EA announced that the continually failing MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic will being going free to play in August. While I did find the game to be fun when I first started playing, I found that the end game was almost completely broken and the game becomes an insatiable loot grind which removes most of the fun aspects out of it and it literally becomes a bad WoW clone with light sabers. Since the game’s release, it has been hemorrhaging subscriptions as quickly as EA has been laying off departments. I think the F2P system will be the last shovel of dirt on top of an already full grave needed to push this title to the back end of the internet.
See in my gaming lifespan (nearly 25 years) I have seen games come and go, the rise and fall and buyouts of companies and many things change. One thing that has remained the same for me is that if a game has requirements only the dedicated participate in, then it’s only those who reap the rewards. Using World of Warcraft as an example, players were originally required to dedicate many hours to completing giant quest chains with the help of entire guilds to unlock certain raid zones and content. When Blizzard removed these “keys” you had a whole wave of scrubs and the preverbal n00b entering the game with their sparkling new charity epics. And before that, there was Everquest which had players literally camping out in the middle of zones waiting for a single monster to spawn once a month for a quest item so they could move further into the quest chain.
On the other side of the spectrum, I view money as another requirement, in that if you charge for your service, yes you will lose subs here and there, but the player base benefits from it because only those willing to put in minimal effort will be there. When you go to the Free-to-Play model, I firmly believe that most games invite in a whole other kind of beast.
Among many reasons, EA has cited that they will be able to perform regular updates and added content throughout the year, which I don’t see as physically or fiscally possible because in my laymen brain, subs equal money and free players equal less money, less frequently, so I don’t see how this would give them more freedom with content. Further investigation of the Free-to-Play genre reveals many games are almost vacant of players, at least the worth while ones, and many times the F2P model alienates the players who haven’t paid, essentially becoming second class citizens in the game world.
Another value plus service that EA/Bioware is dropping on players is the Cartel system. Basically subscribers get a bonus point system awarded to them for months subscribed which equates to epeen gear as well as useless vanity items, which other more profitable games have done in abundance ie. WoW. And for everyone, myself included, who purchased the $80 digital deluxe version, we get 1000 Cartel points! Yay….way to make me feel like I really just wasted my money. Especially since the game will retail for $15 USD this coming month. You know, even the way they are wording this whole Free-to-Play deal just seems wonky to me.
All in all, I don’t think F2P is a good business model unless you are in the business of making crap games or products not worth buying, which seems to be EA’s model as of late. And I think it’s really funny that the CEOs of these companies fail to realize that it’s the fact they put out shitty games that their sales are dropping, not because of the changing market, or because digital delivery or any other BS they hurl out in their defense. I just feel bad for SWTOR because it had so much potential and like so many EA properties, it gets sucked dry of all its goodness and discarded like so much trash.
Back to the Farm!