Tobold's Blog
Friday, April 13, 2012
Bioware sees risk that people quit SWTOR at the level cap

Well, they didn't say that * explicitly*. But how do you explain this promotion, where players with a level capped character receive a free month of subscription, while those who played for exactly the same time and paid exactly the same money are declared being less valued customers because they didn't reach the level cap? Handing out free subscriptions always smack a bit of desperation, but this targeting of players with level capped characters must mean that Bioware sees a high risk of these players abandoning ship otherwise. And while I only have anecdotal evidence, I think that this must be based on lots of people actually leaving after having "played through" SWTOR.

This wouldn't be unexpected at all. The unique selling point of SWTOR is how it tells the story of your character while leveling up. That part of the game simply ceases to exist at the level cap, which makes the "endgame" of SWTOR even less attractive compared to the leveling game than in other MMORPGs. The whole Legacy system is basically Bioware saying "Don't go yet! Play an alt instead!". And even that solution has its limits. You can play SWTOR through only twice before starting to repeat quests, once on each side. With the planet sequence for each side being mostly linear, and most planet quests not being class-related, if you play either Empire or Republic twice, you are bound to do a lot of quests you already know.

If you sell a game on the strength of it's stories, you mustn't be surprised if people quit once the stories run out. But a promotion in which people who unsubscribe get 7 days subscription free, people who didn't unsubscribe but are at risk of doing so because they reached the level cap get 30 days subscription free, and everybody else gets absolutely nothing is rather stupid. Bioware is basically punishing their *really* loyal subscribers, those who played lots of alts instead of rushing through the game. Bad move, Bioware!

I think in just about every MMO ever made (at least recently), there was a mass exodus of launch players after they hit max level.

The difference here, for me, is that SWTOR is making a concerted effort to target those players in particular with this deal. I am ending up feeling that Bioware is a bit wildly generous, especially since they threw me a free copy of ME2 when I bought DA2 last year also. You have to wonder with this offer whether anyone who would otherwise have decided to leave will end up paying more because of the extra month.
How are those of us who level a lot of alts punished? The game's been out long enough for all but the most infrequent player to have at least one level 50 so we get a free 30 days.

I suspect this is to mollify the level cap PvPers who are, quite understandably, pissed off that their major new feature was canned from the 1.2 release.
it's the end of the quarter and they will need to do something to report big sub numbers again, so by automatically adding a month to the most-likely to go away players, they are padding up their sub numbers.
(not that i - and half the internet - didn't call it way back when)
Back when print magazine and newspapers existed, there were all sorts of subscriber promotions.

In a world where only WoW,SW & EVE charge subscriptions, giving someone a $12-15 discount does not seem outlandish. This does not feel nearly as dramatic as the recent WoW scroll changes - free mount, someone could get 7 free days, TBC & LK for free ($40+ value) , and a character boosted 79 levels. Even Blizzard's promotion of a free D3 and Beta access without incremental revenue seems like a bigger perk than this.

Blizzard still has MoP launch promotion(s) and I would expect several more promotions from BioWare this year.

Although I do think that MMOs in general and TOR in particular have issues. If you don't like TOR there are certainly many valid reasons to not subscribe. A 1.0 MMO in a world where people expect WoW functionality and the sparse endgame come to mind first. If you do like TOR, then BW has already announced that the character story will continue this year and there are eight class stories to play through. You theoretically could just do the unique class quests and get the rest of your alt's XP from space or PvP; both of which I think tend to get more use on alts than mains. People who have played ME a dozen times might claim that Light versus Dark side means there are 16 unique class stories but that is pushing it a bit.

Like ULV said, the recent disappointment was the rated PvP war zones being dropped at the last minute. And you had to have a 50 for that to be a disappointment to you. The "why should I pay for Tor after you promised me a rated war zones" should be defused a bit.
The game's been out long enough for all but the most infrequent player to have at least one level 50 so we get a free 30 days.

I've read at least 3 bloggers today who didn't have a level 50. I don't have a level 50. My wife doesn't have a level 50. And regardless how big exactly the percentage of those is who don't have a level 50, there is still no explanation why exactly they wouldn't deserve the same "loyalty reward" as those with a level 50 character. If anything, loyalty should be measured by time subscribed, not by level.
Maybe sticking around once you have a max level character really does require more loyalty?
I don't think there is any way to win with these kind of incentives. People want to be rewarded but are frustrated if someone else gets more than them - whatever the reason.

You could give everyone the same reward but that doesn't usually work to stimulate new behaviours. People want to feel special.

For instance, the complaining non-50s have already forgotten about the free pet and other new content in 1.2.

