As more and more MMOs’ release, it is evident that World of Warcraft’s success has been an anomaly. Remember when SWTOR was strutted as the next “WoW killer?” But ultimately a large exodus occurred, and layoffs followed. Many have since begun questioning the success of any subscription based MMO to follow. If Bioware is struggling with a subscription model when they have the biggest IP you can attach to an MMO, what hope is there for any other MMO that follows the same model? Essentially, Bioware needs to convert to the Free-to-Play model if they want to increase their profit and player base.
The future of MMOs is Free-to-Play with microtransactions. Playing Diablo 3 has made this evident. I know what you are thinking, Diablo 3 isn’t an MMO. Technically you are right, at least in the traditional sense. MMOs are generally defined by hundreds or thousands of players simultaneously playing in a persistent world, but there are other factors that define MMOs. Other common features include some form of progression, social interaction, in-game economy, character customization and crafting. Diablo 3 has all these traits; it allows players to group together from a pool of thousands of other players. Players are able to socialize using the in-game general chat and friends list. Also, there is an in-game economy established by the Auction House. Diablo 3 will be generating income post launch through the real-money Auction House, an alternative to the in-game gold Auction House. It allows users to sell items for cash for a modest 15% transaction fee, but only when items sell successfully. Although the Auction House hasn’t been implemented yet, the plan is to implement it soon. SWTOR can use the same model for their NTN.
The Free-to-Play is being used successfully by Everquest II, Dungeons and Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online. Many have speculated that the next MMO from Blizzard, Titan, will be Free-to-Play. So why do MMOs still use subscriptions over the Free-to-play model? Many publishers look at World of Warcraft’s numbers and think if they can allure away 10 percent of World of Warcraft’s subscribers they will be successful. Looking at Rift’s add campaign slogan: “You aren’t in Azeroth anymore? Makes this prevalent. Even though many new MMOs attract a good portion of players away from World of Warcraft, most of them either go back or jump onto the next big MMO.
SWTOR would be perfect for the Free-to-Play model because of the Legacy System. One only has to look at the black market to support this. The exchange rate the day before patch 1.3 was about nine dollars for 1 million credits. After 1.3 released it went up to almost twenty dollars for 1 million credits, demonstrating that players are willing to pay real money for in-game Legacy unlocks.
With so many great MMOs on the market, bunny hoping from one to the other is becoming the thing to do. It is one group of players that play all these MMOs, and I doubt most will subscribe to multiple MMOs simultaneously, but they will likely spend a few dollars a month on microtransactions on various MMOs. Obviously, Bioware is banking on patch 1.3 to turn the tides in their favor, but if it doesn’t the Free-to-Play model would be their best option. Sound off in the forms bellow and let us know if SWTOR should stay a subscription based MMO or change to Free-to-Play.