BioWare: Old Republic's Free-to-Play Success Is Uncertain

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BioWare: Old Republic's Free-to-Play Success Is Uncertain

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BioWare Austin can't guarantee that Old Republic's hybrid model will earn more money.

Last year, Star Wars: The Old Republic was in a prime position to knock World of Warcraft down a peg or two. We know now that this wouldn't be the case, but even in hindsight it's hard to find people who expected the game would fail so quickly. Now with subscription numbers plummeting, BioWare has been hard at work adapting the game to a free-to-play system in the hopes that it changes the title's prospects, as was the case for other faltering MMOs. But BioWare's Matt Bromberg is taking a more cautious approach, noting that while he certainly hopes more people come to The Old Republic through the free-to-play model, that doesn't necessarily guarantee success.

"I don't know," Bromberg answered when asked by CVG whether he thought The Old Republic could make more money using free-to-play. "Obviously we are a business and we have to grow that business, but my primary intention is to make as many people play this beautiful game that we've made. It just so happens that the business will naturally grow as more people come to play the game, but we're not trying to squeeze every single penny out of it."

Considering the hype Old Republic generated that failed to materialize six months later, Bromberg's comments are understandably pragmatic and cautious. Despite it all, the BioWare Austin executive isn't entirely convinced that the failures of subscription-based games like The Old Republic means free-to-play markets are now the answer. "A lot of other games that have moved from subscription to hybrid haven't lost as many customers as you might think, in fact a lot of them have gained subscribers," he noted. "I think it's different for every game. In general it appears that most MMOs are moving in the free-to-play direction, but I still think there's an opportunity still for some more specialist MMOs."

Some of Bromberg's hesitation to break fully from subscription models is understandable. BioWare spent years crafting what they thought would be a hugely successful subscription-based game, and are now being forced to rethink its entire monetization model half a year after release. Still, even World of Warcraft, the most successful subscription-based game on the market, has adopted a partial free-to-play model to attract new players. If WoW needs to change the way it operates in today's industry, even slightly, it's hard to imagine that any newcomer could operate fully on a paid model.

Source: CVG, via Games Industry International

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Big budget mmo's don't work anymore but smaller niche ones do, Just look at EVE, perpetuum online, Hell even planetside 1 survived on subscription because of the dedicated following. Those games survive because of the dedicated hardcore fans who will keep paying and playing.

I'mma download it, play it and won't buy anything cause imma filthy pirate /ubisoft logic.

OT: I will be trying this for sure, looks like fun.

The dark side clouds everything...

I will not by playing it again sadly.

Dont get me wrong, the stories were fun just no I dont like MMOs

The very fun to play GW2 probably isn't going to help either.

I'll still be trying the F2P model when it eventually comes out.

The SW story + lightsabers are infinitely more appealing to me than the innumerable Fantasa Generica MMOs that are still being churned out(and yes, that includes GW2, at least in terms of setting and art style).

I think they tried to grab too much of a 'good thing'. The good/fun storylines and the interesting companions were great and all, but it felt way too much like I was playing a bastard version of KOTOR 3 at the same time as other people.

And I would've preferred if they went with their other proposal of setting it after episode VI. It would reach a wider audience, it could go into some very interesting places, and I would've probably stuck with it for longer.

And since I know/fear that EA's viral marketing department trolls forums for 'good ideas'.

THIS IS NOT ONE OF THEM!!!

I can think of two reasons ToR is doomed.

1) It's just WoW in a Star Wars dress, until developers get the message that we already have WoW new 'big' MMO's will always fail. The should have made a Galaxies clone or a fleet based game, I would have paid for giant space battles.

2) The dancing, banning people over dancing to avoid damage against AIs. That is low, it should have been left in because it was awesome. Yet EA evidently have no sense of humour.

Ah well, bye bye The Old Republic.

When I was playing TOR I actually quite enjoyed "the game", what I didn't enjoy was the constant reminders that I was playing an MMO i.e. all the frigging skinner box stuff. I got really sick of all the carrot on a stick crap and just wanted to advance the damn story already. This was made worse when you realize just how annoyingly huge and time-wastey a lot of the areas were (the massive docking bays, the star ports, the huge towns/cities).

Also they should have started the frigging launch with server transfers, nothing more annoying than wanting to start playing, getting past the starter area and realizing that you and your friends are scattered across like 30 different servers.

I may try again but I doubt it. I had a subscription for about 4 months. I played through the Jedi story lines, started a smuggler and while I liked the story I just could not do the same side quests for a third time. And none of the end game content is fun. To me anyway.

