I’ve been out of the SWTOR loop for a little while now, but I’ve been interested to know how the Free to Play option that is coming in will be implemented. We have a decent amount of info about it now, and the question has to be asked, “will this be the first free to play game to fail?” This is, without a doubt, the most restrictive free to play model that there is.
The leveling game is totally free. That is awesome. However, every single aspect of endgame is restricted. You have the ability to play three Flashpoints and three Warzones per week only. You have no access to raids at all. You can buy a “weekly pass” to gain access to these things, but here is the real kicker.. there are restrictions on the gear you can equip. That’s right, if you buy a weekly pass to run a raid and get some shiny purple gear out of it, you can’t actually equip it unless you pay for a license to do so. Already got a max level character in purple gear and want to go the free to play route? You are either going to be playing naked or forking over extra cash to play it. You’re shit out of luck dude!
The best part about SWTOR, is without a doubt the story mode that you experience with leveling. Even it’s worst critics praise this aspect of the game. The fact that this is free and unrestricted (with the exception of character creation restrictions) should do a lot to get new players into the game. Like it did for all of us who purchased the game at launch, the strength of the story will get a lot of people to subscribe for endgame. The problem that arises however is that the reason people unsubscribe from the game has not been addressed (endgame sucks), so people will still be dropping thier subs, and the super restrictive free to play model doesn’t encourage players to stick around at endgame. What we have here is a free to play model that encourages high player churn rate. Suck em in, spit em out, rinse and repeat.
Once you level a character or two to max level you will no longer want to do it anymore and you will be forced into endgame (leveling alts in this game is more tedious than any previous MMO). Once at endgame, why would you continue to play when you are being treated as second class citizen, especially when there are far better FREE alternatives on the market *cough* Guild Wars 2 *cough*.
If SWTOR had gone a free to play route like LOTRO I’d be all over that. I’d be dropping hundreds of dollars in their cash shop, just like I did (and still do) in LOTRO. I was looking forward to doing the same in SWTOR, but with such a restrictive model it will not only lose me as a subscriber (that runs out in Feb 2013), but also as a free to play customer. Rather than get hundreds of dollars from me, Bioware/EA will be getting none. This just leaves me shaking my head in disbelief. I guess it’s back to the Guild Wars 2 cash shop for me…