Swords of Legends Online is Going Free to Play
Let me set up a scenario for all of you.
You work with a company for years – you’ve done videos on various games they publish, have a great working relationship with them.
Said company goes on to announce a gorgeous new game – but the catch? It requires a premium purchase. $40, $60, $100. This is going to be an expensive title – but the fixed price guarantees a certain level of quality and a lack of pay-to-win.
So to support the company, you purchase the game. How else will you be able to play it? The game goes on to release, you have fun, but it’s poorly received, the playerbase goes into an instant state of decline, and the game hits a point where it begins to show signs of shutting down.
Which forces the company to do one of 2 things: Cut their losses, and shut the game down. Or convert the game to a free-to-play business model.
Unfortunately, there’s really no winning regardless of what Gameforge chose to do with Swords of Legends Online, but the latter option is definitely going to be a critical blow to those of us that spent $100 on those Collector’s Editions.
Swords of Legends Online was evidently not the breakout hit Gameforge wanted it to be.
As of writing this, there are 400 players logged in playing right now via Steam. Which, I’ll note right out of the gate – is indicative of a portion of the total players playing the game, as some players opted to purchase and play via Gameforge’s official website.
Even if we’re being generous, that still leaves this as one of the worst performing MMO releases of the entirety of 2021. It’s still outperforming Elyon though, so I guess that’s something to boast about.
SOLO ran into a lot of issues: A lack of content at endgame, a controversial performance – or, lack of performance. Running the game at 5FPS at times wasn’t fun. I think more than anything, this was one of the highest concerns players had with the game, one that was never addressed.
All of these issues – of which there were many, culminated in the ultimate and definitive failure of the game. In an attempt to change the trajectory of the game – or at the very least, in an attempt to delay the inevitable, Gameforge have confirmed a complete change of business model.
Gameforge announced this via a blog post on their website that also went on to confirm the addition of expansion into Russian and CIS territories, and a brand new update, titled “2.0 – The Firestone Legacy.”
SOLO 2.0 will be going live on February 24th – Yes, that’s just 2 weeks after Lost Ark launches and a couple days before Guild Wars 2‘s End of Dragons expansion hits.
Why Gameforge think now is the opportune time to transition to a free business model baffles me as the direct competition from BOTH of these titles is enough to absolutely destroy any potential this conversion would have had.
And that’s just its direct competition – disregarding other MMOs we have Dying Light 2, Horizon Forbidden West, Elden Ring. Seriously, who is this supposed to appeal to? Did the guy in charge of this look at the month of February and think “Oh yeah, this completely niche MMO will have no problem competing with any of those games.”
Now for those of you still reading – you might be thinking to yourself.. “But Stix… if it goes free-to-play, what does that mean for pay-to-win?” And “Do those of us that purchased the game get any type of compensation?” The answer to both of those questions is vague.
They state in their blog post “All items that you can buy in the game will remain purely cosmetic, as will Battle Pass content. Anyone who’s already purchased SOLO will receive gifts in the form of insanely pretty items and great bonuses as compensation.”
That just sounds like corporate crap to me – there is absolutely no way Gameforge will be able to maintain the game with purely cosmetic items now that players will no longer be financially supporting them with the premium purchase of the game.
I dug a little deeper at this juncture as I was curious if they said anything further pertaining to the transition to a free business model, and it turns out they have an FAQ on their forums – something that will go largely unseen. After scrolling down I noticed there’s an entire section dedicated to the free-to-play announcement.
Why the switch in business models? Should we expect more radical changes in the future?
Since release, there has been considerable interest in the game – but the purchase price is of course a limiting factor for a lot of people. By going free-to-play, we are opening the gates for everyone to enjoy SOLO and hope to tackle the concerns about declining player numbers that large parts of the community have voiced.
Going free-to-play isn’t going to change the trajectory of the game. It just isn’t. Elyon launched as a free MMO and its playerbase abandobed it almost as soon as it launched because it was just.. bad.
