Star Wars: The Old Republic: Why Going Free-To Play Broke The Game

I wrote a few months back about how Star Wars: The Old Republic was going to adopt a free-to-play model,...

Chris Swanson

Contributor

I wrote a few months back about how Star Wars: The Old Republic was going to adopt a free-to-play model, and now that the time has come, I’m back in the game. Since it went F2P, I’ve spent some time in the game, and can now offer some impressions.

First, all the problems I wrote about before still exist. Now, I understand that not everyone considers something like “it takes 5+ hours to level from 1 to 10″ to be a problem, but it is when you’re looking at the casual gamer market that SWTOR, as well as other MMORPGS, have as their bread and butter. Sure, there’s hardcore gamers out there, but they can’t support something like this on their own.

Second, while the game is now technically free to play, it might be better described as “free to play if you don’t actually want to play the game.” Here’s a list of the limitations that you experience by using the free to play option.

  • No rested EXP
  • Limited chat access
  • Limited mail access
  • No titles
  • No legacy title
  • You cannot access your guild bank
  • You can only play a human character
  • You can have only two characters per account (not per server. Per account)
  • There’s a weekly cap on how many space missions, warzones and flashpoints you can do
  • Crew skills are broken and useless
  • Very limited quickbars
  • Etc, etc, etc

So, basically you can play the game as long as you want to forgo the ability to craft items, want to play only a human, want only two characters, to play limited missions in space or on the ground, don’t want to do a lot of PvP and have no plans to have a title, a guild bank, your own bank or really much else.

Compare this with something like DC Universe Online: that game has certain limitations in its free-to-play model, but they don’t break the game beyond all playability (the control scheme did that). They let everyone have the same basic fun, core experience of playing the game and then allow the higher-level casual players and hardcore players to pay for features that make the game better.

SWTOR does offer a solution whereby you can get access to most of the things they’ve locked out and still technically play for free: they’ve opened up a “cartel market” where one can use in-game currency (which can, of course, be bought with real currency), to unlock some of the features that are otherwise limited. This seems to me to be extremely pointless, since you might as well just pay for the game if you’re going to be spending money, especially as I have yet to see any option that allows for the rested experience points.

Basically, EA and Bioware really screwed this up: they poured tons of money into a product that was expected to perform far better than it actually did. At this point, I’m not sure what can be done to fix the problems the game has – in fact I don’t know if anything can – but one thing I will say for sure, however, is that this plan certainly isn’t it.