Well, looks like I can finally justify going back to Star Wars: The Old Republic, as this November the critically popular but struggling MMO is switching to a free to play model.
The game will be free to play all the way up to the current level 50 cap, but with restrictions on some options and content. Subscriptions will still be in place for those who want everything, and in return those subbing will get all future expansions for no cost - which suggest that 'free' players will have the option to purchase content as and when they wish.
Basically, BioWare's utilising a very similar model Lord of the Rings Online. That MMO, since going free to play, has expanded not only its player base significantly, but also the number of servers it needs to satisfy that demand - and it's more profitable than ever.
To satisfy current subscribers, from today players will be earning special points for each month of subscription, which will extend up to November, while those who bought a CE will get an even bigger bonus point total. These 'Cartel Coins' can be spent on one time boosts, visual items, unique gear and collectibles.
The reasoning behind the move is interesting. "We quickly became aware that our subscription only model was a major barrier for a lot people who wanted to become part of The Old Republic universe," said Executive Producer Jeff Hickman in a blog post. "In fact, many players who have left the game said they would happily come back if they could play without the commitment of a monthly fee."
I think this is the big lesson that a lot of MMO makers are going to need to learn. World of Warcraft has a very particular player base who, after all this time, are still happy to pay to play, but that really is the exception. I, for instance, quite liked The Old Republic, but couldn't justify the ongoing cost, given how infrequently I was playing it, and I suspect, in our current game-saturated market, a lot of other players feel likewise.
So - will this get any of you guys back into playing?