So on a Saturday, of all days, BioWare finally announced the two big details everyone was waiting to hear: When and How Much? The When is December 20th (or 22nd in EU), and the How Much is $15/month with discounts for multi-month orders.
Obviously, big, big news, although it’s certainly not going to satiate any SWTOR fan’s desire for more info (for instance, when does the early access start)? Anyway, let’s break it down:
BioWare’s obviously concerned about pulling a World of Warcraft with its launch — i.e. having too many people try to jam through the door at the same time, servers crashing, people unable to log in. A bad launch day is something players tend to remember and hold over a company’s head forever, so it’s pretty imperative that this not happen.
So we’re seeing a multi-stage rollout: first the early access folks with the pre-orders, then NA, then EU. Within that, BioWare’s stated that it has no compunctions against throttling access during this period to ensure that those who do get in aren’t subject to a horrendous experience.
December 20th is an interesting pick for a launch date, I’ll admit. I honestly thought it’d be a little before this, perhaps December 10th or so, but the 20th accomplishes a few important deeds. First, it hits the targeted “Holiday 2011” mark. Second, it gets the game out the doors before Christmas, although just barely (and I feel bad for the BioWare staff that will undoubtedly have to work through the holiday season to troubleshoot and monitor everything). Third, it makes this the “must play” game of the season, particularly in the weeks afterward where there’s traditionally little else to compete for attention. Finally, it gives BioWare as long as possible to polish up the game without crossing the Christmas barrier.
For many people, it’s better to have a date than to be left wondering, but now players have to cope with the reality that we have a three-month (minus a couple days) wait in front of us instead of the hope that, hey, it could come out on Halloween or something. It’s a good chunk of the year to wait, but speaking as a player who deeply values a finished product over something rushed out the door early, I’m all for giving BioWare this time. I just hope that they get more of the beta test weekends going and soon, so that the feedback can be incorporated into the launch product.
I really thought we’d be seeing a little something different with the subscription cost — perhaps a higher per-month charge, or a strong emphasis on an in-game store, or whatever. But no, it’s pretty standard: $15/month, $42/3 months, $78/6 months. As always when studios offer this variety, it’s up to players to weigh the potential benefit of a few dollars saved versus locking into a longer time frame.
I am happy it’s not more than $15 a month, and I think it’s smart, because it puts SWTOR on war footing with WoW. One thing to note is that we didn’t see anything in regards to either special pre-order pricing (I like what LOTRO and RIFT did with that) or lifetime subscriptions. I wasn’t really expecting it, but still, it would have been nice to have more options.