Bless Online converted to a free game and it died just as fast. Making your game more publicly accessible isn’t going to change what players already dislike about it. But it will open it up to more toxic players, abusers and pay-to-win.
What restrictions or limitations will apply to free players?
The full game experience will be available to everyone for free. This includes all old, new and future content, like the new classes and zones.
At least they’re not pulling an “ArcheAge Unchained” here and charging players for it.
Will the in-game store change? What about the Battle Passes?
We’ve stressed the importance of a cosmetic-only store since launch and have no plans to change that. Likewise, the Battle Pass will continue its current model of having a free and a premium version, featuring purely cosmetic extras on a seasonal basis.
As much as I’d love to believe that, I just can’t. I would love to be proven wrong, but if they don’t implement an additional means of return on their investment, this’ll be even more short-lived than their buy-to-play incarnation.
What about players who purchased the game while it was buy-to-play?
To show our appreciation to all the players who supported us early on, we’ve prepared a “bonus” package with items. This will be the same for holders of all 3 editions, as Collector’s and Deluxe Edition buyers keep the benefits of their respective editions.
Compensation is a couple items. Probably an outfit? Maybe a mount? Honestly I can’t really fault them here – there’s nothing they could realistically offer as compensation that would satisfy players outside of a refund choice. But given how long players have been playing, refunds would be entirely unfair to Gameforge.
Oh, speaking of.. actually, they go on to address this further in their FAQ.
I just purchased the game recently, and now it’s going F2P. Can I get a refund?
We will be offering a full refund of the main game to those who purchased the game between 17th January 2022 and the announcement (as well as all game access purchased up until the actual switch).
Good on you guys, Gameforge! You didn’t need to do that but you earned back some respect for offering it.
That’s all we know about their conversion to a free title. Whether this is going to drastically impact the game remains to be seen, but outside of going free-to-play there are going to be a substantial number of additions to the game in the 2.0 update: The highly-anticipated Fox Mage class, the Warrior class, a level cap increase, 5 entirely new areas, 5 new dungeons, 2 new raids, 2 new story chapters, new PvP content – not that anyone really engages in PvP anymore anyway, and additional PvE content that has yet to be elaborated on.
I’m kinda disappointed. I gave Neowiz crap for doing this when they released Bless Online as a premium title, then pulled a switch when the game began to decline and offered it completely free.
And Gameforge are doing the exact same thing. I’m glad they’re offering refunds for players that bought the game in January, but at the same time, if I buy a game – like Mrs Stix did with the $100 edition, I expect it to remain a game that requires that purchase.
Otherwise, why don’t we all just boycott premium MMOs, and wait for them to convert to a free business model? By doing so, we’ll save ourselves the money we would’ve wasted by purchasing it early and supporting the company.
I understand that companies want to milk as much money as they possibly can from us as consumers, but look at games like Lost Ark or the upcoming Blue Protocol MMO. Both are launching as free titles because they believe they provide a product of high enough quality that players will support them via their respective cash shops.
They’re not releasing as paid titles to try and trick us into spending more money, in an attempt to fund this repetitious cycle. It’s asinine, and I’m genuinely shocked that Gameforge specifically are doing it.
I’ve honestly never had an issue with Gameforge. I’ve worked on them repeatedly with games like SoulWorker, Guardians of Ember, Kingdom Under Fire 2, NosTale, Aion and even Swords of Legends Online itself.
But no company is infallible. I understand why they’re doing it – the alternative is shutting down. But at the same time, I gotta call out companies when they do things I don’t agree with. Even if I genuinely enjoy the relationship I have with them, and even if this means losing the opportunity to work with them ever again.
I’m excited to see where this update takes the game, and as Mrs Stix still actively plays, she’s even more excited. But I think this is a shady thing to do, and I don’t condone converting to a free business model after charging potentially hundreds of thousands of players initially.
Now if you’re interested in a game that isn’t SOLO but has the potential to be a pretty sick game later this year.. click this video over here. I guarantee you’ll like what you see.