What’s Behind Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Decline?

Pew, pew, pew. Now only 1.3 million to deal with!

Earlier today, Electronic Arts had its stuffy quarterly report. The number, fact, and strategy filled report was of little interest to most MMO gamers until the mention of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Following the recent trend of LoreHound coverage, the mention wasn’t good. According to the publisher, TOR lost 24% of its subscribers, shedding 400,000 paying customers from the peak of 1.7 million a quarter earlier (during the included free month).

That places the second Star Wars-based MMORPG over the million subscriber mark, at 1.3 million, but still showing a decline as troubling as the current, yet declining, kind of World of Warcraft. This is roughly on target with the estimate made by an analyst group in mid April.

This has left many players scratching their heads. TOR was easily one of, if not the most, anticipated MMOG releases of 2011. Sure, there’s the just released action-oriented TERA, or a flood of F2P games available and coming, but is there one core aspect that has drained TOR’s base?

Conspiracy theories will abound as analysts and players attempt to isolate the trend. Hit the jump for our perspective reasons.

Further WoW tourist syndrome? Possible. Players ditching story for the action of TERA? Acceptable. A steep decline in the price of a Rift subscription stealing away wishy-washy subscribers? The cash strapped would think twice. Consumers becoming weary of the subscription model? Numerous developers and publishers from Perfect World Entertainment to Red 5 Studios would have you believe F2P is the way to go. What about the upcoming closing of the core MMO season, ie during school? It’s had me venture before. Or was TOR, like so many other titles, over hyped and ultimately under delivered? Makes sense.

Considering the game never came close to captivating me, a dedicated MMORPG player, I’d say it’s mostly due to the title’s execution, with a splash of a shift in market expectation. The shift being a dose of raised expectations thanks to increasing competition from the F2P market.

Let us know where you stand in the comments.



  1. SWTOR has so many problems. It’s game design is very old, based off of WoW, rather than something more innovative. The voice acting only works the first time through. The PvP is imbalanced. There are no achievements. The game has too many money and time sinks. The graphics are dated. It was incomplete on release, and still doesn’t match up to other MMO’s released in recent years. It was just a huge disappointment.

  2. Hmm, would love to keep playing, but the problems I’ve had are these:

    1. Sentinel feels like you’re hitting with a wiffle ball bat.
    2. No instance finder. Really? Why not?
    3. PVP just needs a few more maps.

    I’ll probably come back some day, but they have some work to do.

  3. – Bad engine… actually, a REALLY bad engine
    – Bad control response (plus the animation loop when you smash your buttons)
    – Outdated graphics
    – Small, empty and lifeless planets
    – Strafox quality space combat (Actually, starfox is more fun)
    – No PvP (Sorry but in my opinion, battlegrou…. sorry, Warzones are not PvP)
    – Class imbalance
    – Armor/Weapon Grind
    – Useless Crafting system

    And the list goes on. This game is just bad. Everyone liked it, including me, because it was star wars – lightsabers and blasters… but after the hype is gone we start seeing the true nature of this game.

    If you haven’t try it, wait until it goes F2P in less than 6 months. Don’t waste your money.

  4. For me it was just more of the same old ….. The way they handled the story was good as we all expected it would be, the voice acting was a nice touch and I hope it carries over into any future games released.

    For me it wasnt the little niggles like lack of PvP grounds, Dungeon Finders, etc – things which can easily be amended or added in later patches and fixes, ultimately it was the fundamental gameplay itself, it was cut from the same die as all the others, the holy trinity, the UI looked the same and felt the same , the combat was the same old stand still, pull, rotate skills until mob is dead rinse and repeat.

    To be a full priced sub model game nowadays you have to do something special, not just spit shine whats already out there.

    Fast failing sub game …. would probably be a very successful F2P.

  5. I have played the game since the release and after leveling 2 characters to 50 I am thinking of going back to WoW. My reasons are this

    1. The game is too easy, end operators are very easy to do
    2. Crafting hits a ceiling then to get better enchants its actually better to buy items and take the enchantments from that instead, its actually cheaper.
    3. Once hit a certain level of equipment there is no need to do any ‘dungeons’
    4. The support system is terrible, it seems 1 on 2 tickets that I raise are deleted before any resolution
    5. There are some really terrible bugs, a good example was an Item called a Matrix cube that takes a while to farm just disappeared from peoples equipment
    6. Living in the uk the server update time is a constant annoyance as the update happens at 9am UK time, meaning I can lose playing time.
    7. Hacks, it is quite easy to hack files in the system giving you unfair advantages in PvP
    8. In PvP itself there are classes that do way better meaning an imbalance

    However after playing WoW for some time, I can see the potiential of the game, and it has the potiential to be really good, as long as Bioware start thinking this as a community rather than a cash cow.

  6. Free to play games is the reason for lost subscribers.

    Finally me and my friends have quit World of Warcraft and have not returned and still do not wish or plan to return. Why ? you ask well lets face it many free to play games are popping up and all do they are not better then World of Warcraft they are pretty darn close.
    We just looked at it logicically. by giving up a small amount of features such as “flying in the world” we are able to escape a monthly bill and only pay when we fill like it.

    With free to play games you only pay when you feel like it, many free to play games now no longer require you to buy anything to enjoy the games, free to play games have changed greatly over the last year. It used to be pay to win but I don’t find that any-more too be true, instead now its more like pay for a small boost and that is fine taking into account that if your having a tight month you can avoid paying but continue playing.

