The Naked Gamer: SWTOR F2P Thoughts

SWTOR F2P Thoughts

The Naked Gamer is a regular opinion column that strips back the superficialities and looks at the flesh underneath. If you’ve got a topic you’d like discussed, drop columnist Kristy Green a line!

My relationship with Star Wars: The Old Republic has been more like a rollercoaster than well, a relationship. When I first heard about this new MMO my immediate thought was how awesome it was going to be to play out my childhood fantasy of being a Jedi. Obviously this isn’t the first Star Wars game but it was the first one that I was interested in playing. When I heard BioWare were behind it, well I had a bit of a geek squealing session.

I was frustrated when I heard it wasn’t being released in Australia at launch but through some clever workarounds I was able to get the game. So when launch did come around, I was able to play and to live my dreams as a Jedi Consular and even got to play as a Twi’lek. How much more cooler can you get?

Sadly, then my friends stopped playing and the awesomeness of being a lightsaber wielding blue woman wasn’t enough to keep me playing. The game had some great things and like many, I loved the story (even if I got lost a few times because I kept pressing the spacebar during cut scenes) but there just wasn’t enough to keep me paying a subscription for. I let my account lapse with the promise that if it went free to play, I would return if only to find out how the story ended.

When I heard the announcement that SWTOR was going to go free to play and how the story part of the game will be available to everyone, I was more excited than when the game was first released. Well, I was at first. Then they released more information about how the free to play will work and I went from yes to maybe to no, although floating around ‘maybe casually’ right now.

I admit that I am not a fan of free-to-play models with a subscription. I feel that it should be one or the other. There is always a chance of tension building between those that pay and those that don’t. Also, you have the added difficulty of finding the balance between rewarding the subscribers without punishing the free-to-players.

When I look at SWTOR’s new free-to-play plans, one thing sticks out to me – it seems to be all about getting you back to paying a full subscription. They seem to offer no reward for subscribing but instead lay all the punishment (or restriction) on the rest of the player base.

I admit I can’t see this working; the whole point of going free-to-play is getting people back playing your game and getting them to spend money because they want to, not because they have to.  People shouldn’t feel like their game play is affected because they aren’t paying a subscription.

I feel that F2P will only succeed if the unlocks are really cheap, so you can essentially unlock the whole game for the same amount as a typical box price and if they allow people to go from subscription to non-subscription back to subscription without feeling like they are being penalised.

For now though, my gaming plate is already pretty filled with four other MMOs and numerous other games I play with my friends. I would have made time for SWTOR but right now, I am not sure I will. This weekend will really tell if I start playing again.

So good luck to BioWare and May The Force Be With You.


  1. The problem with this game is that it attempts to deal with the ‘Elephant in the room’ (KOTOR3) and the reasons for going MMORPG very clumsily. It was possible to do both in the time that all the procrastination and dithering took place. KOTOR 3 was a chance to resolve the Malak/Revan storyline in a way that would set up SWTOR.

    The reasons for not making the game are confusing as the KOTOR series has a massive fan base from those within and outside of the Star Wars fan base.A third standalone game could shift between 3 -4 million units in a heartbeat so it is surely not a commercial issue. That said the online version is very good for what it is, however I can see a mass exodus of paying subscribers to other games if the bandwidth issues are not tightly managed and moderators are not actively dealing with interaction and community issues.

    This is a tricky situation to be in for the Bioware brand I hope they have a robust plan

    • Kristy Green says

      That’s interesting, I never played any of the KOTOR personally. I always thought of SWTOR being a much better stand-alone game than an MMO 😛
      I guess SWTOR went into production around the time when everyone thought MMOs were easy and continued free money but without actually understanding the MMO market or their own community/fan base.
      SWTOR was released when I was still running my Community team for an Indy MMO in development. I wrote a report up on how they were handling things and well, it wasn’t pretty I’m sad to say. I can’t see they having changed or learnt much since last year.

  2. There are a lot of parallels with LOTRO’s F2P launch here. Turbine was arguably worse because they forced existing players who’d paid for the original game (eriador region) to pay for those areas again. They let you play Moria and Mirkwood if you bought those before F2P but for some inexplicable reason not the base game.

    • I believe in right person for the right job and from what I’ve seen and read on various gaming forums what you describe is a classic case of failure to understand the customer base. At the point of success every gaming community must have robust structures in place to cope with the demands of a large community Many management models get so caught up in the current success of their MMO but fail to see the early warning signs of community decay.

      What you have highlighted here can be said of any number of current and historic games: crazy decisions that if thought through rationally would exposed for what they are : crazy decisions. I hope SWTOR has really thought this through otherwise…. well you know what happens

    • Kristy Green says

      I was late to LOTRO so I never tried it till it was already F2P. I didn’t last long. It felt like I was constantly being directed to the cash shop. I didn’t know what sort of restrictions were placed on me (I had nothing to compare it to) but it did feel so restricted and less like a game though more like those Facebook games that constantly want your friends to sign up or pay their price to keep playing.