Well folks, looks like it finally happened… SWTOR is going Free To Play (F2P)! (this fall)
I can’t say that I’m exactly excited about this move. Albeit inevitable, I have a lot of worries about what happens to games when they go from subscription to free. Mainly, the balancing act. In a subs type game, balance is a HUGE issue, they spend countless hours and are always updating the game to make sure each class has a chance to shine, especially when it comes to PvP. However, in the F2P model, this tends to be overshadowed by “buy the fancy golden sword of justice and smite all your foes… for 3 easy payments of $19.95″. You see scams like this where they substitute a subscription for cashshop epics, many of which give an unfair advantage over other users. The other thing they like to do is little items that you need for various things, worst of which are things that cause grave annoyances, like the death penalty items. I’ve seen the whole gamut of these and most of them either repair your gear (for cash) or reduce time spent dead (for cash) or remove stat reductions from death (for, oh well you get the idea).
The other problem is the decline in quality. With subscriptions, you get the benefits of constant content updates. (Though this highly depends on the company, cause some F2P games really set the bar high with their perks… but not all of them do it) Also, constant in-game annoyances like “come get the sale for a pet yoda!” bleh! And of course… there’s those dang dirty personal shops! Perfect World and various PW based games, let you set up a shop and just leave it there… think I played all of 5min of Perfect World before getting sick of seeing all of them littering the place.
But I guess there’s a lot of issues with the subscription model as well… Pretty much the model as a whole is dead. People really don’t want to pay for a game, like $60 kinda pay, and be told you need to keep paying $15/month thereafter. After 4 months, you should have basically new content equal to a NEW game. Usually you get a patch in that time and it’s usually just a few neat things, but not a full game’s worth of content.
I wonder though, how much longer can the market really support such a payment structure. But what will replace it? Pay once and forget it like Guild Wars 2? Free To Play/Cashshop? Or like Diablo 3 with pay auction houses? I’m not sure, but the path we’re seeing now does not bode well for the mmo genre.
What says y’alls?