In my last post I wrote how EA/Bioware’s current free-to-play model discouraged me from spending any money in their cash shop because there was no way to permanently unlock endgame content. A press-only conference call happened recently with new details on the free-to-play. It got me thinking about the business model again, and I experienced a revelation on the three audiences EA/Bioware is catering to.
The first audience is obvious: the subscriber. This is as it is now and has been since the price drop during summer. You pay $15 a month; you get access to the game. With F2P coming they will also get extra Cartel Coins (the virtual currency) to spend in the Cartel Store (the cash shop). Most subscribers will have fun spending their free coins on pets and mounts while getting all the content automatically with their subscription.
The second audience is the single player. This person treats the game, not as a MMO, but as a single player RPG. They want to explore the planets, listen to the voice acting, and see the class story. They might want to see every class’s story or they might just want to see one story, but they are not interested in paying a subscription fee. For these players, SWTOR is essentially a $60 single player game.
I have seen some preliminary prices in the Cartel Store for unlocking restrictions, and it looks like $60 will be enough to unlock all the “quality of life” restrictions for the leveling and story content, things like extra quickbars, inventory slots, cargo hold (bank) tabs, and character slots.
Certain things cannot be permanently unlocked like lockbox rewards from quests and reduced xp gains, both of which require recurring fees to remove. For the most part though, your $60 gets you a single player RPG with 8 class storylines. Eventually, when new class storylines are added, the single player will be able to buy them as DLC, basically an expansion to the game that continues their characters’ stories.
The third, and last, audience is the weekly pass player. This is the player that has completed the class story on one or more characters. They have completed their single player RPG. There is no new story DLC available, so most of them are done playing for the moment. Some of them, however, will be interested in some endgame content. That is where the weekly pass comes into play. These unlock one endgame progression path: Flashpoints, Warzones, Space Battles, or Operations. For $10 a month they can get access to one of these.
Now that is not a good deal. Bioware has made the subscription path a good deal and the single player RPG path a good deal. The weekly pass is not that good a deal. This what I have a problem with. At endgame, you will always be renting access to content. It does give more freedom with the subscription. You can choose to have access to Flashpoints one week and Warzones the next. If you get busy the last week of the month, you can skip the weekly pass and save some money for the month, unlike a subscription you have to pay for the full month in advance.
These weekly pass players are what EA/Bioware hopes will switch to the subscription. They have probably received $60 from that player as they did the single player stuff. If they want to continue playing, there really is not much for them to do but move onto endgame content, all of which requires a rental fee. Once they have tried out the weekly pass a few times, they will quickly see that the subscription is a better deal for endgame content. As I said before, some of them will quit and wait for the next story content, but some of them will transition to subscribers.
I am currently planning to try the game out as a single player RPG. I do not have much interest in the endgame content. It is basically the same as World of Warcraft, but I feel WoW has a much better endgame than SWTOR ever will. This will depend on the pricing though. Based on the pricing EA/Bioware revealed during the press event, they consider 100 Cartel Coins to be equal to $1.00 with the best deal being $40 for 5500 coins. Assuming $20 gets you 2500 Cartel Coins, that is a total 8000 Cartel Coins for $60.
Once free-to-play is out, I will be logging on my trial account that has been converted to a free account and looking at all the pricing in the Cartel Store. I have a feeling most of the restrictions can be removed for 8000 Cartel Coins. There might be a few that cannot be afforded with that amount of coins, but they are things mainly for endgame like Artifact (purple) gear equip access.