Update: EA president Frank Gibeau confirmed through an investor's call this afternoon that subscription numbers have dropped below one million but remain above 500,000. 40 percent of those who've left reportedly did so because of subscription fees.
In the autumn months, Star Wars: The Old Republic will officially be adopting a free-to-play alternative for the community -- much to no one's surprise. EA and BioWare will keep the subscription service intact, of course, but now there's an option for folks who'd rather not a fee.
Old Republic F2P will allow players access to all eight classes, and F2P account holders can still get their characters to level 50. That said, certain high level content and newer features will cost money to unlock.
BioWare Austin executive producer Jeff Hickman noted that the studio has been paying attention to community feedback:
“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.”
The new system will utilize Cartel Coins, a form of purchasable virtual currency that can unlock in-game items such as gear and convenience features -- probably similar to the Legacy "perks" like speed boosts and a trade kiosk for your ship. Here are the two account types EA will be implementing:
- 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.
To make the game even more affordable, Old Republic will "go on sale in August" for a modest $15, with a one-month subscription included. BioWare Austin has also promised more frequent updates.
Recently, former Old Republic executive producer Rich Vogel left BioWare Austin after seven years with the studio. The TOR developer has undergone restructuring since the MMO's release last year.