Star Wars: The Old Republic launches today, complete with a traditional subscription model. Meanwhile, more and more often we're seeing MMOs either launching or switching to a free-to-play model. While TOR creative director James Ohlen doesn't discount that possibility eventually, he says "right now" the company is committed to the subscription.
"I don't know what's going to happen in the future," Ohlen said, "but right now, we're very much focused on making it a subscription game."
He feels the subscription model is held to a higher standard, but doesn't think it will disappear completely. "Yes, it's getting difficult for companies to compete in the subscription space because players' expectations are so high," he told Gamasutra. "That has been a big challenge for us, mainly because Blizzard set the bar so high with World of Warcraft. But I think we've hit it and we're bringing innovations that are really going to change the way people view the AAA subscription MMO."
This echoes recent comments from BioWare founder Ray Muzyka, who said that the "quality of volume and content that we provide" will justify the premium subscription price.
Of course, the project's long development time has led to some justifiable questioning of what it will take to turn the game profitable. "There are different levels of success and we have all the different models built out," Ohlen said. "While we want to be super-successful, we also need to plan for not hitting all our targets. Can we then still be profitable? Yes, but it will take longer." He explains that millions of subscribers would mean "super success," they can make do with a smaller base. "While it would be great to get the kind of numbers that World of Warcraft gets, we don't have to come close to those in order to be wildly successful. We could be well below WoW and still be incredibly profitable."
The Old Republic is available now, and you can check out our first look for more hands-on details.