Star Wars: The Old Republic launched as a subscription-based MMORPG. In order to dive into the BioWare tailored version of George Lucas' universe, gamers had to pony up a monthly charge.

That subscription may have been too much to overcome for BioWare's foray into the galaxy far, far away. SWTOR will be free-to-play starting this fall.

Here, by way of the press release sent out by BioWare and EA, is how the game will be broken down later this year.

Starting this fall, there will be two different ways to play Star Wars: The Old Republic:

  • Subscription – A service designed for players who want unrestricted access to all the game features via ongoing subscription or by redeeming a Game Time Card. In addition to gaining access to all game content as our current subscribers do now, Subscribers will receive ongoing monthly grants of Cartel Coins*, the new virtual currency that will be introduced later this fall. Cartel Coins can be used to purchase valuable items including customizable gear and convenience features that will enhance the game play experience.
  • Free-to-Play –The first 50 levels will be free-to-play, with some restrictions on access to new content and advanced player features. Some restrictions can be "unlocked" with Cartel Coins.

The MMORPG world is a tough one to crack for major companies. World of Warcraft is the exception, not the rule; most MMOs are lucky to pull in sustainable profits. To be incredible blockbusters with a massive flow of money? That's not normal.

The free-to-play model, though, is encouraging. Gamers who want to experience a new universe without paying a monthly fee can do so; once they're hooked, the extra price for extra goods actually makes sense.

Will this take SWTOR from simply surviving to being strongly successful? Who knows… But, I bet a lot more gamers will be willing to give the game a try.

[via BioWare]