Every time I’ve brought up the subject of Star Wars: The Old Republic going free-to-play in past columns, there have been a number of readers who respond along the lines of being unable to see what BioWare could even monetize with the game using the model.
So, what would Star Wars: The Old Republic look like as a free-to-play game?
Oddly enough, I feel the game (as is) fits perfectly with the model, and the existing Legacy system does a good job of demonstrating this. You see, BioWare sort of compartmentalized SWTOR’s gameplay in an obvious way, so much so that the notion of unlocking perks for specific leveling or activity tracks actually makes sense. Maybe you’re the weird guy that just loves to do space combat day in and day out. Maybe you mix that in with some Flashpoints and never really even touch your class story. SWTOR lets you do that and even offers unlockable bonuses in the aforementioned Legacy Perks system to support that. The leveling curve of the game is so forgiving it’s actually pretty hard to avoid outleveling content if you try to maintain a varied play experience from 1-50.
If you’re not seeing where I’m going with this, let me explain. BioWare could offer a base level of quest content (including class story), enough to ensure players aren’t gated on the way to 50, and pretty much treat the rest of the game a ’la carte. If you never plan on doing a Flashpoint, Warzone, Operation, or even Space Combat, well, don’t buy them! Some might scoff at this notion as nickel and diming a player, but honestly, options are great. I never do space combat, for example. If I could save on my monthly expenditures on the game by just not paying to unlock space combat, why not? BioWare’s got enough of this completely separated sort of content that they could easily offer players an experience tailored to their preferences just as the Legacy system does now.
There are other obvious areas that would be perfect for the free-to-play model. These are the usual suspects such as permanently unlocking certain classes for play, to species (including new species!), or maybe even bypassing the Legacy system entirely and being able to unlock perks and other Legacy features via microtransactions.
Heck, even the social gear feature could give way to a variety of purchasable social clothing outfits for the more fashion conscious players out there. Companion kits and perhaps even companion specific social gear would fit right in, too. I’d be iffy on color crystals, however. Color crystals sort of fall into an interesting grey area of representing player achievement while also being something that could be considered a simple customization option (ignoring stats, of course).
If I sound too giddy about all these ways BioWare could make money off of us, I’m not. I honestly prefer to just pay my subscription and have the whole game available to me, as I’m sure many of you do. At the same time, I do like options and I feel the hybrid F2P model would serve Star Wars: The Old Republic well while also providing dedicated players with added flexibility and options through the cash shop. It’s also obvious to me the ways BioWare could retrofit the game to support this model with existing content and features alone and I wanted to take the time this week to demonstrate that for those who aren’t so convinced.