Can free-to-play save Star Wars: The Old Republic?

Star Wars is more than just a series of movies or your typical franchise.

Indeed, the expansive Star Wars universe has become modern folklore for fans all over the world, alongside a virtual industry of merchandise, especially games and toys. The Star Wars video games have been especially impressive, and The Force Unleashed got major press for being, as the cliché goes, a game changer way back in 2008.


At the same time, all has not been well in the Empire. As we recently reported here on TG, “No gamer is likely to forget all the buzz and hoopla surround Star Wars: the Old Republic [which] kicked off with over 1.7 million subscribers, yet slowly lost a significant number of players as time went by.” 

How significant? According to reports, it went from 1.7 million to less than a million in a nine-month period.


In an effort to try and save the game, Star Wars: The Old Republic is switching to a free-to-play model. BioWare is a division of Electronic Arts, who released The Old Republic, and their new general manager Matt Bromberg told CVG, “My primary intention to to make as many people play this beautiful game that we’ve made… A lot of other games that have moved from subscription to hybrid haven’t lost as many customers as you might think, in fact a lot of them have gained subscribers.”


While no one can predict the impact of having a free to play model and if it will help revive the game, Bromberg added, “We do think the numbers will grow steadily, but we’re not looking for some enormous surge on day one.”


Now could also be a good time to try and resurrect the game because there’s a big gaming season coming up this fall with Halo 4, Call of Duty, and many other long awaited games about to hit the market. As we’ve previously discussed, the gaming industry is also trying to embrace free to play as a way to try and combat piracy, and the Old Republic could benefit from this, as well as the next big surge in the market.


As Bromberg told CVG: “We looked at where the market opportunity was, and it seemed clear to us that a game as big and broad as Star Wars was well suited for the free-to-play model… We looked at it and thought, what is the size of opportunity for your brand?

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