SW:TOR – Good enough to be a sub MMO again?

Two observations about the ‘big’ SW:TOR expansion announcement (based only on reading Rohan mostly, since lulz actually playing SW:TOR):

Bit early to call SW:TOR trying to save itself here as it going the FFXIV route. FFXIV isn’t special in so much that SquareEnix made major changes, but that it’s by far the most successful MMO released in recent years, and that it may already be the largest MMO out in terms of total subscribers. Lots of MMOs have released large updates or overhauls; but few saw significant improvement/gains. Given the overall history of SW:TOR (hotbars! Get your hotbars!), let’s see what this really brings. Emphasis is still being placed on the 4th pillar from what I can tell, and we all know how well that worked out the first time.

The more significant bit IMO is the heavy leaning back towards the subscription model. SW:TOR launched as a sub game, it wasn’t very good, and as all not-very-good MMOs, it went F2P. The other side of that coin, the one rarely seen, is that when an MMO gets ‘good enough’, it has the option to come back to the major leagues and return to the sub model (Allods). Let’s assume this update is a major positive step for SW:TOR, can it get ‘good enough’ to be a sub MMO again? That would be something.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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20 Responses to SW:TOR – Good enough to be a sub MMO again?

  1. weritsblog says:

    Hard to tell. It comes down to quality and frequency. If they can deliver worthy content every month (like they plan), then the sub will be worth it.

  2. Tehol Bugg says:

    So F2P is so lucrative that we need to go back to subs? Hmm where is Damion Schubert when I need him……

    Also please do a quick blog post on GW2’s expansion. There is an uproar at the moment about pricing. Sweet tears!


  3. bhagpuss says:

    Never played TOR so its all hearsay but reading the expansion news it sounded to me as though the plan was mostly to stop being an MMO at all.

  4. Well, that 4th pillar… story… which can be read as “being a BioWare game”… is still the only thing that truly distinguishes SWTOR in the market. Being able to play through the class stories late last year while there was the 12x exp boost, which let people avoid the “kill 10 rats” filler quests seemed to be popular enough that they brought it back for a bit.

    I am not sure it is quite there yet for being subscription only again though. They seem confident in forcing people to subscribe for at least a bit in order to get the new content and perhaps hopeful that, once subscribed, the convenience of not having to buy hot bars and what not will seem worthwhile. But that cash shop isn’t going anywhere.

  5. Anti-Stupidity League says:

    You do realize that it’s been free-to-play-subscription-optional the whole time since it went f2p? And it’s going to be free-to-play-subscription-optional in the future as well, or f2p for short?

    Of course it’s so effing hilarious to see you backpedal once again, so keep up with posts like these!

  6. cristiand90 says:

    They can do whatever I’m not going to install that piece of $hit on my computer ever again.

    As a major fan of KOTOR, logging in to that…thing…made me cringe from second one till minute five when I alt+f4’d

    In 2014(when I tried it), a game that looks so horrible, plays so horrible, and has absolutely nothing to bring to the table, but had a price tag of millions of dollars…I can’t even.

    From interface to combat system to first time cinematics, everything was crap. I doubt they can redesign the whole game in an expansion.

  7. Rohan says:

    The plan isn’t entirely subscription. In a true subscription game, you are paying for access. If you stop paying, you lose access to the content. In TOR’s plan, if you stop paying, you don’t lose access to the existing content. You just don’t get access to new content.

    Bioware is betting that starting and stopping subscriptions all the time is going to be too much trouble for most people, especially if new content is released on a regular basis. TOR subscriptions will be more of an “automatic permanent purchase of content”, rather than “pay for access”.

    • SynCaine says:

      The larger point however is that their plan, whatever the exact details may be, isn’t to focus on selling crap in the store, which is the core of the F2P model, but hoping to make the sub model work for them.

      If the game is good enough, it will, if it’s not, we can expect a re-focus on the item shop.

      • Rohan says:

        Oh, I fully expect them to be focusing on the cash shop. The point of a cash shop is to extract extra revenue from your best customers. Who are the best customers? The subscribers, naturally.