I tried to play a Sith but I could not do it. I was fine on Korriban, being a evil douche screwing over other evil douche's but once I killed my first jedi, a 18-19 year old padawan protecting an old man, I just felt like too much of a prick. I can never manage to be the bad guy.

When EA decided to destroy the value of their IP by lowering prices, I jumped on board. I've been very impressed with it so far, and not entirely sure where all the negativity comes from. There was a time when blizzard struggled with WoW, and there was nothing to do once you hit the level cap. BioWare was planning on a lot more money, and with that alot more staff. The absence of both has caused them to default on promised improvements, but given the circumstances it's really out of their hands and I can't hold it against them.

As for the success of swtor as a ftp, I am very doubtful. They've made a great intro to what could be a amazing game, but I don't think they have a grasp on the business model necessary to thrive with less money, let alone nearly zero guaranteed income. Like rolfwesselius said above, their are niche markets that are very successful, but I honestly believe that the reason for the success of smaller companies is the people who work there live and breathe what they do and know what their customers want. Not exactly corporate mentality.

Fanghawk:
... but even in hindsight it's hard to find people who expected the game would fail so quickly.

This might sound stupid, but that's a joke... right?

I'll probably try it when it goes Free To Play. I'm not surprised people balked at spending $60 for the privilege of paying $15 a month to keep playing. When Steam will sell me other AAA games for $15 or less and let me play them in perpetuity, it's hard to stomach spending $60 for a single month of play. It was inevitable that the number of people willing to pay that money for SWTOR would run out sooner rather than later.

We won't have a WoW killer. We can't. WoW players are too invested to move and a long history of 'WoW killers' dying or going F2P quickly is enough to stop (enough) other people from being willing to invest too heavily in a new MMO.

GLo Jones:

Fanghawk:
... but even in hindsight it's hard to find people who expected the game would fail so quickly.

This might sound stupid, but that's a joke... right?

Yeah, I am not sure where they got that. It seems like the game journalists have too much of a love affair with BW and don't see what us regular folks are seeing.

Having been in beta, the doom and gloomers were in full force at least 3 months prior to launch and have continued unabated since. Of course they were labeled "haterz" by the "fanbois" but there were definitely plenty of people who expected it to fail this badly.

I just recently started playing, and being a former wow player I am impressed with this game. Yeah there are alot of annoying aspects but wow also has some as well. I don't get why people compare all mmos to wow. Everquest was an MMO last I checked, wow just refined it. I do like SWTOR and I'm sad to see it is not a huge success. Bioware needs to hurry up and fix this.

hard to find people who expected the game would fail so quickly.

i knew it was going to fail the day it launched. a crappy WoW knockoff featuring graphics from 2003 combined with a joke of an engine and the only redeeming highlight being "hurr its got voiced quests" and throw the EA legendary customer support in for the real im living in a nazi land experience.

january called by the way
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32N-43My3rs&feature=player_embedded

mxfox408:
I just recently started playing, and being a former wow player I am impressed with this game. Yeah there are alot of annoying aspects but wow also has some as well. I don't get why people compare all mmos to wow. Everquest was an MMO last I checked, wow just refined it. I do like SWTOR and I'm sad to see it is not a huge success. Bioware needs to hurry up and fix this.

To be fair the game itself would be a success by any other company; the issue is that the dev price of the game was so high that it needed to grab an audience size not even WoW could initially get and hang onto it. It was an impossible scenario.

Personally I think TOR will stick around for a while, and while I don't think the FTP model will work as well for them as games specifically designed for it... they have some time to tweak it. If TOR works in the F2P market, it pretty much sets a standard that any MMO of any size will work in that market. I'm of the opinion that the game itself should never be free; there's enough content as a single player game that you could charge $20 for it and be okay.

People want to play this for the story, treat it as KOTOR 3+... well, give it to them for cheap and have people pay more for the MMO side of it. Play it online but limit groups, guilds, operative, heroics, and crafting as things you can temporarily or permanently add to the experience with funds. It's very similar to what they're planning, but I personally thing the software itself could still be sold stand-alone.

zachusaman:

january called by the way
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32N-43My3rs&feature=player_embedded

"like dis if u cry evry teim"

Best youtube comment in history.

I can't shake the idea that this was a if you build it they will come approach-- EA said build it, but no one ever came.

ALSO, bethesda, please take note. The Elder WoW is not necessary.

Maybe it's because they made the free to play model so complicated that it's even more intimidating than paying a giant subscription fee every month.

From what I can gather, you can theoretically spend hundreds of dollars a month on cosmetic gear and still be locked out of really basic and important things like fast travel and half the pvp content. If you can't convert to a paid player without a subscription, you aren't really a free to play game.

Every patch that didn't include anything for endgame play was a nail in the coffin. Free to play or not, when you're done your story there is nothing to do but PvP still, and that is disgusting.

