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The Old Republic’s going free-to-play

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Hands up if you said that The Old Republic, EA and Bioware’s Star Wars MMO would be going free-to-play within months of its retail release. Now take that hand, and pat yourself on the back – because that’s exactly what’s happened.

This Spring, the game will shift from being purely subscription based, to having a free-to-play option. It’s the result of a 25% decrease in subscribers- from 1.7 million users to 1.3 in Q3; it’s now got fewer than a million subscribers. Many whose subscriptions had lapsed had said they’d return to the game if it became free-to-play.  Soon, you’ll have restricted access to all eight character classes and storylines up to level 50 for free, with subscribers – or those who make the right in-game purchases – being granted unfettered access.

“Players want flexibility and choice. The subscription-only model presented a major barrier for a lot of people who wanted to become part of The Old Republic universe,” said Matthew Bromberg, GM of BioWare Austin.

“Since launch, we’ve been listening to feedback from our fans and adding new content and refining The Old Republic at a breakneck pace,” added executive producer Jeff Hickman. “We believe we are in a position to help improve the service even more, not only by continuing to add new content, but also by expanding the game to many more Star Wars fans, increasing the populations on worlds and the vibrancy of the community.”

As further incentive to get playing, the game’s price will drop to $15 and will include a month’s subscription. Not that it’s actually directly available in South Africa, mind you.

Here’re the two ways to play The Old Republic:

  • Subscription — A service designed for players who want unrestricted access to all the game features via ongoing subscription or by redeeming a Game Time Card. In addition to gaining access to all game content as our current subscribers do now, subscribers will receive ongoing monthly grants of Cartel Coins, the new virtual currency that will be introduced later this fall. Cartel Coins can be used to purchase valuable in-game items including customizable gear and convenience features that will enhance the game play experience.
  • Free-To-Play — The first 50 levels will be Free-to-Play, with restrictions on access to new content and advanced player features. Some restrictions can be “unlocked” with Cartel Coins.

I’m not at all surprised that it’s gone free to play – but i am a little surprised it’s taken this long. I think the era of pay-to-play MMO’s is nearing an end – and games like Guild Wars 2 (releasing later this month) will only hammer in the final nail to that coffin.

Next up? Funcom’s the Secret World.

Last Updated: August 1, 2012

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