A recent interview with a SWTOR dev over at SWTOR-RP has me thinking about Free-to-Play monetisation and how developers prioritise content for release under that model. Other games have charged F2P players to unlock races or classes, it’s nothing that new (e.g. EQ2 and Vanguard have both, LOTRO has the class unlocks for warden and runekeeper as part of the Moria expansion). I’ve actually paid for a couple of these in the past, for example in EQ2 I unlocked dirge, shadowknight and the Sarnak race. I’d rather pay for race or class unlocks than content unlocks actually as I think locking content only works in very compartmentalised games (DDO is the obvious example).
Reading the above-linked interview the SWTOR devs seem to have a similar strategy going forward. They’re releasing the Cathar race first at some point after the expansion, and depending on feedback (number of race unlocks sold), they’ll then prioritise other new races accordingly. My big concern here is why Bioware would pick such a relatively obscure Star Wars race for this experiment? If they wanted to sell a ton of race unlocks surely they should have added Wookie, Togruta, Jawa or some other iconic race? If the argumentation over humanoid races being easier to model is the issue then Togruta, Sullustan or another humanoid race still makes more sense to me.
Perhaps the Cathar from the Commando personal storyline (Aric Jordan) is *so* popular that the Cathar was a natural choice. Personally I wish they’d chosen something a bit more daring, if the Cathar doesn’t sell enough units then the devs may choose not to make any further new races in the near future which would be a real shame. One big feature of Star Wars over other Science Fiction, such as Star Trek, is the very varied race selection. They are a lot of races that are well featured in the various films, games and novels; plus they aren’t all humanoids with “head ridges”. I found the launch line-up of races for SWTOR rather disappointing and I was hoping that during the lifetime of the game they’d start addressing this. Let’s hope the Cathar do sell regardless of my own bias, and that as a result some of the more iconic races become available.