Tumedus:

GLo Jones:

Fanghawk:
... but even in hindsight it's hard to find people who expected the game would fail so quickly.

This might sound stupid, but that's a joke... right?

Yeah, I am not sure where they got that. It seems like the game journalists have too much of a love affair with BW and don't see what us regular folks are seeing.

Having been in beta, the doom and gloomers were in full force at least 3 months prior to launch and have continued unabated since. Of course they were labeled "haterz" by the "fanbois" but there were definitely plenty of people who expected it to fail this badly.

Well, it can't have been from these forums, because I was calling the game doomed back in November on here... The thing I remember from beta was any time anyone raised an issue the rabid fan cadre would start pointing and screaming "hater", so it kinda set the environment for failure there...

Quiotu:

mxfox408:
I just recently started playing, and being a former wow player I am impressed with this game. Yeah there are alot of annoying aspects but wow also has some as well. I don't get why people compare all mmos to wow. Everquest was an MMO last I checked, wow just refined it. I do like SWTOR and I'm sad to see it is not a huge success. Bioware needs to hurry up and fix this.

To be fair the game itself would be a success by any other company; the issue is that the dev price of the game was so high that it needed to grab an audience size not even WoW could initially get and hang onto it. It was an impossible scenario.

I vaguely remember two parallel descriptions of the game at launch. First that it was the fastest selling MMO of all time, and second that it was failing to meet expectations. And while the former could have been just more marketing bullshit, I'm kinda inclined to believe that both statements were true, leading to the hilarious scenario you're talking about.

Quiotu:
Personally I think TOR will stick around for a while, and while I don't think the FTP model will work as well for them as games specifically designed for it... they have some time to tweak it. If TOR works in the F2P market, it pretty much sets a standard that any MMO of any size will work in that market. I'm of the opinion that the game itself should never be free; there's enough content as a single player game that you could charge $20 for it and be okay.

The thing on numbers tends to be with F2P... well, let me start over, with most MMOs you get a sharp spike at launch, a fast drop within the first 60-90 days, followed by a slow dribbling away of players. F2P games run a fairly similar trend, but the initial drop is somewhat gentler, and the loss of players after that tends to be about 1/2 to 1/3 as steep.

This might actually be what the Bioware rep was talking about, btw. Going F2P is kinda like rolling the dice again and getting a fresh start, at that point they're still going to lose players, the best they can hope for is the players stick around for three times as long, but given the catestrophic falloff in numbers, that might not be long enough for them to make money.

Quiotu:
People want to play this for the story, treat it as KOTOR 3+... well, give it to them for cheap and have people pay more for the MMO side of it. Play it online but limit groups, guilds, operative, heroics, and crafting as things you can temporarily or permanently add to the experience with funds. It's very similar to what they're planning, but I personally thing the software itself could still be sold stand-alone.

Honestly, marketing Bioware games on their story... ugh... okay, so it says more about what a terrible state the industry is in from a writing standpoint, but... to get the numbers Bioware wanted from the game, they had to have mass market appeal. When we're in the game industry, looking at Bioware, they have a lot of fans who flock to them saying "this is the best storytelling out there" or something similar. The problem is, it's really not.

So in the normal Bioware fandom, they have people who will flock for their story, and that's fine, but they then made their story a barrier for anyone else who wanted to play the game, and anyone in the general market it looks like the train wreck it is.

My own personal theory is that EA always knew they'd likely have to go F2P within a year. The age of the subscription MMO is over; the only ones still successful on a subscription model are years old with established player bases like WoW and Eve. So, it's boxed retail release (with various premium editions) to gouge everyone who'll buy anything with the names "Star Wars" or "BioWare" on it, then a subscription period to gouge everyone who'll subscribe, then F2P to get everyone else.

I actually like SWTOR quite a lot, and I'd recommend that anyone who liked KotOR give it a crack when it goes F2P. Some of the class stories are really solid; in particular, the Imperial Agent and Smuggler storylines stand out for me but all of them are enjoyable. Is it a perfect game? No. Is it worth playing? Definitely. I'm hoping it will see a resurgence under F2P because there's a lot going for it.

Don't know how to feel, I'm looking forward to playing it some more because I want to finish some of the storyline, but after that first month I still wouldn't pay for it again.

Should have been Kotor 3, I guess is how I feel, still.

I'd just like to remind about this lovely snippet

Greg Zeschuk:

"[WoW] has established standards, it's established how you play an MMO. Every MMO that comes out, I play and look at it. And if they break any of the WoW rules, in my book that's pretty dumb."

