Open Letter To EA


I am well aware that this might not ever reach anyone even close to EA, but I have to write it somewhere, and before I hijack someone else‘s blog to write about something he might want to write about himself some time in the future, I figured I use my own, you know, like a sensible person.


Dear EA,

I know you want to make money (well, anybody knows that) and I am quite sure you want to salvage as much as you can from the wreckage that was once labeled to be the next bright star in the MMO universe, also known as Star Wars: The Old Republic, but the way you are trying to do that right now is just plain wrong. Not open for improvements or worse than other ideas (actually these, too, but that would put it too mildly), but wrong. You know as well as I do, that the F2P option was the last resort for the game, but your F2P idea is not even related to what other people (and especially gamers) understand under F2P. When I read the limitations for the SW:TOR F2P accounts, all I saw was a big Fuck You! sign. Always a bad thing to show to a potential customer. You might say that you only lost a gamer who doesn’t pay, he won’t need the bandwidth he would need otherwise, making this a net gain, but again, you are wrong. You want people to play the game, even those who won’t ever pay anything, since they populate your servers and when they already have fun with the game, they are more inclined to pay some money for it. Someone who doesn’t play your game will never pay for it. There are tons of other F2P games that welcome gamers with open arms. Just providing something for free doesn’t make people use it. It might not take any monetary investment to play your game, the only barrier to entry is a good internet connection, but we have to invest something else: our time. And for many gamers this is an even more limiting factor than money, especially if you have a full day job. People will rather spend their time playing something that looks like it could be fun to play and doesn’t take core features hostage until they shell out some amount of money. You don’t want F2P accounts to feel like they are punishing those who don’t want to or don’t have the means to pay for it. You want players to feel like they are playing a complete game, not some trial, and anything that they can pay for is a bonus, not something they expect from the game anyway and is missing. F2P gamers currently are second-class citizens in your MMO. You even call gamers who have spent money ‘Preferred Status Players ‘ to drive that point home. Stop that madness and remove the limitations you are using.

One thing I nearly forgot. These limitations don’t only hurt F2P players. Your preferred status players can also suffer from them. When the server or client fucks up for some reason, and you are booted into F2P-mode although you are still on an active subscription or have a valid timecard, you have to rebind all your actions to your toolbars when you are back in the full game, you receive all the collectors edition and other promotional items again and it is in general quite the bother for the player (if you wonder how I know so much details about this specific topic, just this happened to a friend of mine today). Think about it, even players who love the game (for whatever reason) with all its flaws are annoyed for no reason, just because of your stupidly wrong view of the F2P market.

Things to sell in a F2P MMO (if you want it to work):

1. Vanity

This is the first big chunk of stuff to sell. They don’t affect gameplay, but will still get you money. People want to connect to their Avatars and want them to look pretty (or awesome). Add social equipment slots to the game. Armor put in these slots will override the armor mesh displayed on the character, while ignoring their stats, so you can have the benefit of your endgame armor but still look like you are wearing a lower tier armor that you like the look of. Everyone gets these slots, there is no need to pay for unlocking them, and everyone can put normal armor there that they find in the game. You then add additional vanity items, that have no stats at all (so they don’t affect game balance), and sell them for your Cartel Coins (which you might consider renaming). Subscription players additionally get vendors, who sell these same items for ingame currency, very cheap (the equivalent of 10 copper…I am sorry for not having the slightest of ideas of how your currency works, but this just emphasizes the point I am trying to make: I don’t play your game and don’t want to in its current state), or even for free, soulbound to make them impossible to sell. Now you can have a F2P player meet a cool looking character (because you removed all the limitations you currently have, and people are playing the game, without paying for it) and since he wants to look cool, too, he considers buying some Coins to get an item that doesn’t do anything but look cool. Also, these vanity items function like status symbols, just like a big car or private jet, just more affordable, and many people like those. They want others to know that they are better and what easier way to show it than opening one’s wallet? Of course, when you enter PVP you are shown in your real armor. People want to know what they are up against. Furthermore allow players to pay for additional color schemes for existing armors to make the character’s look fully customizable. Different colored lightsaber crystals is another possibility. Make F2P Jedi use blue or green lightsabers only, red for Sith, and then sell other colors or special crystals (like ones changing their color over time, or depending on viewing angle, the character’s health or the speed in which he swings his sword, the possibilities are nigh endless) for Cartel Coins. (Addendum: no limitations for character creation options)


2. Convenience

The second big thing is convenience. This will somewhat affect gameplay and balance, but not too much.
One idea would be faster fast travel. Make the cooldown for subscribers very short, and very long for F2P accounts. Additionally gamers can use Cartel Coins to instantly set the cooldown to zero. This, of course, only applies to a teleport-like travel. Ingame transportation (trains, shuttles, etc) should never be limited for any gamer.
Another idea are additional character slots (these you already have, so I guess that makes your business-model just 99% wrong). Subscribers get the full six slots for free, the others only get two, but can buy the rest with Cartel Coins. The first is cheap, but the others will get progressively more expensive.
Add the possibility for server transfers. Subscribers can change servers for free (you might have to limit the number of transfers to maybe once a week for each character) while others have to pay for transfers with Cartel Coins. As I said in the Vanity section, people connect to their characters and want to keep them, but might want to change the server they are playing on, to play with friends on a different server or switch from a PVP server to a RP server for increased immersion.
Add a F2P-favorite, the EXP booster. Subscribers get a permanent 50% bonus on all experience gained from any source. Others can buy boosters, that add the same bonus for a set amount of days, with Cartel Coins.
Lastly something that might sound counter-productive on first glance, but really is not. Make Cartel Coins tradeable between players (but never add the possibility to redeem Cartel Coins for real money, that’s just asking for trouble, like money laundering). Rich people can buy Cartel Coins and sell them to other players. They will be able to progress faster while people who rather earn their content by playing the game instead of paying for it can still access all of the content you create. Everybody wins.


I know all that talk about everything-you-did-was-wrong sounds harsh, but it saddens me and angers me to see this big company with thousands of (probably) capable employees fail so miserably to understand games, gamers and the games industry as a whole. The entirety of the subject matter you should be working with on a daily basis. I don’t think SW:TOR will survive another year on its present course. And you might not survive another 5, if you don’t manage to turn around. You and your games have become too big. You put millions into making games and spend the same again on advertising and then blame it on piracy and used games when the sales don’t live up to your inflated expectations. And so you run one IP after the other into the ground. I don’t want you to fall, I really don’t, because you are so big that you would drag many smaller companies down with you and it might even have a lasting effect on the games industry as a whole, but if you don’t adapt, you’ll die. Take some risks with new IPs (albeit small ones, not hundreds of millions of dollars, but maybe one million or ten), some might flourish, some might not, but you will lose less than you can win. Start trusting your customers and you will in turn earn their trust, which makes them more inclined to buy your games. But as long as you insist on being this obscure, hulking, immotile behemoth you will not be able to connect to your customers.


Sincerely yours,



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