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Interview: BioWare's new republic

How can The Old Republic transform into a free-to-play game, and how can it succeed? CVG asks the new man in charge

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It must be a remarkably complex task to price all the in-game items. You can't, for example, allow free players to buy all premium must-have items for a sum cheaper than a monthly subscription. I imagine there's hundreds of such problems you have to avoid.
Yes absolutely. Games are certainly an interesting mixture of art and science. In-game economies are hugely complex, and with all the will in the world you'll never get them completely right.

However, the great thing about online is you get feedback every day and an opportunity to tweak things every day.

Do you think you'll make more money converting to this model?
I don't know.

Well, what is the objective?
Obviously we are a business and we have to grow that business, but my primary intention is to make as many people play this beautiful game that we've made. It just so happens that the business will naturally grow as more people come to play the game, but we're not trying to squeeze every single penny out of it.

Do you feel there is opportunity to increase the subscription base?
Well there are lots of Star Wars fans out there, but really I don't know what to expect. A lot of other games that have moved from subscription to hybrid haven't lost as many customers as you might think, in fact a lot of them have gained subscribers.

But you must be preparing because this is as much about server capacities as it is about showing investors your numbers.

So there must be some kind of internal target or guideline.
Yeah there is but I can't say what it is. But also because I'm not sure. You have to plan for this but you can never be sure. We do think the numbers will grow steadily but we're not looking for some enormous surge on day one.

Generally speaking, what do you think the future holds for the paid subscription model?
I think it's different for every game. In general it appears that most MMOs are moving in the free-to-play direction, but I still think there's an opportunity still for some more specialist MMOs.

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