        I strongly believe that if any F2P game with optional subscriptions released financials, we would find that the majority of cash shop revenue came from existing subscribers.

        • SynCaine says:

          Well remember cash shop whales make up 5% if not less of your population, so yea, they are subscribers, but that almost doesn’t matter (the $15 that 5% brings in is nothing). What the focus on subs is attempting to do is move away from having to rely on that 5% (who ultimately will destroy your MMO), and get more of the 95% to start paying.

          It’s almost a sliding scale really; the more people willing to pay, the better your MMO. The top of that scale is a successful sub, since everyone pays, while the bottom is a F2P MMO that is almost exclusively based around whales. SW:TOR seems to be trying to inch towards the upper side of the scale here.

  8. anon says:

    Is it getting better? Irrelevant.

    MMOs there are dime a dozen, but my boycott on all things EA is for life. If I end up missing a few good games from its subsidiaries, these are just some unfortunate, necessary casualties.

    • Sjonnar says:

      Same. No matter how good a game might get, nothing would convince me to give money to EA at this point.

  9. kalex716 says:

    I went back to this recently to play through the newer stories, and I don’t even know how anyone can think of it as NOT a sub game.

    Its so unwieldy to even consider playing seriously without the sub, anybody trying to do so is an idiot. Its free to try, and if you want to play it more than a week as a newbie you sub.

  10. Kobeathris says:

    Hey Syn, kind of off the point, but what are your thoughts on pay for game time rather than standard monthly sub? Is there a price point where it is viable, or do you think the commitment that is required of players in a monthly sub game is part of the appeal?

    • SynCaine says:

      Paying for game time allows people to do stuff like “mining this takes two hours and isn’t fun, plus it costs me 50 cents, damn greedy devs!”.

      Of course in some way, the same can be done with a sub, but most people don’t go down that line of thinking because its harder or not as in your face. With a clock ticking all the time, more would.

      Plus I don’t think it would actually be a plus for the devs. The rate would have to be pretty low, because you can’t completely alienate the hardcore as they are the real content producers (guild leaders, market movers, etc) in a real MMO (not an online sRPG), but at the same time a low rate means you are getting far less money per month from the average player who only plays 10hrs or so a month, and the higher rate for the hardcore wouldn’t offset that. Plus a per-hr rate would encourage people to play less, and that’s never a good thing for any MMO that in part relies on having an active, lively world (again if the game is more of an online sRPG, less of an issue).

  11. Preben says:

    It never stopped being a subscription based game, at least not for people who played it beyond the story.

    If you didn’t pay a sub you pretty much couldn’t play the game because you were limited to how many dungeons, raids, battlegrounds you could do.

    In 2014 SWTOR actually made a ton of money, and I think it’s still doing relatively fine. Obviously it’s not world of warcraft levels of success but it’s trundling along it’s way minding it’s own business.

    It’ll be interesting to see how it handles the transition from MMO with RPG elements to RPG with MMO elements. The playerbase who have been playing for a while aren’t going to be getting a lot of new MMO content this year because Bioware is focusing on story.

    That’s not necessarily the best marketing strategy. On the other hand if Bioware is able to bring new players in, or players who quit early back there is actually plenty of content waiting this time as those people haven’t seen the old shit.

  12. tithian says:

    If this is your way of asking, is it any better now than at launch, then the answer is yes and in many substantial ways. It has been so for a while now, at least one year or maybe a little bit more. Apparently sub numbers are somewhat high-ish again (several hundred thousands) and while people hate the f2p restrictions it seems that it is working as incentive to get more people to sub. If someone likes WoW-style MMOs but wants a sci-fi flavor to it, then you can’t really go wrong. The only thing really holding it down IMO is the graphics engine.

    Will they ditch the freemium model and go Full Sub? No chance in hell, F2P is bringing so much money it isn’t even funny and it would be a PR suicide to alienate a large group of your fanbase and a good chunk of your community.

    FYI: I’m not actively playing it, but I tend to go back for a little while when new content/expansions land. When I do go back though, it is always as a sub due to the restrictions. So in a sense for me it never was a F2P game.

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