SW:TOR – Connect the dots

Quick note about the SW:TOR F2P weekend since a few people have asked me to comment: Did WoW do this? Did LotRO do it? Did WAR do it? Did Aeon do it?

The answer is no.

Now, if SW:TOR is doing as well as EAware would like you to believe, then why are they putting already pressed servers (due to that high population) into critical condition by opening up the game to anyone who can be bothered with the download? Seems a bit odd right? And the two-day timeframe is interesting. Would this ‘hook’ still work if SW:TOR had a fully-open 14 day trial?

Remember the problem WoW was having three months after release? All those servers still crashing due to population issues? Imagine if Blizzard did what EAware is doing this upcoming weekend?

Now granted, maybe EAware just have amazing server tech and, despite retaining “80-90%” of their playerbase, they still have a ton of room, and despite the game still flying off shelves and people streaming in, they still went ahead and opened up the game for free.

Maybe.

Just like Blizzard is handing out 80s as a “thank you” to WoW hitting a new subscriber peak, right?

Is it 6 months yet?

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Mass Media, RMT, SW:TOR, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to SW:TOR – Connect the dots

  1. Ulvheart says:

    It could be, as you posit, a knee-jerk reaction to the death throws of this clearly terrible game.

    Or it could be a clever idea – triggering interest and press and potentially gaining some subs that wouldn’t have come along otherwise. Maybe they don’t think they need to add 14 days and a weekend will be enough of a tease to get people hooked and to fork up a subscription.

    What this won’t do is cost them subscribers. It’s a no lose situation.

    3 months to go before you get to gloat in full or, maybe, eat humble pie… Who knows but with GW2 and D3 incoming I would expect there to be dips in all subscription games.

    • SynCaine says:

      The general idea of getting people to try it and like it I get. Drum up interest etc, etc. All MMOs do similar things.

      It’s the timing. Again, what successful MMO has done this so soon after release? What does opening the servers up to anyone who can be bothered tell you about server pops?

      And I can already hear the earnings call of EAware stating that the ‘dip’ in SW subs is due to GW2 or other ‘environmental factors’, and nothing to do with the failheap they shipped.

      • Ulvheart says:

        Surely it’s just good business to keep proactively attracting new subs? So, rather than wait for the inevitable drop in subscribers keep trying to build new people.

        All MMOs offer incentives and I can’t see why encouraging new people after the honeymoon phase where it was all shiny and new.

        Don’t get me wrong here – I don’t think ToR is a perfect game and I don’t see it having the longevity that WoW did for me but that may change.

        It’s just a shame EVE didn’t do it for me – I just didn’t get on with the PvP side of things!

  2. thade says:

    WoW does allow you to play the first 20 levels free still, no? And the first ten levels free before that? Pretty sure that’d put more undue stress on to servers than a single free weekend.

    Also, EVE allows a pretty lengthy free trial period, which can be extended massively if you make a buddy in the game. You actually leverage that yourself for recruiting, making a lil ISK along with the benefit of a new player, no? How is that massive single server handling all of that trial play traffic? (I think it handles it okay, no?)

    • SynCaine says:

      Can’t tell if serious…

      • thade says:

        I know what you mean. I felt the same way when I read your post! <3

        Free trials are pretty par for the course for any sub-based game. I get that you hate the theme park genre, my man, but it's a lil weird to pick on TOR for a free weekend when your own game of choice offers a free month and a half of play. Beneath your talent, really. You are pretty adept at finding holes in their marketing and design decisions to make them look silly with.

        • SynCaine says:

          EVE has been out for 8 YEARS. SW:TOR has been out for 2 months.

          THE ENTIRE POINT OF MY POST IS HOW SOON THEY ARE DOING SOMETHING LIKE THIS, AND WHAT DOES THAT MEAN.

          I expect better out of my regular readers.

  3. Dimli says:

    Just a quick note, I actually recieved a 14 day trial notice yesterday from EA. I’m not sure if it’s because I was in beta and never bought the game or why but they are doing 14 day trials already for some people.

    I’m not so sure it’s a huge bad sign or just the way the market has changed. Although I did think man that was soon when I got the email.

    • Imrar says:

      There is an Invite 3 of your friends for Trial for subscribers And now there is the upcoming Trial Weekend.

