So this is going to be (for me) a pretty short piece. To say that the announcement that Star Wars - The Old Republic is going to a free-to-play tiered pricing business model this fall has put the MMO blogosphere into overdrive would be, I think, an understatement. I wasn't going to post anything at all on the matter - because everyone seems to pretty much already have their minds made up about the matter. But after reading comment after comment and more than a few full blown blogs on the matter, I felt compelled to repeat a truth that often seems to be overlooked when it comes to MMO's. A truth that has to repeated just about every time another large scale subscription based MMO goes free to play. Here is that truth.
Pretty much every play mechanic in every MMO works better when there are more people.
So when people make statements like "well if the game wasn't fun for you then its just not going to be fun period regardless of whether or not it's free to play or not", well, by far and large, that just isn't true. Because, as it turns out, most of the carefully crafted mechanics the designers have put in the game to make it fun, are quite likely not working as they were designed if there are not enough people to use them. So it's actually quite possible - even probable, that the reason you weren't having any fun in the game is directly related to there not being enough people around playing the game.
Now, don't get me wrong, there may be certain mechanics that have absolutely nothing to do with player population that you hate, and sure enough, adding all the people in the world isn't going to make that better. If you don't like the way boss fights work, well then you're just not going to like the way boss fights work. But if, say for instance what you hated was you could never find enough people to get into the flashpoint to even fight the boss, or if say for instance you felt like you were flying around on a deserted planet, because you essentially were, then this game is only going to improve for you.
Reducing the entry barrier to a game to nothing brings people into a game. Lots of people. People that quite likely might not play otherwise. And having more people in the game is going to be more fun for everyone.
This is what I know. I know Star Wars - The Old Republic was losing subscribers at an astronomical rate. I know that for me personally, the reason I stopped playing was that I felt like I was driving around deserted zones. I personally am thrilled that the people responsible for the game are taking steps that will hopefully revitalize the player population and bring new people to the game.
I don't know if this will return the game to profitability or not. What I do know is that I'm looking forward to returning to the game and playing it the way that it was at launch - teeming with people.