I’ve just read the rereview of Free to Play SWTOR on Eurogamer. I also read a lot of the comments on the article as well.
The topic related to this discussion that caught my eye was that of expected value. Some of the comments state that as owners of the game, those who bought the game prior to the Free to Play conversion, are being ‘screwed’ by the limits to access they now have as preferred F2P players.
A quick detour into the context of this. Turbine have this same middle-case with their premium account status, so anyone who does not subscribe but who has spent some money for cash-shop purchases is a premium player. Sony also has the silver account level for those who have spent money to upgrade from the basic bronze level in EQ2. Both these companies reward such middle-case players by relaxing some of the F2P restrictions, usually chat channel access and in-game features such as bank access or mail access.
So there’s nothing unusual about the general concept of ‘rewarding’ previous subscribers by giving them a slightly better F2P experience for nothing. Is this resentment that the game has gone F2P in the first place? Is it simple entitlement that they spent some money at some point in the past on the game and now feel a free ride is in order? Bare in mind that the same issue was discussed vehemently on the LoTRO and DDO forums and EQ2’s forums when those games transitioned to the model, this is not Bioware’s unique problem and the complaints are the same even if the details of the transition are not.
Since I haven’t yet logged back into SWTOR as a F2P player myself I’ll refrain from offering any ‘armchair’ uninformed opinions on the specifics of the model. But it does irk me that a certain group of players will take each and every conversion of a game to F2P as the occasion to claim they are owed free and comprehensive access to a game despite the fact that they aren’t paying for it any more! Let’s not forget in the pre-F2P era most MMOs were all about paying – you bought the box, you paid your subs and in some cases you paid for account services or other extras as well. So the new hybrid model certainly offers a lot more accessible content for very little money up-front. I wouldn’t be playing half the games I am able to play if free to play hadn’t come to the West.
I understand, from what I have read, that commentators think some of the restrictions are excessive. But I also think there’s a dose of realism needed here. Just how much can we really expect to get for free?