      What I dont get, is the people’s reaction… Game companies battle for spot in media constantly. To me all these are just about that.
      Also WoW had the trial invitation card inside the game box pretty much from the start.

      So I think the friend invitations motivation is to copy how WoW started, and the Trial Weekend is a reaction to WoWs new Resurrection Scroll and all the hype that’s going through GW2 now. The timing on that one cant be coincidence.

  4. Holy moly, I got into WoW for the first time at about the three month point… a little over 7 years ago. Not only couldn’t the servers have stood the impact, it took me several days just to get my software patched so I could play, and not just because their patcher was so lame… though that clearly helped. Every aspect of the game was being overrun and they could barely expand capacity fast enough.

    Of course, I left after my initial free 30 days because I could clearly see that EQ2 was going to win the battle in the long run. Who would put up with all those queues and crap? *cough*

    Anyway, it is possible that this is preemptive and not reactive. Smart companies start this sort of thing before they get in trouble, not after they are already getting hammered. (Blizz laying people off while hugely profitable? Oh, guess what, they will stay hugely profitable.)

    Still, this is EA we’re talking about. You could convince me that Trion was being smart when they started this sort of thing pretty early after Rift launched. But with EA, I’ll need to see something in writing.

    • sleepysam says:

      Ditto. When I bought WOW, many of the servers were locked and I had to wait until things calmed down before I was allowed to roll a toon.

      The 2 day thing is an odd choice.

  5. Feliz says:

    Consider this: Bioware and EA even more have the one time product sales curves in front of them and in their blood stream. And those charts basically say that you make the most money during the first few months. After that, pricing pressure starts creeping in and all of a sudden they have to give the units away at 39.95. And on top of it, the EQ CEO has promised his share holders 2 mio subscribers by June, 30th. And that’s what they are working on. Improvements quarter to quarter.

    On the other hand, those free open beta weekends before the release date did win me over. I was firmly convinced I’d be ignoring SWTOR all together. But look at me now ! Spewing fanboi messages left and right. Maybe not. But I still like the game.

  6. thade says:

    (continuing)

    CCP’s privately owned, no? No investor pressure to “up the numbers in unreasonable ways”. It’s an enviable position to be in, in a way, as it means middle-management’s not making brash decisions to appease people that don’t actually play the game.

    That is the case for the other titles being criticized.

    Although, CCP was talking about the potential for a PO, no? So…cash shops inbound?

  7. thade says:

    I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be antagonistic. Little bit of my workday bleeding into my comments.

    EVE has a few facts about it and its player-base that make it (I think) invincible insofar as the threat of a literal cash shop. I do wonder how an IPO might affect it though.

    • SynCaine says:

      I don’t mind antagonistic, but I feel you are 100% missing the point here. It’s not about offering a trial.
      It’s about letting people into the game this early for free. Successful games don’t do that; just like successful games don’t drop their price early (Skyrim is still $60).
      This is about how soon they are doing it, not what they are doing.

      • Aufero says:

        Skyrim was one of the Steam Christmas specials at 33% off. I wouldn’t be using it as an example when trying to make this particular argument.

        • SynCaine says:

          Yes, but it’s $60 now, months after release, and still a top seller on Steam. It’s base price has not been reduced.

          (And 33% off on Steam is not a sale. 75% or gtfo)

        • Azuriel says:

          Has the price of the SWTOR box dropped?

          Fake edit: Appears to be 34% off on Amazon, but that doesn’t count (of course).

      • spinks says:

        Actually, Skyrim did halve their prices in shops (at least they did here) a week or so after release. I wondered if it was to hit the sales charts, but I picked my copy up for £20 (ie. about half the release price).

        That might have been a retail decision but it was half price for awhile shortly after release.

  8. thade says:

    derp.

    Right, so, yes. I see your point. I don’t see it as game-breaking, however. More of a “let’s stimulate growth” move than “panic” move. 1.7 million subs isn’t bad but no surprise they want more.

    Barring prognostication (the effects of Diablo 3, Mists of Pokemon, Tera, etc) hard to guess at whether they’ll be crippled before they can turn a profit or not.

