On SWTOR and F2P

While I anxiously wait on The Secret World to patch in the background, I thought I would take a few minutes to respond to today’s big “un-news” story.  Pretty much every news source from IGN to Forbes is reporting that Star Wars: The Old Republic will be going to the free to play model by this fall.  I am not really sure if this was any surprise, since in mid-june there was another similarly placed article hinting that Bioware was looking at the model.

Roar of the Crowd

What is also fairly unsurprising is the immediate upwell in the gaming community, including much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth.  This really should shock no one at this point, and is really deserving nothing more than a polite “I wish them well”.  I know for me personally, the subscription fee was no barrier, and had nothing at all to do with my reasons for leaving the game.  I completely believe in the concept of voting with my dollar, and I have no problem supporting the causes I believe in.

By that token, I guess you can state that I just stopped believing in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  It was an amazing rollercoaster ride of riveting story.  But at the end of the day, there just was not enough content to hold my attention.  By the same token, I don’t feel a need to “Rage against the machine” and try and bring the game down.  I still have several friends playing it, and reportedly they are still enjoying themselves.

Enter the Pundits

I find it annoying that this move is being treated like the sign of something bigger.  On one side we have groups of players that are mad at the game, feel betrayed by it, and are already signaling this as the desperate act of a dying game.  On the other side you have groups chanting “death to subscriptions”, and ushering this move in as the beginning of a brave new era.  I tend to think this is the act of a company, doing what they feel is best for their product.  While this might be the highest profile conversion, it is far from the first, and likely will not be the last.

While I personally find the subscriptions a much more honest business model, Free to Play is not necessarily a bad thing.  I know at least in the case of the games I have played, the free to play status has done a lot to lower the barrier of entry.  I’ve seen the server populations bolster in Everquest 2 since the conversion.  While there are a lot more ruffians on my roleplaying server, the vast majority have been seemingly well mannered.  The only thing I am uncertain of, is whether or not these players actually stick around for the long haul.

Negativity and Zealotry

I think one of my biggest frustrations with this whole situation is that there will be so much negativity in the coming days from all the camps.  I realize this makes me seem like a hypocrite, because I’ve ranted about more than my fair share of games in the past.  If you look back through my archives you can see many an angry tale featuring my favorite boogeyman, the dreaded Blizzard.  I would like to think that over time I have mellowed.

I’ve reached a point where I am just tired of both the rampant negativity and zealotry in the community.  Do we have to hate all other games just because we are playing something different?  If we love a game, do we have to shove it in everyone else’s faces until they accept our choice as the “one true game”?  I guess I have reached a place where I am happy to play the games I like, but equally happy to hope the other games succeed as well.

We Need More Success

We have built a zero sum climate in massively multiplayer gaming, that really doesn’t need to exist.  While every game is in essence competing with the games that came before it, when did we start having to tear the others down?  I feel like in order to keep the MMO culture thriving, we need each one of these games to find their own niche, and their own kind of success.  Ultimately we have to redefine what success means, because there will likely never be another 10 million subscriber game.

I know personally I have stopped looking for a WoW Killer that will never exist. So long as we keep using that as the bar for success, we are setting every game up for a failure.  Maybe I have grown up a bit, but right now I am just looking for some enjoyment in whatever I play.  Currently that happens to be a mixture of The Secret World, Everquest 2, and World of Warcraft. 

While I have joked that “If you don’t like TSW, you have no soul”, I do not literally mean that.  Not every game, has to appeal to every player.  I think part of what has had me so excited about The Secret World for example, is that it is a very niche game, and seems to be happy with that fact.  We need more games that are OK with catering to a specific niche.  We as players, need to be okay with not winning the subscription race and playing the game with the most people.

No Free Ride

So I think this announcement heralds neither the doom of Bioware or the subscription model for that matter.  Players will always be willing to pay good money for good content.  Free to play, simply means that these companies are giving us the game, and hoping we like it enough to give them money in return.  Ultimately we the players have to fulfill that social contract and give them that hard earned money in one form or another.  If you don’t then honestly you are just a drain on that games community.  At the end of the day someone has to pay for it, because there is no such thing as a free ride.

10 thoughts on “On SWTOR and F2P

  1. I personally quit WoW and lusted over Swtor for 2 years expecting it to at least capture the story of the Old Republic, while making a decent offering on it’s mmo promise.

    Thus far, i’ve played 8 months, and it’s delivered both, i’m not saying it’s perfect, and that t’s not buggy, and that on the crappy computer i have that i don’t have a plethora of issues other players don ‘t encounter.

    But to quote Han Solo, “She’s got it where it counts kid” The problem is that there’s so many other mmo’s to rip apart, play for a month, and give in to. Players are rabid fans of being trolls and asking for perfection, right here, right now. Moar content, moar fluff, no less fluff, moar content, HEY this isn’t what i wanted!

    It’s crazy, but at the end of the day, am i offended this game is going f2p? Heck no, more money in my pocket.

    I’ll probably end up paying to play anyway when i have more time and develope a better rig, but at the same time, having a couple 50’s ready and waiting isn’t bad. But my ultimate goal in the game isn’t to raid every night, or to do damage in pvp.

