We all knew it was going to happen eventually, but today BioWare and Electronic Arts made it official: Star Wars: The Old Republic is going free-to-play. It seems that the Star Wars label and the BioWare name just weren't enough to get the necessary amount of people to subscribe, so now the companies will see if a switch to free-to-play will provide a boost to user numbers and revenues. Though the transition won't be happening until this fall (that's as specific as EA was), there are some changes happening soon that current players will want to know about, so read on to find out more.
After the transition eventually happens, SWTOR will come in two different flavors: a subscription-based model and a freemium model. Those who choose to pay the monthly subscription fee will have access to all of The Old Republic's of features, and will be getting a monthly Cartel Coin bonus. Cartel Coins are BioWare's funny money for The Old Republic, as they allow users to buy "customizable gear and convenience features" from the new Cartel Store. Free-to-play users will be able to play all of The Old Republic's 8 classes to level 50, but there will be a few restrictions that can be removed through microtransactions.
Current and former subscribers will get 150 Cartel Coins for each month they paid the subscription fee, so if you were planning to return to The Old Republic once it went free-to-play, you might want to consider jumping back in before the transition happens. BioWare also says that starting in August, the game will be sporting a new $14.99 price tag, allowing users to get in on the cheap before the switch. BioWare has launched an FAQ that answers many more questions about the transition to free-to-play, so if you're currently subscribed, we recommend that you give it a look.
Making the switch the free-to-play has worked wonders for many MMOs in the past, and we expect that The Old Republic's popularity will skyrocket once the change is implemented. BioWare and Electronic Arts stand to make a lot of money if the transition is successful, which begs the question of why this didn't happen back in February, when user numbers started making a sharp decline. It was probably pride that made them resist, but once the transition actually occurs, we have a feeling that both companies will wish they had bitten the bullet sooner.