Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
 
The better part is free

Leo Tolstoy's book Anna Karenina begins with the phrase: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." The MMORPG version of this is: Subscription business models are all alike, every Free2Play game does business in its own way. Thus "Star Wars: The Old Republic goes Free2Play" is in fact not much information, you first need to check carefully what exactly you'll get for free.

Now I was reading the detailed info on how free exactly SWTOR would be, and scratched my head: If I had sorted everything which was good about SWTOR in one column, and everything that sucked about SWTOR in another column, and had labeled the good column as "free" and the sucky column as "you need to pay for this", I would have pretty much arrived at the same system. Everything a casual player could possibly be interested in is free, and only the hardcore stuff like raiding and PvP requires payment. You can play any class up to the level cap for free, with the full $300 million voice-over class story! The only thing I might possibly miss as a free player would be full auction house access for crafting:

It isn't totally clear what their "cartel coins", the for cash currency of SWTOR are going to buy, only that existing players will receive some of them in function of how long they subscribed. Inventory space? Bank space? Character slots? Maybe I can buy AH access with the cartel coins I should get for having bought and played the game previously.

EA Bioware says they have less than a million but more than 500k subscribers. My personal guess (based on watching the only subscriber I know: My wife) would be that most of the remaining subscribers are casual players doing story quests with various alts. Unless you slap those with extreme restrictions on character slots, most of them are just going to continue exactly like that for free. It appears to me that SWTOR's Free2Play own way has been designed but some developer who is a hardcore player himself, and thinks that hardcore raiding is what the majority of players aspires to and is willing to pay for. This risks ending up being the worst planned Free2Play business model of all times.

Comments:
Sssht! Tobold, don't wake them up! I still need to finish my smuggler class quest and am waiting for the F2P version SWTOR to complete it!

But yeah, I had the exact feeling as you blogged, the "free" part ticks all the boxes I'm looking for to complete my storylines. Nearly all of my friends who stopped playing will pick this up just to complete theirs and none have the incentive to purchase anything.

I'm tempted to spend more euros on ingame vanity items in GW2 than anything on the SWTOR list.
 
Well, many folks do enjoy PvP and raiding, but the question is whether SWTOR provides a good enough experience in either. From what I read, those are not its strengths. (I could see people paying to raid in WoW.)
 
I think they're going to sell character slots. You get the first one free, but every one after that costs $X. That way you have to pay to see each class storyline after the first. (Well, or you could delete your existing 50 or make a new account.) And that is how they get money for the best part of the game.

If you look at what they've said, this plan doesn't contradict anything, and even matches up to some of the restrictions talked about in the FAQ.
 
I thought the exact same thing when I saw the model. They are giving away the best part of the game. If I want to raid, I'll do that in WoW where the developers have much more expereiene designing raids. If I want to PvP, I'll do that in WoW, where the classes are a bit more balanced for PvP.

Plus with all the Cartel Coins they are giving me for my sub time, I'll be able to buy back bank or bag slots pretty easy. Plus you can always send your companion to sell your grey vendor trash, so even bag slots aren't that big of deal.

I'm having a hard time seeing why I would maintain my sub when they go F2P.
 
The story/quest lines are only going to take you so far. You basically end up in the same planets. The stories aren't so awesome that you have to do them all.

If they can provide more raids and pvp; these might be worth it if they can get a critical mass of players interested in the continuing. But my guess is that they'll need to lower the price point. $14/month is too much nowadays with so many other non-sub options.
 
Time is money and even if a game is free doesn't mean people will play it.

Too often you get what you pay for.
 
" It appears to me that SWTOR's Free2Play own way has been designed but some developer who is a hardcore player himself, and thinks that hardcore raiding is what the majority of players aspires to and is willing to pay for."

It probably was, continuing the so-successful post-launch development focus on raiding, hardmode flashpoints, and ranked PvP at the expense of content anybody cared about.
 
