Star Wars: The Old Republic has three options for playing: Free, Preferred and Subscription. Free is what it sounds like: Download it and log in. Preferred status comes to former subscribers and to free players who make a $4.99 purchase. Subscriptions are between $12 and $15/month, depending on the amount of time your sub is for. For a full list of the features and restrictions for each type, check out Bioware’s features page.
This guide is geared toward current subscribers who are closing their account but intend to keep playing. Everything here comes from my own experience canceling my sub and switching down to preferred with the intention to continue playing regularly.
Unlike some “free-to-play” games, instead of making the game entirely free and selling perks, they’ve chosen to lock off parts of the game and penalize non-subscribers, sometimes in truly petty ways. Free accounts give you access to all the storylines but are otherwise so locked down as to be barely worth playing. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to move up to preferred, which is still restricted, but a lot less. If you’re going to play long term, you should have an authenticator anyway to protect your account from being hacked, and that purchase is enough to switch you up to preferred. If that’s you, you can also use the latter part of this guide, to see what you can do to open up your account as far as possible without moving up to subscription, without any additional coin purchases being required.
Before you remove your payment info, you’ll want to get your account ready. You’ll face a number of heavy restrictions, and if you don’t bring your credit/commendation/etc totals down first, you’ll find them locked away behind an “escrow” for credits, and everything else simply gone. You can easily avoid that with just a little planning.
Start out by picking one central character. You don’t have to, but it makes the rest of this process a whole lot easier. If you have a single main, that’s your obvious choice. If not, pick the one that has the most inventory space free.
You will only be able to have 6 character slots active (plus any slots that you have bought separately, up to ten additional) so start by deciding which characters you are going to have active, and which inactive.
In my case, I’d already bought an extra character slot, so I was expecting 7. However, I had 9 characters that I wanted to keep active, so I picked which two were least important to activate, in case I didn’t have enough credits to buy the additional slots, and treated those as characters that were going to be deactivated through the rest of this preparation.
The characters that you know are going to be deactivated, go through and send anything on them that you want to retain access to, and all but a few credits (in case you want to reactivate them later, they’ll need to keep at least enough to get to a planet where you can farm them some credits), to the main character you selected above.
It is common courtesy to remove characters being deactivated from their guild and to make sure you let the guild leader know why.
Some things are cheaper to do as a sub
If you have any mods to remove from your gear, maybe something you’ve had sitting to the side because you need to compare pieces and decide whether or not to do it — now’s the time. The cost of removing mods increases substantially as preferred or free.
If you have things you are considering auctioning off now’s the time to do it. You will have limited slots after your sub runs out, and you’ll want the credits from the auctions to help buy unlocks.
If you want augments in your gear, now’s the time to do it. It will be more expensive as preferred.
If you have any really big purchases you want to make, now’s the time to do it: your cap of 350,000 creds per character will make it difficult later.
If you’ve been sitting on commendations, now’s the time to spend them. You will have a much lower cap on every type of comm, and anything over that limit will just poof when you switch.
Security keys are your friend
And then, GET A SECURITY KEY. It’s only $4.99 for a physical one (the mobile version is free but I’ve had bad luck with mobile authenticators so I always get the physical ones) and you will get a grant of 100 cartel coins a month for having it on your account. Really, even if you didn’t get the grant, it’s worth having an authenticator on your account. It makes it far less likely you’ll get hacked, and since preferred has basically zero access to customer service, you will have a hell of a time setting your account to rights if you do get hacked. And if you ever want to do things like change your character’s hairstyle, you need cartel coins. You can pick up a few here and there from achievements, but the only other way to get them is purchase through the website for actual money, or grants from the authenticator.
Account unlocks and weekly passes
Once you’ve got all that straightened out, it’s time to pick up the unlocks you need to remove the most painful restrictions. There are two ways to obtain these: the cartel market, and the GTN.
If you’re going to buy cartel coins to purchase unlocks, you’re better off purchasing a six-month subscription and then using a combination of grinding up a bunch of credits and saving the free coins you get during the sub’s duration. It comes to roughly $75 (or did when I was going through this process in November 2013) to buy enough coins to purchase all the unlocks. At the time of writing, the cartel coin total for all the unlocks, account-wide, is 9380.