    • SynCaine says:

      So you believe the reason they are doing this is because SW:TOR has 1.7m subs and is perfectly healthy, but they just want more, despite the fact that they are (supposedly) profitable at just 500k?

      Ok :)

      • Will says:

        The thing about money is that there isn’t an upper limit to the amount that a person or a business wants. No matter how many paying subscribers they have, or don’t have, they are going to want more.

        I don’t think anyone was expecting the servers to be as full three months in as they where at launch. So now they are taking that excess server space and leveraging it to find some new customers. It’s a sign of greed, not a sign of failure.

        As for that 1.7m number, as far as I can tell that number was taken 40ish days after the release of the game which had 30 days included in the box (not to mention the un-sub button being disabled for a while there). So it’s not a very good indication of retention of long term subs either.

        It’s too early to tell and we don’t have enough data. So take it down a notch, both of you.

      • Azuriel says:

        So you believe the reason they are doing this is because SW:TOR has 1.7m subs and is perfectly healthy, but they just want more, despite the fact that they are (supposedly) profitable at just 500k?

        I believe EA and Bioware have a fiduciary obligation to their shareholders to maximize profits regardless of how healthy SWTOR is or not. You are free to read more into it than strictly exists, but it comes across as rather silly.

        I mean, was the cash shop introduced by CCP because EVE was dying? Was the vaunted year-over-year growth not enough?

        • SynCaine says:

          You guys are funny.

          So SW:TOR giving the game away for free far early than anyone else with a successful title is just EAware being smarter than everyone else in the genre huh.

          Now I understand who those PR releases are aimed at…

      • Anti-Stupidity League says:

        Do I believe that EA wants more money? Yes, I believe they do.

        You don’t believe so? Maybe you should double check your Eve Excel sheets, you might have a small problem there.

        • Sand says:

          ASL is still dumb as a brick; news at eleven.

          do try to pay attention before you start butting into the grown-ups’ conversation. Syn is saying that by offering a free weekend trial so early after release, EA is accidentally offering proof that their game is dying right out of the starting gate.

          if TOR is booming, just growing so fast as to be downright… ‘epic’ i believe is the word their senior dev used, a success never before equalled in the history of ever, then opening the servers wide for lots and lots more people to experience the transcendent joy of WoW with lightsabers is an unnecessary strain on the already strained servers, possibly risking hamster death and shutdown.

          if, on the other hand, Syn is right, and TOR already has one foot in the grave – firmly planted – then this move makes perfect sense.

          also, that shot about the excel sheets, man… that was… well… no, it wasn’t funny. it was dumb. you’re dumb. pubbie faggot.

  9. Sullas says:

    I connected the dots. Looks a bit like a bunny, but I can’t be sure.

    The two-day thing, as Feliz says, is most likely an artifact of the beta weekends, which felt a lot like gigantic marketing tools rather than genuine beta weekends. They ran a weekend, their pre-orders rose, and a corporate tool was born. The unspoken corollary is that those beta weekends did a poor job of actual QA, letting through some dreadful UI problems and dismaying rough edges to an otherwise, imho, good game.

    I view the server list daily and stated stress is basically yellow/normal for the lot. Perhaps they looked at some metrics, realised that they may have overbudgeted server capacity after the launch crunch (in expectation of wilder success than 1.7m; they’re ambitious lads over there) and decided that they might as well use it for marketing. A less exciting conclusion than ‘desperation at having shipped a lemon, they’ll be bundling with handjobs next!’ but probably more accurate.

  10. coppertopper says:

    The timing relative to release is strange. I also got the 14 day free trial email. There was a post about subscribers being able to offer free 7 day trials on the CoW forum and it was pretty quiet (although maybe it was discussed in voice chat already).

    Spring break though so seems like an opportune weekend to do this, especially since this seems more of a way to entice people who have never played MMO’s vs us burnouts.

  11. tipa says:

    According to XFire (an unreliable source), SWTOR has lost a quarter of its players in a month. That’s why.

    • Noizy says:

      Also according to XFire, from January 15th to March 11th, SWTOR has lost 2/3 of its players. But the CEO of EA stated last week that SWTOR still has 1.7 million subs. Who to believe?

  12. Azuriel says:

    I’m confused as to negative implication here. Well, not really… more confused as to why you find it convincing.

