I’ll be honest. I’ve never been a fan of the Free-to-Play model because it usually translates to Nickel-and-Dime-to-Play-via-Microtransactions model. I know myself. I’m a spender. I could definitely see myself paying more via microtransactions than a subscription. I also hate feeling penned in. The potential of data restrictions on my phone makes me bonkers, so I’ll be paying full price for phones as long as it means I can keep my unlimited data. Monitoring usage or spending is so not something I want to do with my fun time.
With Guild Wars 2 coming up, I had to start rethinking my stance on the issue. In GW2, there is no subscription model. It’s purely a purchase and play game, with the option of buying cosmetic items in the cash shop. I’m not sure yet how much I might be tempted by things in the cash shop of GW2. There’s plenty in the game to enjoy without paying for extras. I’ve been ready to accept this, especially since I think it will be a casual playground for me. I just want to run around in the game and explore all the beautiful world.
Then there was the rumor (now confirmed) that Star Wars: The Old Republic was going free to play (F2P). See, here’s where I had a problem. Usually when a previously subscription based game goes F2P, they completely convert over. You suddenly find yourself in a position of having to pay for things you didn’t have to think about before. This was the last thing I wanted for my current MMO of choice. It would be enough to drive me away.
But EA actually did something smart here. Instead of going pure F2P, like I had feared, they went for a hybrid. Customers can play to level 50 for free (with restrictions) but they can also choose to have a fully unlimited playing opportunity by subscribing (or remaining subscribed) to the game. There’s really a model for just about everyone (I’ll get to the exception shortly). I went from being very anti-F2P, to actually considering taking the F2P model in place of my subscription. All because they didn’t take my subscription away from me. Isn’t it crazy the way that works sometimes? I would have hated it if I didn’t have the option of keeping my subscription, but now I may happily give it up because the F2P model being offered covers most (if not all) of what I want to still enjoy in the game.
I can’t go into the all the details right now because my gaming news access is limited at work, but I will post some links later for those that want more information. However, here’s a brief rundown on the more pertinent details of the news:
Subscription: Remains $14.99 USD/month, and includes all current access, plus priority in login queues and bonus cash shop currency. As far as I can tell, subs lose nothing.
F2P: Unlimited class story content through level 50. Limited access during character creation, limited access to methods of travel, limited number of warzones, flashpoints and space missions each week. Extremely limited Galactic Trade Network access (to hinder F2P credit farmers I assume) and NO OPERATIONS.
Class story is, by far, the most important reason I play SWTOR, so I’m very happy to see that no matter which choice I make, I will be able to enjoy them fully. Character creation restrictions would bother me if I hadn’t already created most of my characters. This would only be an issue if for some reason they decided to retroactively restrict when an account goes F2P. I don’t see this happening, as I had actually been paying for a subscription during the time the characters were created. I’m not sure about limited travel options, but we’ll have to see on that one. As far as warzones, flashpoints and space missions go, I don’t see them as an issue for myself. Besides running new characters once or twice though The Esseles or Black Talon, I avoid all of the above. Limited access to the GTN may be an issue, just because I use it to unload my excess gear and mats. Again, not sure how severely restricted, but we’ll have to see.
By far the biggest limit on F2P accounts with the new model will be the zero access to Operations, which are SWTOR’s version of a raid and the primary endgame content. Now, this isn’t a big deal for me personally, because I’m not big on endgame anyway, but I know that there are many in the community that this will impact. They really only have two choices if Operations are the only thing they’re interested in: Subscribe or don’t play. Now, I don’t think there’s anything to say they couldn’t re-sub for new content, then drop back to a F2P model while waiting for new content. I think a lot of them will do this. However, I think most will just skip it and get their endgame content elsewhere. Again, it doesn’t affect me directly, but I do love to see others happy and excited to play the games I love.
Will I go F2P with SWTOR? I don’t know, yet, but the chances improved greatly today when I was able to find out more about it. I’m looking forward to playing both GW2 and SWTOR over the next few months. There’s also a chance we will pick up the Mists of Pandaria expansion, so being able to drop my 2nd sub (locked into Blizzard’s Annual Pass right now) would definitely be nice. Maybe play with the pandas for a couple of months, then drop that sub too and just play my free games.
Nice to feel like I have options.