That was pretty much my reaction. With 500k to 1m subs, they have a revenue stream of $90m - $180m per annum. I see an excellent chance of them decimating that, and I honestly can't see how they can get a LOTRO-style increase in revenue from going F2P.

I just don't see that many people who have never tried the game but will now that it's free. And I don't see that many former players returning and spending money (I can certainly see a lot of them returning, not spending anything, and playing some more classes through).
 
First thought on hearing this last week?

"Cooool. I guess I'll keep it installed and maybe some weekend if I ever get bored with TSW or GW2 I might finish off that trooper storyline."

I received an email from TOR requesting feedback. After I unsubbed, I told them very clearly that the reason was the PVP/Raiding treadmill. As a rule I typically don't feel much sympathy for anyone who crashes and burns after ignoring my advice.
 
Further thought: I was pretty elaborate in my mail. If enough players said the same thing, I'm thinking devs either went: 'tl;dr', or cocked their heads sideways like a confused dog and slowly calculated, "Those words were too big, but I'm hearing that they doesn't like raiding or PVP... so. How do we make raiding or PVP more attractive to this person? How do we lower the barriers to entry to this activity we enjoy so much so they can discover its magic and become hooked, like us?"

Which, no. No. No, the correct response was supposed to be, "What else can we think of to do that doesn't involve tiered raiding and PVP."
...To be fair, there's no easy answer to that.
 
I can't understand their model for "free" either, and will certainly start playing again to experience some casual leveling story and the odd instance. Given my history with wow vanity items I am very unlikely to pay money for any service in ToR. The defense might be that they can create compelling and interesting raid content, which then draws the Raiders from other games.
 
Without knowing what's in the store, it's hard to judge. But I'd guess they're not expecting PVP and raiding to pay the bills. They're hoping the cash shop with shiny things that appeal to 'I like leveling and story and making my character look cool' players will.
 
It's funny we still talk about what the future holds for TOR instead of focusing on what TOR has meant for the future of AAA sub based mmorpg's.

I could care about what happens to TOR, even though I still play it. What makes me sad is the fact that another game will not ever have the same scope.
 
It's funny we still talk about what the future holds for TOR instead of focusing on what TOR has meant for the future of AAA sub based mmorpg's.

We discussed that last week already
 
I am that player that would gladly buy the extra character slots. Although the question "what a casual player needs" is wrong. In F2P games people generally don't buy what they need but ending spend money on things they don't really need...

The class story and making alts in this game is their selling point. If they hook players for it, they can sell lot of things that these players don't really need, like companion outfits, mounts, space decoration, e.t.c. Besides, these players that will come with F2P is "free" players for bioware. They wouldn't ever come in a sub model, so if only they spend 20 euro, is 20 euro out of nothing
 
Despite the sizable graphic outlining the differences, I don't think we'll really know what FTP: SWTOR will look like until a couple months after it actually changes.

I think that the general reaction, "Great! All that I want is going to be free; I'm going to keep playing" is exactly the response they are going for. In your head, you've already made the decision to continue, so the move won't drive many existing customers away, they hope.

It's only later when we begin to see what's really going to be available in the game store that we will know the game's intended direction.
 
Despite the sizable graphic outlining the differences, I don't think we'll really know what FTP: SWTOR will look like until a couple months after it actually changes.

I think that the general reaction, "Great! All that I want is going to be free; I'm going to keep playing" is exactly the response they are going for. In your head, you've already made the decision to continue, so the move won't drive many existing customers away, they hope.

It's only later when we begin to see what's really going to be available in the game store that we will know the game's intended direction.
 
I guess I'll jump back into SWTOR when it goes free because I'm definitely one of those casuals who wouldn't mind finishing a quest line. My wife meanwhile runs her active pvp/raiding guild (though my wife and everyone she plays with seem to have a metric ton of alts in play as well0 and probably will be the target audience for this new pay model, I'm guessing.

Ah, I'm burning out on F2P models. Think I'll stick with Rift.
 
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