SWTOR, EA & The Microtransaction Economy

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away Star Wars: The Old Republic was a pay to play game, launching with an all too common price tag of $60 USD. Launching with not even a vague hint of micro transactions or also known in SWTOR as the Cartel Market. Over the past decade the gaming industry has seen an unparalleled rise in micro transactions and in game real currency purchases. SWTOR's below expected returns soon saw the game becoming free to play, as is now very common among  MMO titles. And thus the beginning of the Cartel Market, a necessary evil that has allowed the game to live on for over 7 years. The newly found Cartel Market, launched at the end of 2012 saw significant changes to the game. Removing a huge focus from World Drops and repacking them into dollar shaped boxes.

Rare former world drops such as the Advanced Resistance White Crystal got removed for all vendors, lately being sold as the White Cartel Market crystal, it's only history still being found as an incredibly rare drop from the Ulgo Siege Breaker on Alderaan. This has become common over SWTOR's history, moving away from world drops and towards a pay to look cool system. This is just exactly it however, as we role into 2019 SWTOR remains as one of the few games to keep it's in game purchases to purely functional. With games such as EA's Battlefront 2, requiring a significant amount of money in order to unlock previous entry standard heroes such as Darth Vadar. Don't get me wrong, the Cartel Market is far from perfect, it has it's flaws and outrageous prices, it's manipulative practices to draw in more purchases and keep the player spending.

Despite all of these issues, SWTOR's Cartel Market presents itself as a role model to others in its industry. Demonstrating the fine line between purely cosmetic/functional and pay to win, despite all these issues the Cartel Market has allowed SWTOR to survive and grow into the game that many of us love to hate. I decided to study the Cartel Market and find out how the prices per virtual currency compare to more modern entries by EA. By calculation it cost around 83 cents USD per 100 Cartel Coins, $1.15 AUD or $1.10 CAD, a fairly reasonable price in SWTOR considering the large amounts of emotes and unlocks you can buy with that. In comparison to Black Ops 4 charging $1 USD for a Red Dot sight, or the $1.68 USD per 100 crystals in Battlefront 2.

Looking further I wanted to see the quality of item you could purchase with 100 Cartel Coins. I could find nothing more iconic than Djearik. A chess like game present in many Star Wars movies. I purchased the Djearik emote for just over 50 Cartel Coins, and what did I get? A fully animated, unique and well textured emote. Something that would seem foreign in quality to other games offering micro transactions to their consumers, such as the previously mentioned $1 USD for a Red Dot sight in Black Ops 4.

Searching a little bit further I decided to open a Hypercrate, the latest Ultimate Cartel Pack. Costing 5,400 Cartel Coins or almost $40 USD, 30 GBP, $55 AUD and $52 CAD. The price for which sits significantly higher than the price for 100 Cartel Coins. I wanted to see if the money spent still equated in a quality product in return. The Hypercrate consisted of 30 Cartel Packs, which in turn equals 4 items per pack. After opening all 30 packs I had received 120 items, including 14 gold level items, 29 silver and 77 bronze. Perhaps not the specific item I am looking for, but unlike many other EA titles SWTOR presents you with the option to directly purchase the item you want, removing the uncertainty of the Hypercrate. For players looking to obtain a specific item, the odds are stacked against you.


All in all, SWTOR's prices are realistic, with quality returned no matter the dollar sign associated. The Cartel Market has become so ingrained in the SWTOR community that it's opened up whole new avenues of gameplay, such as fashion shows and the outfit designer. You can't deny that SWTOR has remained constant and steady on it's approach to the Cartel Market, not tricking players into ludicrous purchases. An evil nonetheless but an evil that has allowed SWTOR to survive for so long.