This is the misguided philosophy that doomed WAR, AoC and now SWTOR. Hopefully TESO will be the last one in this string of pathetic failures and the MMO genre will start moving forward again.

I guess when they started developing the Old Republic the MMO industry was a different place, adapt and survive.

I enjoyed my time playing my trial up to lvl 15 so I'll probably give it a go when it turns to f2p, but I can't really say that I expect to spend any money on it.

Hehehe.
The only thing that can kill WoW is the servers being turned off. No other MMO will damage it.

Fanghawk:
BioWare: Old Republic's Free-to-Play Success Is Uncertain

...but even in hindsight it's hard to find people who expected the game would fail so quickly.

You guys serious? I'm guessing you didn't read anything other then the marketing teams drivel and otherwise avoided the internet for 6 months?

But, seriously now...

The schadenfreude from watching this ship sink has been...delicious.

S.S.TORtantic 2011-2012.

I will never play a subscription based game. Xbox Live I think kind of pushes it. I think it's worth it to pay for all my games, but paying a subscription to have full access to ONE game? No, just... no.

I tend to hop around games. I generally play games based on what I feel like playing. I know that's technically what everyone who owns games do, but for me, it's more finite than that. If I don't feel like a space adventure, I won't play Mass Effect, I can't. If I'm feeling particularly medieval, I can only play Skyrim or Dragon Age.

The subscription based payment was costing me money, since I don't always feel like playing Star Wars, but constantly freezing and unfreezing my account was just ridiculous. I just didn't have the money to keep the subscription going despite playing when it suits me.

A free-to-play model will absolutely get me back as a player, because you only pay if you play, which I will be doing. I'm happy to fork over money to make my bounty hunter the most badass in this well-crafted galaxy, but only when I'm playing it, which won't be all the time.

I'm sure they would have made WAY more money if they had just made KOTOR 3.

Damn strait there is no way of knowing. The game isn't a bad game, but in a lot of ways it's just another game. I thought that if it were successful, it would be mostly because of the name on the box, not because it was an outstanding game. When push came to shove, it's not special enough.

Last year, Star Wars: The Old Republic was in a prime position to knock World of Warcraft down a peg or two.

This was never actually the case. It was never in that good of position to knock the game down. It could never offer the experience that can out due the "sunk cost" fallacy. If you give players the same game, they are going to revert to the one they already have the most time invested in. It's just a given of economics. The only way it could have surpassed it was if WoW was declined enough already, which it was not. Also, the streams of content were fucking weak. I'm completely positive that is how RIFT has survived as long as it has. Just constantly streaming new content. I'm even looking forward to getting my hands on that expansion.

I also don't feel that the game will be that successful as F2P. When it's free, there is even less reason to skip out on the game that you pay monthly for.

I've tried and failed to get into this game a few times now. The actual story parts are good but they're so spread out it starts to seem like a chore to slog through the boring combat and see them. You could get through both of the first two games with every sidequest in less time than it takes to get through the first act of any character in this one, and the mmo will have gone through about as much story as they do in two hours.

The mmo parts slow the story to a crawl while the story just highlights how repetitive the combat is and takes you out of your skinner box trance, that is why this game fails. How anyone suffered through it to even find out about the week endgame content is beyond me. The free to play option strips out eveything that made the game even remotely bearable or original, it even cripples character creation. I really wonder why they think that will help.

Argtee:
I'm sure they would have made WAY more money if they had just made KOTOR 3.

I think this whole experience was just indicative of EA's philosophy as a whole: follow the leader, no matter how many developers/employees or series you have to sacrifice to get the job done.

There was a great video I watched on Youtube about TOR going free-to-play a couple months back. In that video, the author used the testimony of another videomaker to explain how the game had faltered so badly: EA wanted to rush it to shelves to compete with WOW, even after the subscription model was clearly shown to be failing for most other MMO developers.

From what I remember, the head of EA's Games Division at the time (2007) licenced the source engine for the game (HeroEngine), which said division head supposedly begged the designers for, even though it was nowhere near "shippable" status, and was basically an incomplete engine. Yet, they forged on anyway because they wanted the game out for a release date, and they supposedly assumed it would sell just because of the brand name.

The video then went on to state that the incomplete engine forced the game designers to use workarounds and guesses, and by the time the game was finalized and ready to ship, the final HeroEngine was just being released for developer use. As a result, the game was (and still is) a buggy mess that will often crash if you try to change your graphics settings, and was full of texture and map holes, buggy animations and wonky scripting.

Basically, everyone assumed that because so much money had been spent on it, it couldn't fail. It's essentially becoming the Superman Returns of video games. I'm willing to bet that the upcoming WOW patch/expansion will blow any hope TOR has of bringing back its subscriber base clean out of the water.

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