Who Says Star Wars: The Old Republic Will Inevitably Go Free-to-Play?

With the assumption that BioWare's new subscription-based massively multiplayer online Star Wars role-playing game will one day succumb to the dark side of free-to-play running rampant, commenter Odin believes The Old Republic could flourish under the archaic monthly model in today's Speak Up on Kotaku.

I honestly don't know where people have inherited this bizarre notion that free-to-play is somehow an inherently more profitable model for MMO's to follow and so it's somehow "inevitable" that The Old Republic is either going to follow suit or die out. Free-to-play CAN be more profitable, but a subscription model can also be more profitable and there are plenty of examples of both models producing successful and profitable MMO's as well as unsuccessful and unprofitable ones.

A lot of the games I see rolled out as shining examples of the glorious model that is free-to-play are games that never achieved any significant popularity (Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons & Dragons Online, DC Universe Online, etc) during their time as subscription based MMO's. Or more precisely they were mostly flops that just couldn't compete with the other sub based MMO's out there (most prominently World of Warcraft, but also including games like EVE and Final Fantasy XI). Naturally they're going to flourish better under a F2P model if they couldn't succeed under a subscription model.

The idea that free-to-play is somehow inherently more profitable seems to be based on the premise that it's better to grab a small amount of money from a whole lot of people than a larger amount of money from a small number of people. Which is a valid business model, low price high volume can quite easily make more money than high price, low volume sales. But they seem to forget that the inverse is also true, as well as forgetting that the most profitable route is always going to be high price, high volume sales or in a nutshell: World of Warcraft.

But it's not like you have to achieve WoW level success to be profitable, another thing that seems to be conveniently forgotten. Both models have their merits and disadvantages. Which is a more profitable model is purely dependent on the game. Star Wars: The Old Republic is not going to go free to play unless it bombs out (looking unlikely right now) so it's kind of silly to act like it certainly will.

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