This time last year Contains Moderate Peril was getting very excited about SWTOR. The love affair with this particular MMO lasted from the open beta in November 2011up until April 2012. I bought the digital download version and then upgraded to the deluxe. I subscribed for three months. My total spend on the game while I was actively playing was £76.95 ($122.24), which is a tidy sum. For the record I enjoyed the game especially the class story. I Never really treated the game as an MMO and tended to play it more as an RPG. When I reached level cap and the end of my personal story, I moved on. I was not bitter. I had got a fair amount of pleasure and entertainment from the game.
Today I re-installed SWTOR as F2P transitions always seem to revitalise my interest in a game. SWTOR also has an added allure, as it is after all “Star Wars”. So despite hearing and reading some negative comments about the change in business model, I wanted to see for myself how my sole character, a level cap Smuggler/Gunslinger, has been affected. Installing the 25 GB game client took about two hours, so I spent the time perusing my account details on the official website while I waited. I was initially quite pleased by the prospect of receiving 700 Cartel Coins for my previous subscription. Then I noticed that to receive these along with a bonus, I had to resubscribe. It would appear that being a former subscriber was not sufficient to earn me preferred status. I had to pay at least $4.99 to rise above being a mere free to play customer.
So when I eventually logged in to SWTOR it was with a sense of trepidation. It did not take long for that feeling to be validated. The original server that I rolled my alt on twelve months ago no longer exists. The server I have been transferred to is a low population community. The Guild itself has been downgraded and I assume that this means limited functionality. My alt was exactly where I left it and as expected all skills points were refunded. That in itself is a common occurrence and not really an issue. However, the quickbar restriction along with the credit cap and embargo on some of my equipment was not so easily shrugged off. Gating the ability to hide ones head gear is simply a cheap money grab and perhaps was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. After a few minutes of investigating it became very clear that I was not a in a suitable condition to continue playing SWTOR in an efficient or enjoyable manner, unless I paid money.
The free to play business model I have the greatest familiarity with is the one used by Turbine. I have been long term subscriber of LOTRO, although I have lapsed during times when there was no content to hold my interest. So that is the benchmark I use to compare. The one thing that Turbine got right was that they never penalised player with lapsed subscriptions. To this day, if I cease to subscribe to LOTRO, I only lose access to quest, skirmish and and raid content. I do not lose bag or bank space, have any currency caps imposed upon me or most importantly have any GUI restrictions to contend with. I would also argue that the free player also gets a relatively good deal with that game. Content can be bought as and when. There are also regular discounts and special offers. It would seem that BioWare has decided to take a different approach and the so-called preferred player is anything but, as far as I am concerned.
Turbine lets a former player keep what they have and then entices them to purchase access to additional content either by a subscription or via the in-game store. It is a positive inducement. BioWare simply takes away what you previously have in the hope you’ll pony up to get it back. A distinctly negative business dynamic. Compared to LOTRO along with AoC and STO, SWTOR offers a free player very little. There is access to the class story line and not much else. It can be argued that they’re not even giving you just the RPG element of the game because so many facets of the GUI and overall mechanics are gated behind a pay wall. No bank/cargo hold , a currency cap, reduced in-game chat facilities, no secure trading or outgoing email and high level equipment embargoes. The list goes on. It isn’t really F2P as many understand it but more of a restricted trial.
I do not wish to subscribe to a second MMO at present. There is still content left in SWTOR that I have not seen and I was hoping that F2P would afford me the opportunity to explore that through casual play. However the very unforgiving business model that has been imposed upon the game makes an ad hoc approach unviable. It is simply a case of pay or be impeded. So rather than lure me back, EA have simply driven me away and it would appear that I am not the only one to experience this. I am staggered how a company has managed to continuously mismanage and misjudge both their product and the player base. It is a great shame because there has always been great potential in SWTOR and the recent change in business model afforded a second chance to make things right. As for me, I have installed and uninstalled a game within an afternoon. In the words of the song, “say hello, wave goodbye”.