Surprising nobody (except Kotaku), Star Wars: The Old Republic has gone free-to-play less than a year after its initial launch. The soon-to-be-implemented cash shop, the Cartel Market, has recently hit the test server for bugtesting. Considering not even new raid instances received proper testing before going live back when I played, one can only assume that Bioware considers this to be by far the most important thing to ever be added to the game.
The Cartel Market will work much like your standard free-to-play MMO shop. Players can purchase a variety of items, equipment and services using a currency called Cartel Coins which are either purchased using real-world money or doled out monthly to those that choose to continue to pay a subscription fee. I’ve combed extensively through the list of goods and services that will soon be available via the Cartel Market, and can safely say that this is one of the worst implementations of the free-to-play model I have ever seen.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at some of these “services” that will be up for sale:
Authorization: Artifact Equipment: This Authorization allows you to equip and use most Artifact quality gear and item modifications. Subscribers automatically gain this Authorization. Applies to Story and PvP Equipment. 1200 CC
Unlock: Cargo Hold Access: Unlock access to your ship’s cargo hold. Gain storage for 80 items. Your Cargo Hold can be accessed on your Ship or from the Fleet. Subscribers and Prefered Status Players have automatic access to this feature. Makes a great gift for another player. 475 CC
Customization Control: Hide Head Slot: Unlock the ability to toggle the display of your helmet equipment. The cosmetic feature allows you to better control the look of your character. Subscribers have automatic access to this feature. 350 CC
Unlock: Additional Quickbar: Unlocks an additional Quick Bar for abilities. Can be used to acquire a total of 6 Quick Bars. Subscribers automatically have the maximum number of Quick Bars. 250 CC
Weekly Pass: Flashpoints: Allows unlimited access to Boss Loot from Flashpoints for 7 days. Duration begins on use of this item. 240 CC
Weekly Pass: Operations: Allows unlimited access to Operations for 7 days. Duration begins on use of this item. 240 CC
Things like paying to expand your inventory and bank capacity or speed up your leveling progress for convenience’s sake is one thing, but paying to have a bank in the first place? Paying for hotbars? For the ability to hide your helmet? Paying week-by-week to able to loot bosses in dungeons, and to even be able to zone into raid dungeons? Paying to be able to equip loot? Each and every facet of the game has been sectioned off behind a pay wall such that you would likely pay several hundred dollars just to be able to have the same basic features as a subscriber.
How much do Cartel Coins cost? The specifics don’t seem to be out yet, but considering subscribers paying $15 a month will be getting a monthly 500CC, unlocking these features sure as hell won’t be cheap.
The only thing that seems legitimately free here are the story missions, inconveniencing the player at every turn should they try to do anything involving multiple players in what Bioware continues to insist is a multiplayer RPG. It’s a system that is very obviously designed to make you either subscribe or stop playing, and I think the vast majority of new players coming in when free-to-play officially hits will choose the latter. If this is the best they could come up with to save The Old Republic, it won’t be long before the servers shut down altogether.