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Can SWTOR Succeed as Free to Play against Mists of Pandaria?


Recently it was revealed that EA / Bioware’s MMO, Star Wars the Old Republic was going to be moving to the Free to Play market to attract more players in the fall.  The other side of the coin is that Blizzard is releasing its expansion to World of Warcraft in the fall, September 25 to be exact.  Is Star Wars making this change at the wrong time?

Now obviously there are several changes that Bioware needs to make to SWTOR in order to make it free to play they are implementing several features to also entice those who are taking advantage of the F2P model to also buy up digital currency to unlock more content or even switch over to a subscription.  However are they missing the boat or trying to pull a user base that may be heading back to Mists of Pandaria in the fall?

Recently Blizzard revealed the World of Warcraft subscriber base has dipped to 9.1 million players down by almost as many players currently playing SWTOR.  It was also noted the players who left are mostly in Eastern countries like China, Korea and Taiwan.  So many of those lost million subs I don’t think will be flocking back to MoP upon initial release, especially if a majority of them are sitting in China, as MoP won’t be released immediately there.

So it begs the question what is EA hoping to gain by switching their pay model on SWTOR during not only Mists of Pandaria launch but also around the same time that Guild Wars 2 is released.  Honestly this very moment, right now, the first week in August before the release of those two games is the right time to make the switch, hook new players with the F2P and content, hoping to lure them into paying for the cartel coins and additional subs after that.  Even if they did that, they need to focus on the bugs that have plagued much of their end game content and address those concerns to keep players longer term and earn the coveted micro transaction money from the F2P players but also sell those players that subscription for longer game time is worth their hard earned money.

Releasing the modification of F2P can’t happen soon enough, not for me however I will go back and play the story only once I have time away from my other games I am planning on playing, which very much include lots of time in Mists of Pandaria.  With the way Blizzard sounds like they are spreading out content with phased roll out of end game and gating them to some extent, I believe will provide longer life for end game and buy them more time to create additional content, thus keeping players hooked longer, but that’s another discussion entirely.

Here is the thing, SWTOR grabbed the attention of millions!  They lost steam, they released uninspired and buggy content, and instead of fixing problems, they just threw more content out, which is the exact opposite thing that Blizzard does.  Blizzard seems to focus on bugs first then content, which some may complain about but you can’t deny their success in the MMO space.  So I think the F2P model is the right choice by EA/Bioware, but I also think it may be a bit late at this point to draw back the average MMO gamer during a busy fall gaming season or even the new MMO gamer.

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