So TOR's latest report saw the game drop from 1.7M to 1.3M. A nice drop of almost a quarter of their subs. Why is the most expensive game ever at launch seemingly faltering?
There are many reasons why SWTOR is having trouble. Firstly there are a plethora of available MMO's in the themepark genre that it has to compete with. This makes it more important to be able to hold onto your current subscribers then even to simply attract new ones. If players can finish your game they will move on because there are alot of options out there.
So obviously where SWTOR is faltering is in holding subs instead of generating new ones. What keeps people subbed is simply having fun combined with a nexus of agreements between various people that make you feel obligated to play.
To be honest there are so many ways for fun to occur or be incurred that it's almost in vain to try and pinpoint where the fun needs to be or is where it currently is fun. Personal preference being so skewed that without actually doing a component study of the game's features would be functionally useless. I will however note one key thing that does reduce fun in general and I believe are present in SWTOR. Repetition decreases fun. For me tab and click combat is featured in so many MMO's that bringing nothing fundamentally different here means that combat is very similar to other games. Personally I think if you are bored with WoW's combat and jump into TOR you will also be bored with it combat wise. Where I would look to improve combat would be through a complete overhaul of the entire system baseing it on your crew for all PvE encounters. They wouldn't be a glorified pet but intead be a team you run in groups of four. They would operate using various preset commands similar to Bioware's Dragon Age games. It certainly would make operations seem like huge battles with 20 man teams each featuring 60 companions. Also it would allow for expanded solo gameplay of various difficulty since companions can perform the role of tank and such for various healer player types. Introducing dynamic gameplay that people are unfamiliar with usually generates lots of player activity.
The second thing SWTOR needs to work on is making players obligated to each other. The leveling game in TOR does not feature the forming of agreements between players easily. For me this is something that MMO's of late have messed up. WoW is successful because of agreements between it's players that keep them playing. Many other things have made WoW a success mainly being first to do alot of things ease of use wise. If you want a look at another game that has quite possibly the most unintuitive UI out there that is successful is Eve Online. It is solely based on players wanting to control regions of space and the incredible amount of connections between it's players that makes people so obligated to a goal. Personally I think mainstream games should be looking at integrating ideas in social media such as facebook and twitter into their guild interface. Cross server friending and out of server preformed grouping should also be integrated to help mitigate the effects of LFG on agreements. I also believe TOR should adopt Rift's free server transfers to help accomodate this. How Legacy would work with this I have no idea. Perhaps even Legacy should be removed to allow the feature. Perhaps reworked to allow the effects of your alts to change eachother's story.
Finally produce more content period. Produce Pod Racing and PvP space combat. These are alternatives to BG style combat that many people are getting very use to. Make a server vs server planet that features large numbers of players. Top grade story with choices needs to be streamlined with the removal of alot of the pointless side questing while producing the character stories that are top notch. Have custom Droid battles for players. Planet events to break up the staticness of the enitre game would be nice.
To be short, people are leaving because in general it isn't fun enough, they are running out of content and they have very few player based reasons to keep playing. They need to get a game plan and dump alot of money into redesign.