Star Wars: The Old Republic dev "looking at free-to-play"

"We have to be flexible and adapt to what is going on."

For many it's a case of when - not if - Star Wars: The Old Republic, which has shed over 400,000 subscribers since February 2012 - will go free-to-play.

Now developer BioWare Austin has admitted it is "looking at free-to-play" as the tricky massively multiplayer online market ebbs and flows.

"The MMO market is very dynamic and we need to be dynamic as well," lead designer Emmanuel Lusinchi told GamesTM.

"Unless people are happy with what they have, they are constantly demanding updates, new modes and situations. So we are looking at free-to-play but I can't tell you in much detail. We have to be flexible and adapt to what is going on."

Lusinchi's comments do not confirm The Old Republic is going free-to-play (we've asked EA for clarification), but it is the clearest indication yet that BioWare is at least considering ditching its subscription model.

Lusinchi said the rising quality of free-to-play games had affected BioWare's decision-making. "I think it's more than the free-to-play model - it's more that there is a lot of competitive offers," he said.

"If it was just free-to-play games and they weren't very good it wouldn't even be a question but there are definitely good games out there and good games coming out, so of course all of this competition impacts your plan with what you want to do."

Last month BioWare Austin announced layoffs at the Star Wars team. At the time Lusinchi said they reflected the challenging climate for MMOs in 2012.

"The MMO is the toughest part of the game industry without a doubt and we live in tough economic times in general," he said.

However, he added that players shouldn't notice any adverse effect on the game's upcoming pipeline of new content. "We have a very large development team still, definitely one of the biggest in the industry, and we have a very complete and detailed plan for the rest of the year," he promised.

Star Wars: The Old Republic had at the end of March 2012 1.3 million users. EA has blamed falling subscriber numbers on casual gamers leaving the game after going through a billing cycle.

Star Wars: The Old Republic trailer

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