Is it just coincidence that Star Wars: Galaxies and Pirates of the Burning Sea are both offering up a full month of free time right now? Or is something else lurking behind the emails sitting in my inbox offering me more free time than Sony is usually want to give for teaser sessions?
SWG is, overtly, rolling out some new PvP content that they want people on board for – but all the extra items and goodies they are offering with the free time highlight player housing – something more of an investment (and PvE nature) than PvP is. In other words, they want the full spectrum of players on board. Free play lasts until March 1st.
PotBS is highlighting their server merges (down to 2 from 5). Trust me, I know from first hand experience how desperate the player base was for this. My mid 20’s privateer regularly got invited to fleet battles with 40-50th level players, because they couldn’t fill their quota, and one more ship, even a small one, might be enough to tip the balance. Interestingly, there is no word in the email of economy changes and updates, which are the core of whats wrong in Pirates. Free play lasts until March 5th there.
On the one hand, this makes sense. For those disappointed with Star Trek Online, and there are some, they need a fix. Offering them a SWG, with its similiar high profile IP makes sense, as does offering up Pirates, a game that admitedly, offers game mechanics very similar to that offered on STO. Covering this month gives them a chance to hook the disaffected, and perhaps those disaffected will stick around and bring in some of those that will not stay around past the free month of STO.
Beneath the surface though, lies the fiscal reality of Sony. Sony is only just now getting back onto its feet after a year of losing money. Giving a free month now means they can track how many people will stick around past the free time for the last month of their fiscal year, which ends March 31st. If the free time doesn’t boost numbers by a certain amount – will that mean that they get chopped?
For me personally, I’m not sure a return to Pirates is in order. The underlying frustration with the economy is not solved by more players – at least, not in the short term. The only way to acquire ships abover level 25 or so is to join one of the pre-existing guilds, and even finding new ships below that is dicey. Meaning that playing anything other than a pirate (with their ability to capture vessels) is frustrating. With a larger player base things might turn over (it takes *alot* of players to build a ship, especially the high level ones), but not unless those players are sticking around long enough to build their economic empires.
Star Wars, on the other hand, is intriguing. I really only stopped playing SWG because I wanted to participate in the launch of WAR, and I’d really like to give it another shot. Crafting and economics were fun, space combat was good. Population was – sparse and irritating. But I’m sure the server mergers have helped. I seem to remember somewhere though that since I didn’t transfer the characters, I’m going to have to start from scratch. Only one way to find out…