Even if there was a way to provide truly progressive rewards (e.g: 1000 credits for each day of subscription to date or 500 credits for each hour /played), there would still be phenomenal QQ.
This all just sounds like an attempt to massage the subscription numbers for the next EA quarterly earnings call.
It's terrible. I've been a subscriber since early access but I dont yet have a 50.
I really get the impression that Bioware never fully understood the MMO market before jumping in. All their decisions seem to be short-sighted.

Should they change the end-game mechanic now or will they get caught in the trap of adding more story content to keep the herd happy?
I really get the impression that Bioware never fully understood the MMO market before jumping in. All their decisions seem to be short-sighted.

Should they change the end-game mechanic now or will they get caught in the trap of adding more story content to keep the herd happy?
"there is still no explanation why exactly they wouldn't deserve the same "loyalty reward" as those with a level 50 character. "

er... because you are not loyal Tobold.

The game has been out 5 months. If someone does not have a max toon... they must have other hobbies that are occupying their time.

By definition if you have other interests (the ones delaying max play like say a blog or D&D fixation) YOU are not loyal.

You as promiscuous game player are more likely to leave SWTOR jilted instead of say a "steady eddie" monogamous gamer. Obviously SWTOR performing a "loves me loves me not" analysis decided to "reward kiss" the one who spends the most time with her.

To take this a bit further... don't be surprised when taking anything for granted that you find yourself on the outside looking in.

Happens in Gaming, Guilds and Life...
I think the real question is, when is EA's next earnings call? Let me guess, within 30 days or so? What a magnificent way to make it appear as though they have many more ACTIVE subscriptions.
er... because you are not loyal Tobold.

Psynister played nearly 700 hours of SWTOR without getting a single character to 70. Is he not a loyal customer? And I'm sure there are people who only started a month ago and just power-leveled to 50 who will get this "loyalty reward".
I leveled two characters and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have no interest in end-game activities and leveling another character would mostly repeat content I've already experienced.

I canceled my subscription last month and put this in as the reason. Even at the low price of "free" I don't want to play the game anymore. I think there will be a lot of people like this and their promotion won't turn out as good as they hope.
"In a world where only WoW,SW & EVE charge subscriptions, giving someone a $12-15 discount does not seem outlandish."

I play Lotro lot of time, a "free to play" game but I subscribe every month because the alternative way to play "free" is not appealing too much...having a lot less inventory, need to do grey quests for turbine points or have a cap of how many gold can have and how many times you can post auctions, and so much more..

Free to play games are not free at all! It is just an advanced trial and nothing more. I really prefer the subscription from "pay to win" games. I am not defending swtor nor wow, I love Lotro and I would prefer it to be subscription base.

As for swtor, I also don't have a level 50 there..I have about 8 characters in level range 20-40 but no one at 50..although I don't care for the promotion, if I would like to continue to play it, 12 euro is like I am going for a beer and eat a sandwich one day of a whole month..
They had to pick some criteria and I'm pretty sure, as I said before, that it's aimed squarely at the max level PvP players who EA acknowledge they've let down a bit by failing to give them ranked warzones in this patch.

Any other way of deciding who gets the free time would just be largesse which this isn't.
Time subscribed would make more sense, but regardless it seems like a desperation move to keep their numbers looking good.

If anything, the people still playing who haven't managed to reach 50 yet are *more* profitable for Bioware since they're paying the same but using the service less. Of course the game has already hit peak population and is now in decline, so the hardware is a sunk cost, but there are still labor and support staffing levels that are impacted to some extent by how many player hours are spent in the game.
@Snafzg - the timing of the earnings call is irrelevant. Earnings calls are optional and discuss the previous quarter's financial results. I think EA's fiscal year ends in March, so any additional April subscribers will show up in their fiscal 2013 Q1 results.

@firefox - IEnd of March sales would boost 2012 results. Early April sales boost revenue for the fiscal year ending 11.5 months from now.

@shawno - BW has already said they will continue your character's story as well as new story in FPs.

TOR has endgame problems and is in decline. But that seems to me like a very minor component to the Internet whining because that is what it does.

I have long maintained that life is too short to work in a business that sells to lawyers or governments. Selling to internet gamers seems like a thankless task.
I'm amused how the Bioware promotion has created a division in the community. It reminds me of the lifers and the subs when LotRO went f2p.

You either have it and are self righteous, or you don't and are indignant.

I've paid the exact same money to TOR as any fact more money than many. So the camp I am in is obvious.

I have to assume EA made this move to pad their active sub numbers for some qtr. Why they would make an otherwise happy customer feel stupid for playing the game the way we were suggested to play it seems otherwise absurd.
After being away for a couple of months, I went to play after patching up yesterday and found my authenticator fubared (I did a factory reset on my phone, and the new install of the Auth wanted the 20 and 7 digit codes - which went away with the old version of the phone's OS)

Then I saw the "promotion".
My highest level character is 45.
I have EIGHT other characters I've been playing in total. Only one is less than level 20.

