[SWTOR] Story Hooks and Subscriptions

For a subscription MMO, getting hooks into players is pretty much a top priority. Players that want to return are more likely to continue to subscribe than players nearing the meh-zone. People have been pretty pleased with the launch of SWTOR so far, except for the log-in queues. Unlike Rift, which may have been a shock to the ‘sphere as far as quality went, I really haven’t seen any ‘3 month death toll’- posts at launch.  Still, the 3 month mark is one to give the MMO a hard eye.

In Rift, I was just hitting level 45 or so and getting in to the “end game.” I quit. Between my guild and the game, I still didn’t have enough hooks in my skin to keep me interested in paying. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a fault of Rift; I just think that ye ol’ gear shift from leveling to end game in Rift (modeled after other vanilla MMOs of yore) was not for me. So I was tangentially flung away from the game. I know I was not alone.

I still don’t think the core of SWTOR is different enough for me even if it is a solid MMO, but I still have to wonder what effect the story pillar will have on subscriptions. If I assume that in 3 months time that my situation would be similar to Rift, would I pay another month or two just to see the end of my story. Would I want to start another one?

Then there is the issue of BioWare’s post launch plans adding in new story content. If I were a betting man, I would say that the story pillar will definitely keep more subscribers around at the 3 month mark. Of course, there is also the feeling of finishing, which might make some players kick their feet up as credits rolls. I don’t think this will happen often. I didn’t see many instances of players doing that in Guild Wars or Lord of the Rings Online.

I know as the inevitable first wave of subscribers tampers down, the statistic I would love to see how much impact did the story pillar have on their monthly tithe. It’s something that could definitely change future MMO ideas.


11 thoughts on “[SWTOR] Story Hooks and Subscriptions”

  1. I definitely agree that having a moving story will definitely keep people playing for more time. Every MMO has story, SWTOR is just doing more of it. LotRO has an epic questline, Guild Wars has missions, even little ol’ WoW has an ongoing story. I think SWTOR will keep more people on because of this adherence to story, but then it depends what walls they put in the story. For WoW, you followed a general storyline by questzone, until you hit the raids. Don’t have time for raids? Well… then you can’t see the end of the story. Too bad. For WoW, story (and loot) became the reward for a lot of time and effort. This, however, stratified the players.

    The alt enthusiasts who didn’t raid never saw the ending, but WoW didn’t market it as a huge thing. The “World” was the huge sell for WoW. SWTOR’s big sell is story… but they have also taken a lot of gameplay and content from WoW’s book…

    Can you finish your class’s story in SWTOR without raiding? Make it a challenge, sure, but is it something that a casual player can complete easily without needing to run a raiding schedule? If its not, and its like WoW… the “pillar” could fall. You would have a lot of players get 80% into their story, but not be able to finish the rest of it, and that leads to very frustrated players especially those initially sold on the story.

    If its like Guild Wars, where the storyline could be completed reasonably solo, and loot can be attained by grouping and repetition, then you’re not frustrating your playerbase at all and just giving them different goals to strive for. This, imo, is the way to go.

    Of course… I could be way off… WoW forced subscriptions, raiding, and time to see the whole story. Frustrating many, stratifying the playerbase… but look where they are? Getting people 90% there and then gating the end of the story might just be the number 1 “hook” out there to keep sub money flowing.

    1. Yes, you can absolutely finish your class storyline (well, storylines, plural, since each class gets its own trilogy) without raiding. You can finish your class storyline(s) solo, in fact, although some parts will be easier with friends. Of the two launch raids, at least one ties back to an early storyline, but more as a sequel than the usual “if you want to find out how it ends, go raid”. Same basic thing is true of the group content – it’s supplemental or a sequel to the solo content, not the conclusion of it.

      Where the game gets cunning, long-term, is that a lot of the larger story isn’t gated by group size but by class. Every class gets a complete individual story, but those stories combine into a greater whole, with each one casting some light on events in the others.

      A simple (and spoiler-light) example is the intro world where the two Jedi classes start – the natives are restless, suddenly armed with high-tech weapons, and attacking. The Jedi Knight heads off to find out where the weapons are coming from and who’s leading the attacks, while the Jedi Consular digs into the root causes of the problem. Both complete stories, but you don’t get the wider picture unless you play both classes.

  2. One important difference re GW: for a given campaign, they got your money up front. So at the end, it’s “Do you want more?”. Doesn’t matter what part of the game you liked, each expansion gives you more: more story, more missions, more skills, more places to explore, more PvP arenas, more heroes. The GW business model for keeping you “hanging on” isn’t your cash; it’s the cash from the friends you’ll invite to join you.

    Which is why it’s a good move that GW2 is further lowering GW1’s barriers to grouping up with your friends.

  3. This is what never made sense to me for SWTOR… the *cost* of producing their content is -all else equal- much more than the same sort that every other MMO, and almost purely for asthetic reasons. So how are they gonna get more subscribers than other MMOs to the proportion that cost demands?

    Interested to see how it pans out, because it’s a mystery to me.

      1. This is what it truly is. Lets say Star Wars was not attached to this project…(not Mass Effect or Dragon Age either) and was just another MMO with this huge story?

        I think it would be an utter failure.

        Bioware is selling this MMO.
        Star Wars IP is selling this MMO.

        Take those two things away, but have it be the EXACT same game, with all the words, all the speech intact, same exact gameplay.

        The game would be empty in 3 months.

          1. SWTOR is offering something different, and I caved and bought into it after resisting when I realized I was willfully neglecting a genuine Bioware RPG simply because I’d have to ignore chat logs and random strangers while playing. I honestly don’t consider myself to be a majority (or even plurality) among MMORPGers but this game feels specifically marketed to people like myself who want a primarily single player experience that can conveniently turn into a co-op event with friends at any time if so desired. That alone makes it different from all the other fare on the market right now, even if the core gameplay models WoW closely.

            1. Right, so KOTOR but astronomically more expensive… hence, subscription.

              So yeah actually that does make sense.


              Still not interested in the game but interested to see how it all pans out in terms of market success AND customer satisfaction.

        1. Star Wars certainly never fails to sell, even when it’s horrendous; Force Unleashed 1 and 2 still brought in the dollars, after all, despite being utterly atrocious. And don’t get me started on the prequels. As such, whether or not TOR will move boxes was never a serious concern.

          That IP, though, comes with a price tag, and I’m not sure whether George’s cut is factored into the 300m figure that gets tossed around so often. You need to take in more revenue dollars to recoup costs when n% is earmarked for LucasArts. Whether the increased box sales and sub numbers will outweigh the licensing costs is not at all clear at this point (and, frankly, would be difficult to determine at all, short of scrutinizing BW’s financial reports).

  4. Three months will leave your storyline long past. For one character, having done all the storyline quests to the end and level 50, it took about 7 days of /played. That’s not rushing, but focusing on the class quest and the planet quests that surround it, and then going to the next planet.

    If you decide you need to see how ALL the stories play out, then yes, you’ll need those three months – or if you’re a very casual gamer who’s only playing a couple hours a week. The “average” gamer, for whom their main MMO is a primary source of nightly entertainment, will not be retained by the story. It’s compelling, but it’s not long.

    I think people might dip back into the game every time there’s an expac to specifically play through their new story-chunk, but SWTOR needs to come up with much much more repeatable content than they have right now. Right now, at 50, you have the same 3 warzones you’ve been playing all along, all the same flashpoints (instances) you played on the way up (but now in hardmode) and one open PvP planet, which will only interest PvP enthusiasts. People who are there “for the story” have nothing at 50.

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