The devs over at Bioware recently announced the ill-kept secret they’ve been hiding for quite a while now: the next digital expansion, Galactic Starfighter, for Star Wars: The Old Republic. As the name implies, it brings mass starfighter combat to the game. There’s precedent for this, of course. Star Wars Galaxies had a similar expansion (although theirs was their first expansion, while this is TOR’s second) called Jump to Lightspeed. That expansion was hailed as a pretty significant success for the folks interested in flying the ships of Star Wars, and being able to use the bigger ships as a ground map at the same time they were fighting in space was a big deal. That’s a hard pedigree to match.
The expansion is a free one, unlike Makeb (although that has recently been given for free to all subscribers), and the major feature here is massive PvP combat in space-and presumably no longer on the rails like the current space content is. Despite the fact that I am not a big fan of PvP, I do consider this a good thing. PvP players, as a general rule, get shafted repeatedly in MMOs. I can see a developer’s point there: balance is a neverending struggle with classes and gear, and nothing would probably ever get done if they tried to keep up with that. Not to mention the fact that said balancing tends to only happen to the classes and gear, which means the PvE elements-which don’t get balanced to the new realities-tend to become either more vicious, or pathetically easy.
PvP appeals to the competitive spirit. That’s a big draw with the target demographics that MMOs like to get a hold of. So it makes sense to court them occasionally with a big deal. This expansion can be considered just that. But since it’s pretty much all PvP, there isn’t exactly much incentive for the folks who do the PvE exclusively to bother with it-which makes it a wise decision to make this particular expansion free. First, it’s dubious that the PvP population is large enough to justify its purchase and make a profit off of; Bioware’s already had bad PR to add to it. Second, after that stunt with making Rise of the Hutt Cartel free for subscribers so soon after making profits off of charging for it (with damned little to compensate for that), it’s unlikely that you’d find a lot of people willing to shell out cash for the next expansion-especially one with such a narrow focus.
It remains to be seen if Galactic Starfighter will be as big a deal as Jump to Lightspeed was for SWG. It could open the door to updating the existing space missions-or it could remain isolated in the sphere of PvP. And as is often the case in an MMO, adding new types of content usually means a call for more content of those types; it won’t be long, I think, before the PvP pilots want new gear for their shiny new ships, and new PvP maps-and scenarios-to fight over.
In other words, standard operating procedure for players of every MMO out there!