The Old Republic has gone free to play at long last! That’s right, now it doesn’t require a credit card to play.
EA/Bioware have made a huge tactical move in a pretty quick turnaround time as well. SWTOR started out as a paid subscirption model in an era when the environment was quickly changing; the MMO landscape couldn’t support another monthly paid subscription MMORPG like Star Wars the Old Republic. People already have too many games to play or are entrenched in other games like World of Warcraft.
It’s a bold step and it seems that the industry is still defining what “Free-to-play” entails. Bioware basically gives you story content up to level 50, for each of the SWTOR classes.
There are some things like sprint, crew skills your bank and cargo hold, chat mail and more that is only available with preferred status or a subscription. PReferred status simply means that you entered a credit card and have spent $4.99 or more. So, basically they smartly want to get people to enter their credit card information. But it’s also nice to allow kids and those who don’t want to use a credit card to play as well – it should expand the user base and eventually get more paying subscribers or at least some purchases.
Here’s the official release from Bioware/EA:
AUSTIN, Texas – Nov 15, 2012 – BioWare™, a studio of Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA), and LucasArts announced today that the new, Free-to-Play option for the critically-acclaimed, massively multiplayer online game, Star Wars: The Old Republic is now live. Now players can experience the complete storylines of all eight iconic Star Wars classes, all the way to level 50 for free. This new option complements the existing subscription offering, providing players with maximum flexibility in how they choose to experience Star Wars: The Old Republic.
“We want to give our players the freedom to enjoy Star Wars: The Old Republic when and how they want,” said Matthew Bromberg, General Manager of BioWare Austin. “There has never been a better time to start playing with us.”
The update comes with the cartel maket, a marketplace where you can spend your cartel coins. These can be bought straight up or earned via a subscription. Cartel coins can be used to buy gear, experience boosters, vanity items, and Cartel Packs such as the Black Market Cartel Pack. The other cool thing is that old subscribers will get cartel coins going back for as long as they’ve paid for a membership!