New details indicate that more content will soon be available as "free to play" within Star Wars: The Old Republic. The early signal is that the differences between "subscription" and "free to play" based features will be coming this fall. A press release as well as several new pages on the official site explain some of the details and break down the differences between what is included with each type of play option.
UPDATE: According to a document released for the upcoming EA Earnings call, the free to play model will become available this November:
Quote from EA
STAR WARS®: The Old Republic™ will move to a more accessible two-tiered pricing
model in November. Players can chose between a $14.99 premium monthly
subscription and a free-to-play model with some restrictions on content and advanced
features. Players will be able to purchase upgrades with in-game currency.
Update 2: A letter from Jeff Hickman is available on the official site.
More details and the full press release are contained after the jump.
Quote from EA
EA Expands Award-Winning MMO Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ with Free-to-Play Option This Fall
New Free-to-Play Option Will Open Up the Critically-Acclaimed MMO from BioWare and LucasArts to Millions of Additional Star Wars™ Fans and Gamers Worldwide
AUSTIN, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- BioWare™, a Label of Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA), announced today that it will be expanding the story-driven, massively multiplayer online game Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ by adding a new Free-to-Play option this fall. This option will give players access to each of the eight iconic Star Wars character class storylines, all the way up to level 50, with certain restrictions*. Unlimited game access, including new higher-level game content and new features, will be made available through individual purchases or through a subscription option.
"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," said Matthew Bromberg, GM of BioWare Austin.
Jeff Hickman, Executive Producer of Star Wars: The Old Republic added, "Since launch, we've been listening to feedback from our fans and adding new content and refining The Old Republic at a breakneck pace. We believe we are in a position to help improve the service even more, not only by continuing to add new content, but also by expanding the game to many more Star Wars fans, increasing the populations on worlds and the vibrancy of the community."
Starting this fall, there will be two different ways to play Star Wars: The Old Republic:
Subscription — A service designed for players who want unrestricted access to all the game features via ongoing subscription or by redeeming a Game Time Card. In addition to gaining access to all game content as our current subscribers do now, subscribers will receive ongoing monthly grants of Cartel Coins, the new virtual currency that will be introduced later this fall. Cartel Coins can be used to purchase valuable in-game items including customizable gear and convenience features that will enhance the game play experience.
Free-To-Play — The first 50 levels will be Free-to-Play, with restrictions on access to new content and advanced player features. Some restrictions can be "unlocked" with Cartel Coins.
As the first step towards adding the new Free-to-Play option this fall, Star Wars: The Old Republic will go on sale in August for $14.99 USD, including one-month of free subscription.
Current and former players will also find additional benefits as part of this program. BioWare will be increasing the frequency of game content updates, with the first of many new releases coming in August. In addition, current subscribers will receive Cartel Coin grants and qualify for access to special in-game items. Even former players who re-activate now will qualify for special benefits. To learn more about these rewards, please visit www.StarWarstheOldRepublic.com/FREE.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is one of the most critically acclaimed MMOs of all time, having won MSNBC's "Game of the Year" award in 2011, "Editor's Choice" awards from IGN, PC Gamer and "Best MMO of 2011" awards from Game Informer, GameSpy, AOL Massively, Ten Ton Hammer and more. The game is set thousands of years before the classic Star Wars movies, with the Galactic Republic and Sith Empire locked in the middle of an epic, galactic war. Players choose one of eight iconic Star Wars character classes, including the Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Smuggler, Trooper, Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitor, Bounty Hunter and Imperial Agent, becoming the hero or villain of their own personal Star Wars saga.
For more information on Star Wars: The Old Republic, please visit www.StarWarsTheOldRepublic.com/FREE, follow the game on Twitter at http://twitter.com/swtor or "Like" Star Wars: The Old Republic on Facebook at http://facebook.com/starwarstheoldrepublic. For additional press assets, please visit http://info.ea.com.
WARNING: PEOPLE WHO HAVE PHOTOSENSITIVE SEIZURES (A SEIZURE REPORTEDLY INDUCED BY FLASHING LIGHTS OR PATTERNS), OR OTHER SYMPTOMS FROM BEING PHOTOSENSITIVE, SHOULD NOT PLAY THIS GAME WITHOUT FIRST SEEING A DOCTOR
Rewards available to subscription based players can be found on the official Star Wars: The Old Republic rewards page. A new currency called Cartel Coins is being introduced and can be used to purchase in-game rewards. Past and current subscribers will earn Cartel Coins based upon length of subscription and for active subscriptions going forward. The page includes the option for players to vote on their favorite among three new rewards - Rancor Holoreplica, Carbonite Hibernation Capsule, or Party Jawa. There is also a sneak peek at a few items that may be available for purchase using the new currency - a Kowakian Monkey Lizard pet, Sith Meditation Throne, and the Lost Helm of Darth Nihilus.
A full comparison chart showing what is available for free and what is only available to subscription paying players can be found on the official Star Wars: The Old Republic features page. The new free to play option will open up the full 50 levels of class story content to players. However, non-subscription players will only be allowed "limited access" to several other features such as character creation choices, Warzones, Flashpoints, Space Missions, and travel features. Non-subscription players will also have no access to Operations and "Extremely Limied Access" to the Galactic Trade Network. It remains to be seen what exactly these limitations entail.
The official site also has an FAQ section available answering many questions about the new free to play model. Head over to the official site to view the FAQ in its entirety. A few of the more interesting answers are below:
Q: What are Cartel Coins?
A: Cartel Coins will be the new in-game virtual currency used for the Cartel Market. Cartel Coins may be used to purchase specialty items that allow you to customize and equip your character cosmetically. With Cartel Coins you will be able to purchase in-game items including customizable gear and convenience features that will enhance the game play experience. Cartel Coins will also be available for purchase from our website in various price packs.
Q: I bought the game, but have let my subscription lapse. What happens if I want to come back now?
A: Coming back now is a great idea, because we’ve created special rewards just for lapsed subscribers who have decided to return now, rather than waiting until fall. As a former player, you will earn rewards as soon as you reactivate your account both for the current and prior paid months of your subscription. Rewards will be paid to you in Cartel Coins, which you will be able to use in our Cartel Market to purchase new gear, consumables, and specialty items that allow you to customize your gameplay experience.
Q: If the Free-to-Play option is not available until the fall, what are the benefits to buying the game now?
A: If you join The Old Republic now, you will start earning Cartel Coins for every month you are subscriber. In addition, in August we will be launching new content and plan to provide more frequent Game Updates going forward.
Q: What happens if I decide to change from being a subscription player to a Free-to-Play member? What will happen to my credits, inventory, bank items, and characters?
A: Your account will automatically be downgraded and it will operate under the Free player restrictions. You will need to choose what items to keep with you within the restriction levels of the free access. Furthermore, you will be able to see, but not use, your excess credits, inventory slots, bank tabs, and extra characters.