BioWare has announced a free to play option for Star Wars: The Old Republic coming some time this fall. A subscription option will remain available, while the F2P option will allow players to take any class all the way to the current cap of level 50 "with some restrictions."
The full press release states: "BioWare announced today that it will be expanding the story-driven, massively multiplayer online game Star Wars: The Old Republic by adding a new Free-to-Play option this fall. This option will give players access to each of the eight iconic Star Wars character class storylines, all the way up to level 50, with certain restrictions*. Unlimited game access, including new higher-level game content and new features, will be made available through individual purchases or through a subscription option."
“Players want flexibility and choice. The subscription-only model presented a major barrier for a lot of people who wanted to become part of The Old Republic™ universe,” said Matthew Bromberg, GM of BioWare Austin.
Jeff Hickman, Executive Producer of Star Wars: The Old Republic added, “Since launch, we've been listening to feedback from our fans and adding new content and refining The Old Republic at a breakneck pace. We believe we are in a position to help improve the service even more, not only by continuing to add new content, but also by expanding the game to many more Star Wars fans, increasing the populations on worlds and the vibrancy of the community.”
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 in-game 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 restrictions on access to new content and advanced player features. Some restrictions can be “unlocked” with Cartel Coins.
As the first step towards adding the new Free-to-Play option this fall, Star Wars: The Old Republic will go on sale in August for $14.99 USD, including one-month of free subscription."
A new currency called Cartel Coins are being added that will be purchasable with real money. Players will earn an allowance of these coins for every month they have subscribed to the game prior to the f2p launch. We are unaware whether this allowance will continue for subscribers after the change-over.
The three examples of what you can spend these coins on, so far, are all cosmetic: a Kowakian Monkey Lizard pet, a Sith throne emote, and the mask of Darth Nihilus from Knights of the Old Republic II.
We know that SWTOR has lost almost 25 percent of its subscribers since January, but remains among the top MMOs in terms of subscription numbers. Does this spell the end of the subscription-only model?