News surrounding Star Wars: The Old Republic lately has been focused on the game's move to "free-to-play" and what that actually means. It's a nice change of pace then that BioWare has announced the first official content expansion for the MMO, titled Rise of the Hutt Cartel. Running a cost of $20 ($10 for subscribers), Rise of the Hutt Cartel raises the level cap from 50 to 55, adds the planet Makeb and continues the epic storyline that makes The Old Republic so great.
There are certain question that should linger, however, in relation to the expansion and how it interleaves with the free-to-play system currently being used. Will a free-to-play player have access to all content, including free rein to replay dungeons and operations, if they pay for the expansion? Or will they be severely limited as they are currently? It's of not that the FAQ on the expansion makes no mention of free-to-play accessibility.
It will be interesting to see whether BioWare follows in the Lord of the Rings: Online's footsteps with regards to expansion content. If a player, subscriber or free-to-play, purchases the content they unlock complete access to it. There's no difference between the two in regards to expansion content -- everything is equally open or closed. If Star Wars continues its heavy restrictions on free-to-play players after paying extra for an expansion, prepare for another wave of angry news posts.
Star Wars: The Old Republic's Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion will be launch in Spring, 2013. Preordering early (as in, pre-pre-orderers) will gain early access to the add-ons content. Unfortunately the offer only lasts until January 7. Check out The Old Republic's website for more information.