While this year's E3 wasn't necessarily the most memorable of shows, a few moments still stand out in my mind. One such image is that of BioWare's Dr. Ray Muzyka solemnly walking out onto EA's press conference stage to, as I put it then, "plead for the life of Star Wars: The Old Republic." He looked almost as tired as EA CEO John Riccitiello (who looked as if he'd aged a decade since E3 2011), and less than thrilled with what he was there to say. The Old Republic would be going free to play for the first 15 levels, we learned from Dr. Ray. I said at the time that when next year's E3 rolled around, EA would bring him back out to finish the job, making the game free-to-play outright. I was only half joking.
Thankfully, EA spared Dr. Ray the trip this time, and opted to simply send out a press release. Yes, it's true. The Old Republic is headed toward an outright free to play model, starting this fall. Yup, this fall.
The free to play model for The Old Republic does include a few restrictions. Technically, the game is free-to-play up to level 50, with real money costs applied to new content and advanced player features. A subscription option will remain for those who want to play free of any restrictions on content.
In addition to the new financial model, EA also announced that the game's initial price would be dropped to $14.99 starting this August.
With subscribers dropping out, it only made sense for EA to go this way. Free to play is obviously no death knell, as many different games have employed the model with success. It's more that many had wondered aloud during The Old Republic's development if it might be the last gasp of the subscription-model MMO. Obviously World of Warcraft won't be changing its business model any time soon, but can you honestly imagine anyone developing a new MMO with a subscription model in this climate? I can't foresee it. Then again, I also thought EA would wait until 2013 to make this move, so perhaps my predicting skills aren't so hot.