SWTOR free-to-play a 'straightforward decision'

SWTOR free-to-play a 'straightforward decision'
Seth Tipps

By Seth Tipps

August 31st 2012 at 8:37AM

Subscription fees the biggest turn-off for most fans, says Bioware GM Matthew Bromberg

Shifting the troubled MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic to a hybrid business model was a "straightforward decision".

SWTOR had 1.7 million users at peak, but nine months later that figure has nearly halved, dropping below a million.

"We looked at it and thought, what is the size of opportunity for your brand?" Bromberg told CVG.

"There are tens of millions of Star Wars fans, how many have tried our game? How many would like to try it? Clearly the awareness of the brand is really high so what's standing in the way?

"We did a lot of research and found that people who gave it a try but left found the subscription to be the biggest barrier. So it was a pretty straightforward decision for us."

Layoffs have shrunk the Austin studio, and some view the adoption of a mixed subscription and free-to-play model as an admission of defeat.

Others think it's just a sign of the times; subscription models can't hope to compete with free-to-play.

Either way, the real question is if the addition of free-to-play will make SWTOR more profitable, and on this count Bromberg pleads ignorance.

When asked if the new model meant more money, he replied, "I don't know."

If he's being sincere, it's a blissful sort of ignorance born from priorities that place more value on sharing a good game than marketing it.

"Obviously we are a business and we have to grow that business, but my primary intention is to make as many people play this beautiful game that we've made," Bromberg explained.

"It just so happens that the business will naturally grow as more people come to play the game, but we're not trying to squeeze every single penny out of it."