Make it "free".

    The most beautiful vixen of your dreams gets you just to the point of...

    Well, you get the trend...
     

    Worst analogy ever in the history of analogies.

     

    The freemium model if done right gives you incentive to subscribe but if your not going to play enough to warrent that allows you to pick up bits on the days/weeks you fancy playing.

     

    Its a good idea IF DONE RIGHT, by that I dont mean the LOTRO / TURBINE style extended free trial dressed up as f2p.  

     

    Promoting thought a new Gaming video blog http://www.youtube.com/user/quinnthalas discussing games, gamers and the internet with gameplay footage as background.

  • Creslin321Creslin321 Baltimore, MDPosts: 5,359Member

    MANY organizations, especially the tech sector, use a pricing strategy where they initially release their product at a high price point to sell it to all those willing to pay, and then gradually decrease the price of the product to hit other markets.

    I don't think MMORPGs are any different here.  The producers have discovered that they can release a game with a sub (premium price), get all the money from people willing to pay it, and then go F2P to hit all the markets that may not be willing to pay a sub.  So I don't think going F2P is necessarily a bad strategy.

    Here's the problem with SWTOR though...

    They are going F2P in less than a year, which is a VERY SHORT time period for an MMORPG, AND the box price has decreased significantly.  This means that people were not willing to pay a premium for the game for any lengthy period of time.  I honestly think it's a mark of a poorer product.  The market is basically saying "after just a few months, we don't think your product is worth $60 and a subscription."

    Are you team Azeroth, team Tyria, or team Jacob?

  • SpottyGekkoSpottyGekko RotterdamPosts: 3,845Member Uncommon

    I don't believe that big budget AAA MMO's can be profitable if they start off as F2P. It will simply take too long to recoup the development cost.

     

    The B2P model might work, provided the game sells in the region of 3M to 4M boxes at launch, but that's a very difficult target to reach in the MMO world. Without those hefty box sales at launch, the game will be heavily reliant on the Cash Shop to generate revenue.

     

    With so many AAA games invading the F2P space, older and smaller AAA MMO's will feel the heat. I expect some of them will either close down in the next year or push their cash Shops harder, which will kill them anyway.

     
  • AethaerynAethaeryn Kitchener, ONPosts: 1,971Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Osirrus

    i think this is a trend were seeing from  a lot of developers now.

    release game as subscription based.

    make there initial investment back through box sales and monthly subs.

    milk the monthly sub for as long as possible.

    say game was alway meant to be free to play

    and switch to a FTP model that has been in developement since before launch.

    I understand this is a way for the games companies and investors to make the investment back asap. but as a gamer it always make me feel like the games company pulled a fast one on me and if i had only waited x amount of months i could of gotten 90% of the game or w/e free ...

    Yeah especially with a game like TSW that already had a cash shop built in.  I used to hate this trend but I don't mind it so much anymore since I tend to jump around a lot.  If I was still all hard core into one game I would hate hate hate it.

    Wa min God! Se æx on min heafod is!

  • FreakrxFreakrx Sugar Land, TXPosts: 15Member

    What ended TOR for me was the fact they didn't care to listen to any of the beta testers feedback. I played on character to 50 and quit. The people there don't care about what is wrong with the game and release patches. TOR is a epic fail in my opinion and will be done by early next spring.

  • SenadinaSenadina San Diego, CAPosts: 896Member Uncommon

    I would like to see all MMOs launch as B2P. Nowadays, most MMOs play like single-player co-op/competitive games, so why shouldn't they be priced as such? The Call of Duty, Battlefield games are not so different from MMOs now. Yes, sell the client to offset development costs, offer a cosmetic cash shop, and play for free.

    The problem I have with the F2P/Hybrid model is it limits access to the base game. SWTOR will be limiting race choices, character slots, bag and bank space. LOTRO limits quest content. Many of these supposed F2P games are more like free to try.

    B2P should offer the base experience for the price of a single-player game and sell expansions which are basically DLC. Even tho I am no fan of the original GW, they were visionaries when it comes to their pricing model. Now every single-player game has DLC (expansions) to prolong the game's life. The line between MMO and single-player  is blurring fast.

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  • gaeanprayergaeanprayer Somewhere Out There, PAPosts: 2,320Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Theocritus
    Originally posted by Osirrus

    i think this is a trend were seeing from  a lot of developers now.

    release game as subscription based.

    make there initial investment back through box sales and monthly subs.

    milk the monthly sub for as long as possible.

    say game was alway meant to be free to play

    and switch to a FTP model that has been in developement since before launch.

    I understand this is a way for the games companies and investors to make the investment back asap. but as a gamer it always make me feel like the games company pulled a fast one on me and if i had only waited x amount of months i could of gotten 90% of the game or w/e free ...

             I've taken the wait and see approach since WoW came out in 2004 (last MMO I bought the box for)......If you can get past the "I have to be first in line" mentality that so many gamers have, it will save you alot of money.....

    That's wisdom right there. That approach is one I've taken with almost every game. My day 1 buys have been Skyrim and GW2, and those were the first in MANY years only because I knew I'd get my money's worth. I never understood the "first" mentality, but I suppose I should be thankful to those who rush out and get everything at its highest price; it's probably because of them that people like me can wait for a Steam sale.

    "Forums aren't for intelligent discussion; they're for blow-hards with unwavering opinions."

  • mnemic666mnemic666 asdf, CAPosts: 157Member Uncommon

    Given the budget behind this, I'd absolutely say it's too soon. I don't see going F2P as a necessarily bad thing, but I see it as something that happens over time when a MMO loses enough of it's playerbase due to natural attrition over the years that F2P becomes a more attractive option. Most of these MMO's have been big names, but they had nowhere near the funding or marketing budget that SWTOR had, and lasted FAR longer (granted, it was a different market back then as well).

     

    Honestly, the fact that DCUO lasted longer is sort of funny. I mean, it's completely irrelevant because trying to compare the two is silly (again, two different markets at the time, and DCUO could have benefited from an earlier transition), but public perception plays a big role and the popular opinion is that F2P transition = failed game.

     

    Seriously though, with the kind of power the game had behind it, it's actually pretty disappointing to see it struggle as much as it has since launch. It shows that EA/BW couldn't produce a game that was compelling enough to justify a subscription, and the fact that they've had attrition rates this high (roughly 70%ish of initial purchasers canceling within the first 9 months) is embarassing.

     

    Makes me happy though. Been wanting to play the game for the story but didn't want to support EA/BW because I felt they made too many mistakes with the game and wasn't a fan of a lot of what they did. This now gives me an opportunity to play it for free and decide later if I want to support them financially or not.

  • RazeeksterRazeekster Solon, MEPosts: 2,201Member Uncommon

    I'll have to disagree that the subscription model is "becoming dated and irrelevant." And Guild Wars 2 will never be free. It's a Buy to Play (B2P) game as was the original Guild Wars was. You didn't see Guild Wars ever going free to download and play did you?

    Smile

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