There's a lot of us that saw this coming from day one, but I don't think any of us thought we'd see it so soon; though maybe it was inevitable. There's no way Old Republic could have lived up to its prelaunch hype, let alone the pwnsome CG movies crafted for it. The final product was polished in some ways but epically mundane in the ones that matter, contributing to early stage subscription hemmoraging. Old Republic free to play has been specualated and rumored for some time now because of these issues, but apparently there's now substance to the speculation... Offical substance.
"So we are looking at free-to-play but I can’t tell you in much detail. We have to be flexible and adapt to what is going on." -Bioware, IGN
Now this could mean anything from your first 20 levels free to a full-up cash shop model [Edit- I'm told this may be 1-15 free], but it only confirms the writing that's been on the wall for some time now. There's also something else that's worth noting beyond the ITYS aspect of this story and that's the viability of the subscription based model. Some people will see this as the inevitable failure of subscriptions in the face of the purportedly superior F2P gaming, though frankly that's a crock.
F2P is still the haven for the weak and the lame. Developers would still rather have your money up front rather than wait for you to maybe-possibly-if-you-feel-like-it-today give it to them in a cash shop. Evidence of this fact is that Bioware tried the former before considering the latter, but if Old Republic's conversion doesn't represent the innate superiority of free to play, what does it represent?
If there is one thing that the MMO gaming industry at large should take away as a lesson from Bioware's fall from grace it's that gamers are smart. They're discriminating. And most of all, they won't spend their hard earned money on half complete bullshit no matter how big your name is. Certainly Old Republic had its moments, but you can tell where they spent the money and where they just said 'Fuck it, good enough." The failure of Old Republic- yes, failure -should be a standing notice to anybody looking to develop an MMO.
Don't waste our time.
If you're not going to do a good job, don't bother. If you're going to launch with large chunks of your game incomplete, don't bother. If you're going for just good enough, don't bother. It's 2012, folks. We can get all of that in free to play games that actually look halfway decent. Developers, if you're going to ask for our money up front you have to be better than these people. You have to have a quality product that stands out. 'Good enough' isn't anymore. The lesson learned from Old Republic is that gamers are tightening their standards and that offering up a halfassed product is no longer acceptable if you're going to ask for a reoccuring monthly payment.
In other words, don't screw up and you'll do just fine.