    Its not about saving money, no its now about managing Your money.

  7. Currently play but getting burned out. SWTOR has lots of first year issues (no big deal they get worked out). The main gripe, is even with 1.3 million players, server population is completely dead. No such thing as open world pvp, I have literally ran into opposite faction only twice. I swear if they just dropped the 96 server for west coast down to 32 same with East coast US subscribers would stop complaining as they could actually play each aspect of the game. Everyone is rerolling on a handful of servers but like me arent really dedicated to level yet another alt.

  8. Speaking as a casual MMOer (I tend to favor the single player games, or more solo-focused MMO gaming) I found that SWTOR simply failed to deliver the full monty to either the KOTOR fans who wanted an elaborate story, or the MMO fans who wanted…well….an MMO. I’m playing it, but it’s mostly because I want to see how the storylines evolve; as an MMO it’s just not innovative enough outside of the elements that come from the single player side of the equation. And as a single-player game, the MMO elements get in the way of what would otherwise have been a fantastic KOTOR 3 single player experience.

    That said, my wife’s entire WoW guild more or less migrated over to SWTOR and seems to have stayed with it, so I guess it’s not a total disaster. I think, honestly, if it stays over a million subscribers in six months then EA ought to consider that a major success; but if they thought this would pull enough players away from WoW to make a dent, then disappointment will abound.

    Plus, Tera kicks ass.

  9. I was given a 7 day trail from a friend back in February, in which I played to level 10. I didn’t think I would care much about the storyline, but ended up loving it. Bought the game end of February and continued playing on the Sith Sorc I started. The first few smaller planets were actually entertaining with both story plots and an abundance of players to do group missions. Then level 25 came around and I was dropped on Tatooine with a shoddy speeder mount and an almost desolate player population. This MMO quickly turned into a single player RPG between level 20-32. With a day left on my free 30 days before the sub kicked in, I finished my Sith’s storyline, unlocking the Legacy feature. I stared at the “Choose your Legacy name” dialog box for a moment, then exited the game without providing one. That was where my journey ended. My storyline was tired and predictable in the end, and the initial feeling of being important had washed away. I added about 10-15 people to my friend list from level 1 til 20, and then never saw a single one of them online after that. Maybe they were alts who went back to their main accounts, or maybe they were gamers like myself who wanted a better MMO experience.

  10. i went and bought the special edition of swtor, i really wanted this game to work. my wow server was in decline and my guildies leaving the game as cata just didn’t cutt it with a lack of exporable content(making az all craterious and filled with lava don’t cutt it) i find myself leaving this week. I had to move servers as the original one i was on died a death, i got my sith assassin up to lvl 49 on my new server and stopped. Why? Well i hit 50 and all i have to do to get my weekly is play 6wz’s….. Not win….. Not achieve any any commendation rank in the wz…. Just play…. I find ppl just stealthing and doing nothing. I want to feel like i achieve something and get rewarded for doing my best. What’s the point when i get the same rewards as someone that does nothing, poor managment of the games content and poor rewards for avhieving the set out daily goals.

  11. I had been playing this game since just before the official launch date in Dec 2011 with no issues until April 2012 when I started getting disconnect issues with the game’s error 9000 message. After spending weeks talking to customer service and jumping through their array of technical hoops I still could not play the game without it crashing. I then found out that error 9000 was a common issue and had many complaints.

    Put quite simply Bioware has released a game that is unplayable for a lot of people which is sad because I, as well as many others, waited for this game to be released with much anticipation. I managed to get my character up to level 43 when suddenly this bug raised its ugly head. It was a sad day when I realized enough was enough and had to abandon my character and cancel my subscription.

    I’m positive that error 9000 has been the cause of many subscriptions being cancelled and Bioware needs to sort it out!

  12. A real missed opportunity this. Bioware should have realised from the other MMO models that Nice graphics ( it has ), Good story line ( it has ) Will get players into your game. However what KEEPS players is what happens at level cap when the story runs out. I ran a guild of over 400 active players and as people started to leave the most common reason was ” I have done all the end game content and I am bored”

    Then as server volumes started to drop significantly we were all screaming for a server merge as more and more people got disillusioned with empty servers. The free migration came far too late to save many players and still does not address the problem of end game content.

    This could have a serious impact in any future MMO released as we may be reluctant to try them. If you can’t make a hit with a topic like star wars what CAN you make a hit with.


  13. One sentence sums up, well actually just four words sums up swtors failure for me.

    Broken game is broken.

  14. I’ve tried the game now about a year after the comments here, but do have another version of why I’m not continuing the game. I’ve tried it for about two weeks, and sure, BioWare knows how to do it when it comes to a storyline, but as an MMO it’s just dull.
    On top of that, I used to play SWG back in the days, and compared to that game, this game just seems flat.
    What amazes me in this, is that when SOE decided for their ‘NGE – New Gaming Experience’ for SWG, that basically was a move to make that game more like WoW, the result was SWG lost dedicated players. This since alot didn’t enjoy NGE at all, and I wouldn’t really say there was a massive influx of new players thanks to NGE, I mean in the SWG was cancelled, timely enough for the launch of SWTOR. And still they worked hard to make a game even MORE like WoW?

    I think KOTOR should stay KOTOR, as a single player game, and tbh, that is really good single player games.
    A Star Wars MMO would probably be best to do with the theme as the old SWG, making it happen around the time of the movies, since I guess it’s just the movies that will draw audience to an MMO game about Star Wars. Best value would be make the most of that.

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