Following EA’s first quarter 2013 earnings call, the software giant revealed that subscriber numbers for their massively multi-player online game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, have now dropped below one-million. An exact player count was not made public, but is stated as being “well over” 500,000.
Population has been on a steady decline since release, dropping from 1.7 to 1.3 million subscribers between February and May 2012. Bioware Austin, the studio maintaining stewardship over the game, has faced two rounds of layoffs already this year. Old Republic is now eight months old, having been released in December of 2011 after a six year production estimated to cost nearly $200 million.
The same day, EA/Bioware issued a press release stating that the beleaguered, mega-expensive MMO will re-launch as a free-to-play title “this fall.”
Sadly, the features list for free users appears shockingly limited, offering only “Limited Access” to MMO-styled multiplayer events such as Warzones, Flashpoints, and Space Missions. When coupled with unannounced player restrictions on inventory, character, and money capacity, Old Republic appears downright stingy when compared to other free-to-play titles. Still, EA/Bioware is promising full access to all eight of the narrative heavy, fully voiced, class specific, quest lines for free. These plot heavy story arcs are widely considered Old Republic’s strongest and most unique feature.
The press release also states that the software required to run Old Republic will go on sale for $15 starting August 7th for those who just can’t wait or find the free account terms unacceptable. This is a digital only deal, but will include one month of subscription time, a $15 value.
A free trial for Old Republic allowing play through level 15 has been available since mid-July.