So I called and complained about how I felt like less of a valued customer because I'd spread my time around a bunch of characters to experience a variety of gameplay, rather than focus exclusively on one experience.

Their solution was to offer me 30 days if I hit 50 by the 24th of April.

They successfully removed my authenticator, and I unsubbed anyway.
I thought about pushing to 50, but why? I can't be arsed to finish Voss, and there's nothing at endgame waiting for me, anyway.
In all honesty I am not nearly as upset about the free time that has been given to those people who have leveled to 50 as the claim that they are the most loyal players. I created my forum account in 2008, pre-ordered and submitted my subscription info before launch, reported bugs in Beta, never let my subscription lapse, and have 30 characters between 20 and 40 spread across five or six different servers, yet I am not considered one of the games loyal players.

It seems BioWare uses a different dictionary than most of the world.
WoW had a similar promotion in that the people rewarded were the ones who left the game, not the ones who stuck around.

I liked the WoW promotion. I like the SW:TOR promotion. "Maybe sticking around once you have a max level character really does require more loyalty?" I don't think so. Strictly speaking, it's not a "fair" promotion. But promotions rarely cater to the faithful in any market.

If anything, they messed up in the promotion's story. In trying to connect with one subset of the player base, they isolated another. But the down side (some people unsub just because it's "unfair") is totally outweighed by the up side (folks stay longer because of some new hook, or content, Bioware releases).

I'm a fan.
In before all the special snowflakes at legacy level 5 start complaining.

tl;dr: You can get there with multiple characters (don't need a 50) and have until the 22nd.
Well they don't want me as a customer, so that helped me make up my mind whether to continue my subscription.

This promotion now expanded to cover all players that have at least legacy 6.

as an alt-o-holic that have 16 alts and no lv50 yet, i already reached lv11 legacgy.. so i think lv6 legacy is attainable by anyone who played multiple alts.

that said, i have a suspicion that this marketting gimmick showed some desperation on bioware part when they see their player/subscriber statistic and in horror they see ppl unsubbing because of the latest PVP mess that they make.

latest PVP changes :

- PVP is now not a good way for lv10-49 to use as alternative leveling method since if you lost a matcch you will get ZERO rewards in XP and Credits.

- The only way a losing team players can get reward is to score at least 3 medals. if its less than 3 you wont get anything.. ZERO

This ruined the solo PuG pvp that so many casual ppl love. Yet the game consistently pit solo puggers against pre-mades and with certain result : PuG newbies = lost every time..

one new annoyance came out from this new 'no reward for loser' system. when ppl see that their team's winning chance ruined in the first 2 minutes of a game, they will just quit the WarZone and left the rest of their team outnumbered.

Then the match-maker put in new people in the losing team, and those new people can barely do anything and got no rewards either (no matter if you good you still wont survive being outnumbered).. so with no chance of getting a medal the new ppl will be annoyed as heck..


I Think whoever designing such harsh PUNISHMENT in PVP lv10-49 should be reprimanded as they dont remember there are lot of experienced PVPer that done hours and hours of PVP VS new casual players that do PVP only 1 or 2 hours each day.

Ranked Warzones is a must for lv50 PVP, but also need bracketing for low level PVP-er.. Bolster system dont work if you dont have a skill..

Bracketing in SWTOR should be at 10-20,21-49 and 50.. pitting lv10 that got no skills against lv40 that got all his tree's major talent tree is a certain way to doomed the newbies into this 'no reward zone'

Pitting level 40s against level 10s isn't a big deal. It might be a big deal if it was a side full of 40s against a side full of 10s, but that's going to be the exception, not the rule.

In my opinion, warzone PVP was more fun when they included 10-49 in with the 50s.

I remember the night of the patch removing that... All the hardcore 50 pvpers were laughing, "Finally! We'll get awesome PVP matches against our peers without having to worry about the noob level 10s!"

What they got instead was wall-to-wall same-faction Hutt-Ball during peak-hour and desolate, empty, 2hr-long queues outside of peak-hour.

The PVPers were not impressed, and they complained loudly as they sat around performing the ridiculous Ilum easter-egg-hunt/colossal failure that they pretend constitutes 'world PVP'.

The epic battle for Ilum, the forces of the Republic vs the Empire in an all-out confrontation... Sitting on an isolated icy out-crop, waiting for a crate of supplies to respawn.
...War is hell.
I believe they gave away the 30 day for one reason, simply to "artifically boost subscription numbers" because at the end of March EA had to file earning report with the SEC and they didn't want the stockholders to see how massive a failure the game was turning out to be and how soon it did.
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