    Is it wrong to want to pick and choose my bounty hunter’s gear, mod it out, personally customize my colors and rock the Mandalorian T-Visor and just look cool?

    Or maybe pull $5 out of my wallet to BUY my Marauder a set of white lightsaber color crystals for effect? Maybe a REVAN mask based off of my loyalty to the game? I mean, sure, the game doesn’t have 100 dungeons, or pvp variations, it sure as hell isn’t WoW, but for a guy like me?

    A guy who pledged 6 years of his life to that game, raided O.G. 40 man MC, and BWL like religion, knew what it was to 2 shot people in pvp thanks to full T2-T3 armor. Plowed his way through Burning Crusade and even switched from Hunter to Shaman when Alliance got the draenei, pushed the boundaries of Enhance and who the hell could have a berserker’s call and a dragonspine trophy, and even stuck it out through Wrath of the Lich King…..

    One thing i know is the politics of endgame are tiring, they’re madness, and in SWTOR i think people confuse themselves for elitists who want an endless array of content, but i hardly could get a group in the beginning stages of playing for something like Mandalorian Raiders, of Cademinu, or ANY flashpoints leveling for that matter and i was on a POPULATED server!

    I mean, if people want to rag on SWTOR, they should start with the community that lays on it’s back and swears BW isn’t giving them anything to do with their time.

    GRANTED, i too am of the opinion the game is only as good as the end of the story @ level 50, and from there, it’s simply pvp grind, daily grind, or a Operations grind. I simply choose the Diva-licious grind these days :)

    The one that takes a tedious amount of time to max professions, alts, and companion affections to see the deeper meaning of an “Andronikus Revel” or “Bowdaar and the Smuggler company”

    My only beef ever was that i couldn’t look cooler right out of the box, or walk around in adaptive heavy armor on my consular or something. But yet again, i’m simply about customization.

    As for the direction of the game, i don’t think it will fade, but BW has to seriously beef up it’s things to do outside of the main 3 it has going for it.

  2. That is how I understood with what Josh said: by contributing in non-financial ways (like mentioned above in his post), it is possible for you to keep players in the game (and paying) that would otherwise leave. I’d say it is contributing financially, in a non-direct way. If one person who did not pay, would manage to “keep”, say, 3-4 others in game by nice behaviour or inspiring them, and those 3-4 would choose to pay (and would otherwise, without the “trigger” player, leave the game), it seems much beneficial for the gaming company also money wise, in my eyes. :)

  3. I’m always surprised by how hostile the MMO market is. From competitors, from players, even from large company management. If you look at the sheer cynicism coupled with the flakiness of MMO players, and then try to propose a game that takes 5 years and over 100 million dollars…

    Game fans are much like sports fans, we love to throw in our support on the next big success, but tend to be very fickle when times are hard. As your own post outlines, there is a whole spectrum of attitudes, but they tend to coalesce around the extreme ends.

    Still, MMOs will never die. The industry will figure it out eventually, and then fans will follow. If you look at it in a very long-term perspective, we are in fact learning. Just slowly.
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  4. @Belghast Yeah, that makes total sense. It doesn’t seem to bother a lot of developers, though–they seem happy to let the big-spenders subsidize some of the other guys. I definitely agree that if you’re enjoying a game, you should find a way to compensate the devs, whether its RMT, subs, or whatever other options they offer.

    I think SWTOR players will be good about that sort of thing. They’re pretty dedicated :)

  5. I agree with a lot of what you say here and appreciate your civil and lets-wait-and-see attitude when so many are freaking out.

    The one thing I absolutely disagree with is your statement that if you don’t pay money in a F2P game, “then honestly you are just a drain on that games community.”

    There are a million different ways to contribute to bettering a game’s community outside of paying the developers money. Being a sacrificial healer in PvP, politely and patiently helping new players learn the game, tank for a group that just need 1 more person to get started on a dungeon run, leading a guild and dealing with all the drama headaches so everyone else can just have fun, writing blog posts like this one–these are just a tiny fraction of the ways that free players can make a game’s community better.

    That’s not to say players SHOULDN’T give money to developers, but if they choose not to (and a lot of gamers do that), they can still provide a lot of value to other players in the community.

    • Maybe “games community” was a bad way of phrasing that. No matter how awesome the players are… if you aren’t actively paying to support the game, someone else is having to subsidize your fun time. Someone has to pay or the game doesn’t work.

  6. Great post man. I love the game still. I am now leveling a Bounty Hunter while still doing Ops on my Sith Juggernaut, and getting into Ops on my Gunslinger. I simply have fun. I have long since tired of the Zealotry in gamers. Especially MMO gamers. Its a strange form of tribalism in modern society. The best I can possibly equate it to would be how people view sports or worse politics. There is no nuance to their viewpoint. Its completely binary. That is the real problem that people simply refuse to think for themselves in many ways. They rely on another for their point of view many times it is one that has been relied on numerous times. Creating a swell of group-think.

    People should play what they enjoy because they enjoy it.

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