Bioware has announced that its struggling MMO set within the Star Wars universe will adopt a free-to-play model after its player count dropped below one million.
Whilst the game launched in December last year with a subscriber count of over 1.7 million, the number has continued to fall until now, where it has dropped below the one million mark for the first time.
SW:TOR received critical acclaim upon its initial release and was hyped as a serious contender to other subscription based MMOs on the market, specifically, Blizzard’s long-running World of Warcraft franchise.
EA has pegged the move as disappointing, adding that switching to the new price plan would provide users with access to much of the title’s content for free.
Frank Gibeau, president of EA labels, has said that whilst the title would still break even – provided it maintained a subscriber count of 500,000, its current performance was "not good enough".
Speaking to analysts during a conference call, he stated: "The message from players exiting the game is clear, 40% say they were turned off by the monthly subscription and many indicate they would come back if we offered a free-to-play model,"
With a number of MMO titles switching to a free-to-play model, the area has become increasingly competitive and many have attributed SW:TOR‘s failure to maintain a high subscriber count to its usage of a monthly subscription, along with a lack of content to justify it.
Matthew Bromberg, GM of Bioware Austin said: "Players want flexibility and choice. The subscription-only model presented a major barrier for a lot of people who wanted to become part of The Old Republic universe,"
The new model will allow gamers to play through The Old Republic‘s first 50 levels for free, with limited access to the game’s features.
Those wanting full access must continue to pay the £9.50 per month subscription fee, which will also grant an allowance of in-game currency that can be used to purchase items.
EA’s decision to switch the title to the new pricing model comes just two months before Blizzard releases its latest expansion for its World of Warcraft franchise – Mists of Pandaria.
With subscriber numbers of 10.2 million, it has secured its presence as the most popular MMO title.
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