The Two Day “Early Access” Mystery

Back to the Producer Livestream

It’s been difficult to keep up with everything happening in Star Wars: The Old Republic lately.  It’s now been a week since the Producer Letter Livestream, which was oddly devoid of any letter as far as I know, but in that brief time we’ve moved on to a major exploit being fixed with punishments pending, the bombshell announcement that BioWare doesn’t think that Operation difficulty should have any connection to the quality of the gear being dropped, and the implosion of the 4.0 DPS meta yesterday.  There have been so many passionate conversations that it’s easy for some things to slip through the cracks.

That’s exactly where the details of early access to Chapters 10 through 16 of Knights of the Fallen Empire had fallen for me until now.  In my frustration with trite subscriber “rewards” that do nothing to alleviate my discontent that I’m paying for an MMO that’s apparently not interested in developing any end-game group content on an annual basis, I didn’t take a moment to really read and understand this slight of hand.  At least it is consistent with the priorities and decisions coming out of Austin, TX for a while now (hint: that’s not a compliment).

A Thought Experiment

If I give you a dollar every Tuesday for showing up to read the blog for four years, that would set a precedent that matters.  If year five rolled around and I announced that as a loyal reader, I was announcing early access to that dollar this year, you’d probably be thinking that it will be nice to get your dollar on Monday going forward, right?  You’d probably be a bit puzzled if I clarified that I was now giving out my dollars on Thursday, but that as a loyal reader you will have early access to your dollar on Tuesday.

This is exactly what BioWare announced as an “early access” program for Chapters 10 through 16 of Knights of the Fallen Empire in the hype-stream.  You must be a subscriber to access the Knights of the Fallen Empire chapters.  The new content for this game has always been released on Tuesdays, patches have typically been released on Tuesdays, the weekly missions reset on Tuesdays.  This game functions on a week that starts on Tuesdays.  Early access for Chapters 1 through 9 meant what you would naturally expect it to mean, everyone who met the terms of early access was able to play the game one week prior to its full release.  So how can early access for Chapter 10, Anarchy in Paradise, begin on Tuesday, February 9th when that is the same day that Game Update 4.1 arrives?  After all, the recap post on the forums says the following somehow (emphasis mine):

Chapter 10 – Anarchy in Paradise will be launching on February 11th. Along with Chapter 10, will be Game Update 4.1 which will include Fighting for the Eternal Championship, Bowdaar as an unlockable Companion through Alliance, and updates to Crafting. We will have more details on those changes in January.

We have a whole host of new subscriber rewards for you as well:

  • Be a subscriber on January 11th and receive HK-55 as a playable Companion when 4.1 launches on 2/9.

You Cannot Be Serious

There are professional street hustlers who couldn’t pull that off with a straight face.  For a company that chooses to communicate frustratingly little with its customer base (example: as Sema pointed out on the most recent Escape Podcast that the tweets hyping this livestream were the only tweets sent that week by BioWare, other than some leading question Twitter marketing I’m sure) it approaches insulting when the limited communication we receive resorts to this sort of word games.

The release of Chapter 10 will not actually coincide with Game Update 4.1, technically.  The release of Chapter 10 has been arbitrarily, and misleadingly in the follow up post linked above, moved to 48 hours after the release of Game Update 4.1 so that it can be called a “subscriber reward” to access the new content on the day that it was always going to be released anyway!  Further, remember that you must be a subscriber to access the Knights of the Fallen Empire chapters.

Be a subscriber on the 1st of each month, and receive 2 days of early access to any Chapter which launches that month. This includes Chapter 10 in February.

So given that only subscribers can access this content, the only players that would theoretically miss out on this “early access” would be players that are not subscribed on February 1st but then become a subscriber between February 2nd and February 11th.  Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that there won’t even be a content wall that blocks someone who subscribes on February 8th from playing Chapter 10 on February 9th during “early access” 48 hours?  Probably because there’s no logical reason to gate content that’s already exclusive to subscribers behind an arbitrary 48 hour delayed release that serves no purpose other than create perceived value out of thin air since most people would never notice.

Just Calling a Spade a Spade

I don’t want to be a negative person, it isn’t in my nature, but I also will not stand by quietly while this once proud studio sullies its own name by deceiving its own players and customers.  There is no excuse for this behavior and its an embarrassment.  If you want to give subscribers early access to Chapters 10 through 16 then treat us like adults and actually do it.

Conclusion

I’ve been sick to my stomach writing my last two blogs.  It isn’t fun writing these things, there’s no joy in this for me.  I do feel an obligation though, to use what voice I have in the community for everyone’s benefit.  I have that voice thanks to everyone who reads my writing or listens to me when I’m a guest on any of the great podcasts that are produced each week by players of this game, so thank you and I hope that you feel I’m being a good steward of what you’ve given me.  I hope to return to analyzing the follies of the SWTOR economy soon, but sometimes there are bigger topics that need to be brought into focus in hopes that behaviors can be changed over time.

Andrew | SWTOR Economics

 

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6 thoughts on “The Two Day “Early Access” Mystery

  1. In addition, whenever we’ve had early access, the content is usually littered with bugs. A patch may be implemented two days later and would coincide with their “official” launch of the content.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Early access has always worked this way. “Early Access” for KOTFE started on the day patch 4.0 dropped. How could it be otherwise? Could they have “Early Access” before the content was pushed to the client?

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    • The issue isn’t early access starting on the same day as the game update, that is normal. The issue is that saying “normal access” is two days later is arbitrary and meaningless because there’s no one who will actually have to wait until that time to play the content.

      Like

  3. Pingback: OotiniCast Episode 238 - OotiniCast | A Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) podcast

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