EA may well be trembling in their sports based boots just about now. Despite securing one of the biggest licenses in history – the Star Wars Saga – and creating a high profile launch for their IP, ‘The Old Republic’, it appears the struggling MMO may well be in trouble amid reports of less than stellar subscriber figures. Less than a year old (Eight months since its release in late 2011) and with over two and a half million sales to date, the game still only managed to maintain 1.5 million subscribers. However with numbers dropping off, EA is determined to start damage limitation to stop the game from crashing early into its life.
To this end, EA has recently announced that ‘The Old Republic’ will be becoming a free to play title, with only certain extras being kept for the paid subscribers. Paid subscribers are now known as ‘premium players’ and now receive bonus Cartel Coins (the in-game currency) to use throughout the game world. Players can now level up their characters to level 50 in story mode without having to play the traditional $15 per month fee. However, most other features such as Warzones, Flashpoints and Space Missions are limited for free users, with Operations only being accessible to those who opt in for the paid subscription. The free to play option will be introduced this fall, and if you want more details on the differences between the two options, visit http://www.swtor.com/free/features .
In an transcript published by Seeking Alpha (which can be read here at http://seekingalpha.com/article/767281-electronic-arts-management-discusses-q1-2013-results-earnings-call-transcript?page=4 ), EA Labels President Frank Gibeau was to the point about the lowering subscriber numbers, while also stating that as long as the game managed to maintain half a million players, The Old Republic will ultimately break even financially. He also explained the motive behind turning the Star Wars MMO into a free to play title rather than continue compulsory charging of consumers.
“Although it launched well, subscriptions have been on the declining trajectory and have now slipped below 1 million. Last year, we announced that the breakeven point was roughly 500,000 subscribers. And while we are well above that today, that is not good enough. 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.”
Gibeau also added that a price drop would be placed in effect in only a couple of days, saying: “Beginning August 6, Star Wars: The Old Republic will retail for $14.99, essentially offering the first month for free.” The EA Labels President also added that the sales figures for The Old Republic were not worrying to the firm due to the overwhelming response to Battlefield 3, which has shifted over 15 million units worldwide to date. Gibeau said he “couldn’t be more pleased” at how the company divisions allowed for the losses from ‘The Old Republic’ to be counteracted by the popular shooter series.
Even with the lower than expected figures, ‘The Old Republic’ being part of such a big series as Star Wars will no doubt pick up players in the near future. By becoming free to play, EA hopes it will attract new players who may have opted out of the galaxy sized MMO the first time round.