In June, BioWare made the unusual move of making Star Wars: The Old Republic free-to-play, up to level 15. Now, the studio has confirmed that by the end of the year, even more of the game is going free-to-play, with gamers able to make their way up to level 50 before running into difficulties.
There will be a few restrictions, of course, and if you want to progress beyond level 50, check out new features or try new in-game items, you'll have to fork over real-world cash, either on a case-by-case purchase basis, or through a subscription.
Matthew Bromberg, GM of BioWare Austin explains the decision:
Players want flexibility and choice. The subscription-only model presented a major barrier for a lot of people who wanted to become part of The Old Republic™ universe.
Jeff Hickman, Executive Producer of Star Wars: The Old Republic agrees:
Since launch we have been adding new content and refining The Old Republic at a breakneck pace based on the feedback from our fans. 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.
So - how do you want to jump into The Old Republic? By the end of 2012, you'll have a couple of choices.
Suscribe, or redeem a Game Time Card, and you'll get unrestricted access to everything in the game, just like you have right now. By signing up for an ongoing membership, you'll also be granted a monthly allowance of Cartel Coins, the new virtual currency to be introduced soon to The Old Republic. (These Coins can then be used to buy in-game items like customisable gear and "convenience features" to enhance your gaming.)
Alternatively, go the free-to-play route: The first 50 levels of the game will be made available, with some restrictions on access to new content, and the occasional advanced player feature kept out of bounds. If you've stocked up on Cartel Coins, you may be able to unlock them!
Regardless of how you'd like to play, you'll still have to purchase the original game at retail. To celebrate, Star Wars: The Old Republic is slashing its retail price to just US$14.99 (dependent on region), which will give you one full month of paid subscription.
If you're already playing - or have played and since given up - don't feel left out. You'll be given a bunch of additional benefits thanks to the extra attention BioWare is paying the game. Current subscribers will be given a bunch of Cartel Coins and gain access to a handful of special in-game items, and anyone who re-activates their subscription will qualify for "special benefits".
In addition to all of this, BioWare promises that game content updates will be happening much more frequently, bringing new content to the game all the time. You have no excuses not to head back to Alderaan really, do you?
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Jimmy the Geek