, ,

In case you haven’t been keeping up with the gaming sites today, the big SWTOR News is the announcement of a free-to-play game option starting this Fall. And all around the twittersphere and blogosphere 800,000 or so subscribers cried out: Noooooooooooooooooooooo! Or did they?

The official press release said:

Starting this fall, there will be two different ways to play Star Wars: The Old Republic:

  • Subscription – A service designed for players who want unrestricted access to all the game features via ongoing subscription or by redeeming a Game Time Card. In addition to gaining access to all game content as our current subscribers do now, Subscribers will receive ongoing monthly grants of Cartel Coins*, the new virtual currency that will be introduced later this fall. Cartel Coins can be used to purchase valuable items including customizable gear and convenience features that will enhance the game play experience.
  • Free-to-Play –The first 50 levels will be free-to-play, with some restrictions on access to new content and advanced player features. Some restrictions can be “unlocked” with Cartel Coins.

For additional context, and in light of the 300k plus subscriber decline last quarter, today’s developer blog on this topic notes:

Since launch, our team has spent a lot of time trying to find new ways to be able to bring the Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ experience to as many potential players as possible. We quickly became aware that our subscription only model was a major barrier for a lot people who wanted to become part of The Old Republic universe. In fact, many players who have left the game said they would happily come back if they could play without the commitment of a monthly fee.

We feel that flexibility and choice in playing our game is important for all current and future players. For that reason, we began the exploration of expanding the game to include a Free-to-Play option.

Free-to-Play Restrictions

  • Character Creation Choices
    Some character creation options, such as species, are limited to subscribers.
  • Warzones
    Free players are limited in terms of how many Warzones they can play per week.
  • Flashpoints
    Free players are limited in terms of how many Flashpoints they can play per week.
  • Space Missions
    Free players are limited in terms of how many Space Missions they can play per week.
  • Operations
    Only Subscribers may complete Operations.
  • Travel and Transportation
    Subscribers have access to all travel functionality, making getting around the world easier, while free-to-play players have limited access.
  • Game Login
    Subscribers will always be in login queues ahead of free players.
The free-to-play option also introduces a new currency, Cartel Coins, used with the microtransactions vendor, that will be used to purchase convenience items, boosts, visually unique gear, collectibles, and more. Like this Kowakian Monkey Lizard mini pet. And starting today, subscribers will be earning rewards as part of anew rewards program:
  • Current and lapsed subscribers will earn 200 Cartel Coins for every paid month prior to today (July 31, 2012) and until the Free-to-Play option launches.
  • For those who purchased the Collector’s Edition, we have an additional bonus reward of 1000 Cartel Coins for you.

Although the coverage has stated that there will still be a subscription option with full access to everything, that’s may not exactly the case if you read the Subscription versus Free-to-Play comparison chart:

Galactic Trade Network
Subscribers can post up to 50 auctions for sale.

>What remains to be seen is if that is a reference to the existing 50 auctions per character limit that is in place on live servers, or if it is a per-account or per server restriction. Once I know for sure, I will update this post.

Now, those of you who don’t enjoy the GTN mini game as I do might think to yourself, so what? 50 is plenty! But here’s the deal: I have very frequently hit that 50 item # on one of my characters on one of my servers. And I play both side on three servers, and have a ton of crafters who peddle their wares on the GTN. That means I have, on occasion, had up to 75 auctions going at any given time.

UPDATE: I’ve gotten confirmation that it is indeed the same 50 GTN auctions per character limit we have in place now, not a new restriction. Huzzah! Color me happy as a clam!

Unlike certain other games that caused subscribers to have to deal with the in game currency as a condition of their subscription, it seems like it will on the whole be more or less business as usual for subscribers. Which is exactly how I’d like to see it. Because managing tokens for game play is not how I want to spend my MMO play time.

Share Your Thoughts

How does this news affect your SWTOR playing? Leave a comment and take part in the poll:

A few other blogosphere reactions to the SWTOR F2P news

P.S. Comments are screened so if you just post a “Free-to-play=SWTOR has failed” comment it’s not going to show up here.

P.P.S. I also highly encourage you to leave a voicemail at 616-666-6778 with your POV on these changes– we just might include it on the next Tor Reporter podcast.