Bioware: Not Taking the Mickey

Disney bought Star Wars. Lucas gave virtually all of the profit to charity.

Sorry, I just had to

Now with that out of the way let’s get to the topic at hand.

Bioware recently gave details about the free to play model for Star Wars: The Old Republic and the internet was up in arms. The ones who still care anyways. With this model those who choose not to pay a monthly subscription will have limited access to Warzones and Flashpoints. Operations will require a purchase to be accessible. Mounts will be available to them later in the game. They’ll have less slots for crew skills and limited inventory space. They will have only 5 field revives and will need to purchase more after that. Most purple items will be off limits. Moreover they will level at a slower pace and will not benefit from rested xp. Free players will also be limited to three races and a finite amount of character slots.

A lot of naysayers are saying that Bioware are shooting themselves in the foot with this model. Syp and Dodge got their panties in a bunch on Episode 42 of Too Long, Didn’t Listen and they just could not understand the logic behind these restrictions. So, am I alone who gets (and agrees with) Bioware’s logic here?

One thing is clear: SWTOR F2P it not meant for everyone. They are not expecting all their current users to switch to this F2P model. They want those who are paying a subscription today to keep paying their subscription and to have a good incentive for doing so. The F2P model is for those casuals who do not play the game frequently enough to warrant paying a monthly sub. This model is for those customers who may pay a month here and there because their life schedule affords it or because they want a break from their MMO of choice and want something different for a while. It’s not meant for those people who want to make that galaxy far far away their home away from home. F2P is for individuals who are not really interested in playing SWTOR as an MMO – it seems there are quite a lot of them.

In criticizing Bioware many people are simply missing the biggest piece of information from this news: The story content is free! All the quests and locations are available to anyone who finds the time to download the client and set up an account. The story content, with its fully voiced characters and frequent moral dilemmas, is arguably the best part of SWTOR.  Its a great model for someone like me who plays a lot of MMOs and cannot really stick to one. Its good news to people who might be interested in trying the game for one month without having to pay for a boxed copy. Its also great news to long time subscribers who have taken a break but would appreciate having access to their characters, vault, auction house, friends and guild mates.

Story content for free? Sold!

I find it hard to understand why Dodge (of Casual Stroll to Mordor fame) was so critical of this system seeing as Turbine’s F2P model for LotRO has comparable restrictions and makes it very difficult for anyone to reach max level without paying for content. I feel Bioware got this right. If you are a hardcore player who wants to experience the gear grind and MMO aspects (with frequent dungeon runs, regular PvP and raiding) then do the sensible thing and subscribe. If, on the other hand,  you are a casual player who doesn’t care much about the gear but fancy exploring this Star Wars universe, see the sights, taste the adventure and is more interested in the single player part of SWTOR then there will be an option for you. Those identifying themselves with the latter are the kind of people who would rather buy cosmetic items (which I am sure will feature heavily in the Cartel Coins shop) than the ability to participate in raids or wear items of epic quality. These are the players who are not in a hurry to get to endgame – they are just enjoying the ride. The fact that Bioware has agreed to let them ride for free is extremely welcome news to me.

3 thoughts on “Bioware: Not Taking the Mickey

  1. “F2P is for individuals who are not really interested in playing SWTOR as an MMO”

    you have a valid point here, only i would add that much like the game itself, f2p is for people who are not mmo veterans or those of us who wander from game to game. and i think that is what syp and dodge and others are complaining about.
    one would think that they would like to encourage more people to sub, but i see nothing about their model that does so, escpecially compared to other mmos.
    take lotro and rift for example.
    i’ve never subscribed to lotro, but i did buy the original game and the MoM expansion and i feel i get more from turbine than what bioware is offering me as someone who bought the game and has paid a sub. there’s more than enough pve content, i can sample pvp, buy a house and i can earn (or buy) things like riding skill that are more readily available to subscribers.
    i bought rift for < $5 on steam and before i ever paid another dime i get a mailbox full of goodies.
    i feel that both of these games give me incentives to sub or otherwise spend money.
    the vibe i get from bioware/ea is more like someone offering me a cookie then yanking it out of my hand after i take a bite.
    of course, the bioware/ea f2p model has changed once already and its not even live yet.

    • Now take this with a pinch of salt since I never really played SWTOR as a hardcore player – I only played the story up to level 24 if I recall and never really interacted with anyone – but from what I read about the game it does not really offer much to those who like lots of hardcore endgame content in their MMO.
      What I can say for sure is that I will be returning to the game once its F2P and I will probably spend some money on it – something I would have been less likely to do if it never offered this option. For all we know this F2P structure could be just a small part of the plan meant to siphon extra money into the game which is then invested in more hardcore content, which will in turn entice more people to sub.
      I totally disagreed with the stance taken by Dodge and Syp (two huge LotRO fans) because they criticized the game for nickel and diming even the simplest of features – such as the UI. While I love LotRO I would be the first one to admit that Turbine do this all the time. Its a necessary evil. If they give too much away then there will be no income. Turbine decided it will sell you mostly content and fluff. On the other hand Bioware will sell you mostly functionality and fluff.
      True – the games you mentioned give you lots of value (they are both amazing games too). F2P SWTOR is giving up all the story content and I am sure many can see the value in that.

  2. I think there’s some psychology at work here, and Bioware is missing the boat. Other F2P games offer you “the game” in full, and then a mess of “bonus conent” to enhance the experience. Bioware is selling their F2P model as a limited experience and you get to unlock features perceived as normal to bring the F2P experience up to a “normal” standard. This goes back to the old Blizzard beta experience in WoW with rest-state XP: people hated it when they were at “normal” rest and then became fatigued. Blizzard tweaked it so that normal rest was “well rested” bonus XP and normal was now what used to be fatigued and everyone was cool with it.

    Anyway, last I checked I couldn’t buy an option for more character slots in SWTOR….so that means that even as a casual returner, I’m limited in the number of PCs I can mess around with, unless I sub (which I won’t) even though I’d happily pay them cash to unlock character slots. Hopefully this has or will change. I’m someone who like F2P models that give a sense of ownership (no matter how illusory) over “just renting.” It’s why I liked DDO and spent enough on turbine coins to unlock all the mission content and class/race options in that game.

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