A long time ago in a galaxy free, free to play...
[Continued] Page 2
While the cash shop is one major change that The Old Republic would be facing, another one would be the distribution of content. Because the game is free-to-play, the developer doesn’t have to withhold content to keep players from keep playing. An often-used tactic is to announce a major patch update coming soon in order to keep subscribers. Now that there are no subscriptions Bioware has the freedom to release content at their leisure. This doesn’t mean that patches will be done away with, rather, we should see a more steady stream of content under the free-to-play model than the pay-to-play.
The type of content we should see for major patches will be instances and other major end-game content; however, additions like Legacy features, changes in gameplay, or major balance patches should be regular in constantly delivering new content to the player. Investing in new material so the game keeps the players addicted and playing is essential to MMOs. While The Old Republic won’t directly be making any money off of keeping players in the game, it is correlative to the purchases that the players could possibly make. The addition of new content also ties in with the cash shop. If Bioware offers new awesome items to buy in the cash shop in a fast but not too fast a manner, then players will invest money into the game. The more money the player spends, the more incentive the player has to stay with the game and make more future purchases.
Lastly, what The Old Republic needs to do is reward the subscribers that have been with the game for the time it was pay-to-play. No one wants to invest more than $60 worth of subscription fees without seeing some sort of compensation. Who knows when or if the game will go free-to-play, but I suggest that Bioware have a staggering reward model for subscribers. Take, for example, if Bioware chose to go free-to-play after a year — then they should have three sets of rewards. If you’ve been a subscriber for at least four months then you would get the first set of rewards, if at least eight months then you’d get the first and second, and for the whole year then you’d get all the rewards. These rewards have to be somewhat special. While including items that would be in the cash shop is cool, Bioware has to reward those that have stuck with the game for a long time. Things like that could be an item that can never be obtained in the shop, such as a special lightsaber/beam color or an exclusive aura/attachment that makes you stand out. All of these are mere ideas, but I’m sure fans would be pleased with anything remotely cool.
I don’t want to beat it into your head, but I think going free-to-play is the best move that Bioware and EA can make for Star Wars: The Old Republic. There are tons of benefits, and while fans wouldn’t be the only one getting a sweet deal out of it, the companies don’t have much to lose. They would be getting more players filling the currently empty servers with life and the guaranteed profit increase will definitely please. I’m sure that fans won’t be pleased at the initial announcement, but once they realize the benefits outweigh their anger, they’ll come around. So... make it free-to-play soon, okay?