Shintar has a post about the upcoming anniversary of the free to play conversion of SWTOR. It’s a balanced post and I agree with all of the points made (such as the value it places on the subscription and the issues with bag space restrictions etc). I’m looking at this topic from the other side of the fence of course as a returning player who is now playing under the free to play restrictions.
For me the conversion is key to my re-engagement to the game, currently as part of a leveling trio of Imperials. We play sporadically as scheduling sessions is difficult, on average one or two sessions a week of at most 2-3 hours. At this pace and frequency justifying a subscription would be pretty difficult, I would argue. So free to play, for us at least, has been a real boon. We’ve all invested some cash on the cartel shop to buy mounts and some unlocks so Bioware has had some money that they wouldn’t have received had free to play not arrived.
This raises one of the distinct advantages of free to play; it does in some cases allow you to play with friends in more than one game in a MMO market that is increasing crowded and competitive. In the past when I was tiring of playing WoW after the first long stint in that game, it was almost impossible to tempt anyone to play a different MMO because they were already paying the WoW subscription and they didn’t want to pay a second just to try a game. Nowadays you can play with friends with a very low “gate fee” at least to give another game a proper try.
I’m still somewhat perplexed by the apparent generosity of the SWTOR free to play model though. The good stuff in our group’s case is all free – the class leveling experience from 1-50. Yes there’s the expansion, but to be honest I suspect we’ll skip that and just start a new leveling group when we eventually get our current trio to the cap. Having tasted some of Makeb on my consular I was surprisingly underwhelmed by the storytelling. I’m pretty sure it’s because I was playing the bounty hunter starter world in parallel and the quality and immersion of the two experiences weren’t comparable. That’s not to say Makeb isn’t a polished experience, it is, but the real “value add” to me of playing SWTOR as a solo game instead of EQ2, WoW or LOTRO is the class storylines and, for now, they stop at 50.
Beyond my very subjective (and now limited) experience of the game I am very interesting by the point raised in Shintar’s post about the effect free to play can have on content generation. Events seem few and far between or simple repeats. There’s a lot on the store but what about in-game earnable rewards?