Two major developments happened recently in the mmo world which I want to comment on. The first is the announcement by BioWare that Star Wars the Old Republic is going free to play this fall. The interwebs are abuzz with this announcement, and that of Blizzard recently losing another chunk of subscribers this quarter. Or maybe it just seems that way, as Tobold hasn’t even weighted in on the announcement.
Blizzard has reported that world of warcraft is down to 9.1 million subscribers. 9 million subscriptions plus would be cause for joy for any mmo game, but this isn’t any game, this is wow, the big behemoth. But should Blizzard be concerned or is this the normal course of events given the upcoming MoP expansion?
Personally, I think that the loss of subs has as much to do with the sheer volume of gaming options, both on PC and on consoles available to gamers these days. That doesn’t even include games for the ipad, iphones, facebook games and games on other devices. It’s really like a new golden age, with mmo companies competing with each other to see which game will garner them the most players. The only problem is that there’s a lot of cacophony and very few symphonies like Dark Age of Camelot in the musical landscape of mmo gaming.
I was not really surprised that SWTOR had announced a f2p model so soon after its launch, while a lot of players and pundits see the move as some sort of admission that the long anticipated BioWare game had gone “to hell,” I see it more as a move towards economic viability given the financial climate in gaming, and especially in the mmorpg industry.
I am even going to go as far as to say that GW2 will not make that much of an impact on wow subs. Those who said that there would never be a “wow killer” seem to have been dead on the nose: wow is finally coming down to Earth, not so much because the quality of Blizzard’s game has eroded, or because a bigger game has come along to take it down, but simply it has come to share some of the gaming landscape with many more titles, both f2p and subscription based. Personally, I welcome the news that SWTOR is going f2p, it joins a multitude of recent titles (Age of Conan, Aion, Star Trek Online, Fallen Earth) to have adopted the f2p model and both developers and players would seem to be the beneficiaries.
Personally, to me, while I enjoy sampling f2p games, especially those which you once had to pay for, I also know the old saying is true: You do get what you pay for and the p2p games have always been more expansive, more fleshed out and better than a lot of their f2p counterparts, but that does not mean that you can’t find some good f2p games that are worth your time like DDO, LOTRO and a few others.
However, that being said, it seems that the Flesh Eating Zipper has made some valid points about the SWTOR f2p conversion, many things which were promised to players will probably never see the light of day, as the dev. team scatters to other projects or other titles. Personally, I will never forget how high the anticipation was for Star Wars prior to release. This was the game everyone seemingly left the game they were playing to go play. This was going to be the legendary wow killer. How the mighty have fallen!