    Either the free demo marketing works or it doesn’t, 8 years later or no. It is not some sort of implicit “strength” that a company doesn’t offer a free trial. In fact, I would say lack of a trial is a weakness, vis-a-vis a belief that if someone plays the beginning of your game for free that they will avoid a purchase they otherwise would have made. What does a confident company have to lose, exactly?

    Every game should have a demo, IMO. Would you disagree? Would a demo have hurt Skyrim sales, or signaled a lack of confidence from Bethesda?

    • SynCaine says:

      Yes, demos hurt.

      The job of PR is to hype the game, and convince people they want to play it. If the PR is good, lots of people think they want to play, even some who really don’t. Without a demo, you get $60 from all those people (and maybe a 3-6m sub package). With a demo, you don’t.

      If right now, everyone who bought SW:TOR was saying it’s the worlds greatest MMO (like what happened in 2004 with WoW), would a demo do more harm or good?

      Now, the value of a demo is that those who did not buy into the hype and are waiting to try it first need the demo. Those who missed the PR and are just randomly looking might need the demo. And of course the better your game, the more effective your demo (or in SW:TOR’s case, the better the demo hides the flaws, the better, hence the two day limit).

      But no, having a demo day one is NOT smart, and looking at it in such black/white terms is foolish.

      • spinks says:

        Would you buy an MMO without trying a demo? Because I wouldn’t.

        • SynCaine says:

          What? Really?

          Almost every MMO I’ve bought has been pre-demo (unless you don’t count pre-ordering to get into beta buying, but I do).

          Almost every game I buy at full price (which is becoming rare thanks to Steam) is pre-demo.

  13. Bernard says:

    I take it to be a good sign that they have a range of marketing initiatives in their pocket for the first 6 months rather than waiting.

    Early life demos are often unpopular as they expose what a bug-ridden mess your game is. SWTOR has plenty of issues, but a trialist can quite happily play for a week without seeing any of them.

  14. Dunwich says:

    They have to get all those idiots in before D3/GW2/TSW/Tera/insert game here hits the market. thats why Blizz are throwing out 80s today. Just suck them in and maybe they wont preorder game X/get it on day one. I dont see whats so strange about it. I would do the same. Trap as many idiots as possible.

  15. thade says:

    Your condescending angle is at odds with your false dichotomy there.

    Whether or not the game is “healthy” or “profitable” is entirely irrelevant insofar as their attempts to “make more money”. The game could be on it’s way down the crapper or could be printing money; they would still try things to make even more money. A free weekend is hardly the herald of the game’s doom, man.

  16. Mr. Meh says:

    Everyone has said what needs to be said.

    So I just want to know: Are they going to ever arrest SWTOR for raping your mother?

  17. Barrista says:

    Sorry if someone has pointed this out, but there is plenty of room on the SWTOR’s servers. I only notice about 5 servers which are at a high capacity weekends or evenings.

    As for whether doing such a thing this early is a sign of weakness? It is hard to tell really in this day and age. They gave away free weekends before the game was ever released after all.

  18. wormsby says:

    You also have to remember there’s a number of players out there who wait. The whole “I’ll give it 3 months to smooth the edges out” contingent and the bargain hunters who, from past experience, skip the release phase before trying. There’s still market share out there to be chased. Seems like a low-cost way of doing it and probably a pretty good time to do so because I’m sure they’re losing subs from the early adopter crowd. Shark’s gotta keep swimming and whatnot.

    But don’t get me wrong. You’re at your best when pumping out the hysterical screechy schadenfreude. Keep it up and we’ll keep coming.

  19. They must be giving away trials like candy now. I have a 7 day trial offer for being a valued member of the community. All I did was sign up for the beta.

    Ive not bought the game and never visited the forums.

    • carson630000 says:

      It’s a pretty low bar to being a valued member of the community. I’m a valued member too, and all I did was play for five hours in beta and say “this sucks.”

  20. fnc says:

    Swtor is already on the way out. A few guildmates quit a month ago, the rest of us were hanging on til 1.2…. but with the 1.2 notes (not even talking about the nerfs, just the state of the ezmode mmo), we won’t even be waiting that long. 30 people unsubbed in 1 night. Sad.

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