Luckily, every one of these unlocks can be found on the GTN, under “Cartel Market Items” > “Unlocks.” Always go for the account-wide version of the unlock. Even if you only have one or two characters now, the account-wide version will apply to all future characters too, on all servers. For most of them, buying the account-wide will be less than buying two or maybe three of the character-only version, so these quickly become the cheaper option. And if you’re buying account unlocks, you can purchase them on a different server where the price for that particular one might be lower.
These are the unlocks you want to purchase:
- Hide Head Slot
- Display Legacy Name and Title
- Display Character Titles
- Unify Colors
- Crew Skill Slot
- Additional Quickbar (x2 if you use all 6)
- Guild Bank Access
- Crew Member Appearance (optional)
- Authorization: Artifact Equipment
- Access to Section X (optional)
Odds are, not all the unlocks will be available all at once. You will want to check the GTN frequently to find them. Some of them tend to go for more than your 350k cap because they cost so many coins (esp. the Artifact Equipment), so it’s best to find as many of them before your sub runs out as you can.
If you have a lot of credits left, you may want to go ahead and purchase weekly passes for some of the content you know you’ll play the most. These can also be had on the GTN usually, but are per-character, not account-wide. Here’s the thing though: If you play enough to need to purchase more than one type of these, every week, and buy them with cartel coins, it is cheaper to just get a subscription. If you are buying them with credits, you can expect to spend 100k-200k on each type of pass each week. That’s a lot of grinding for gold. Preferred can be cost-effective if you really can’t pay $12/mo, or if you are a moderately casual player who’s only going to need to go over the weekly limit sometimes and you don’t need multiple passes every week, but it’s not going to be sufficient for more hardcore players looking to do a lot of content every week.
If you’re a guild leader, you have two options for your guild. You can hand the guild off to a subscriber to lead, or you can make your guild a f2p guild IF THERE ARE NO SUBSCRIBERS IN THE GUILD. Be aware that if you don’t hand the guild off to a subscriber, the system will automatically promote the highest ranked subscriber to guild leader. If there are no subscribers in the guild, or if a subscriber guild leader promotes a non-subscriber to guild leader, the guild will be immediately downgraded to f2p.
If you’re not a guild leader, the only thing you need to remember about guilds is that you can’t access the guild bank without buying the unlock.
If you have any credits left over after buying your unlocks, distribute them between the characters you plan to activate, and do any item shuffling you want to do. You will be unable to send money to your other characters after your sub runs out, and you will only able to send one item at a time, so it’s important to do this before your time runs out.
Last thing to do before your time runs out is to make sure that all the account unlocks are on your _least_ customized/progressed character. More about why in the section below about unlocks.
Now you’re ready to cancel your subscription. If you’re not sure how to do that, there are instructions here.
Don’t be surprised if you get a few extra hours or days. I thought I was logging in on my first day of prefered; turned out I was still subscribed, even though the website had said “0 days” the day before.
After your sub expires
When you first log in, you will see a screen that details the restrictions of a preferred account:
Some of this information is wrong, and it doesn’t list all the restrictions. For a full (if vague) list of the current restrictions, check out the account type features page. There’s a more detailed breakdown on the swtor reddit account type page. The information on the screen was correct when they first rolled out f2p, but obviously hasn’t been updated.
First thing you’ll need to do is pick which characters to activate. Click on the yellow triangle to get a dialog box that will ask you to confirm that this is the character you want. Make sure to pick the character that has all your unlocks! If you have already used any extra character slot unlocks, you will be able to activate all your intended characters now. Otherwise you can activate six now and you’ll have to activate the rest later.
I suggest you don’t log into any other character until you’ve take care of your unlocks. When you log into a character for the first time as preferred, everything about the character will be limited by your current restrictions. In practical terms, that means that you will have to spend time resetting any characters you log into before you apply the unlocks. They’ll lose any color matching; their extra quickbars will get wiped, their names and titles will be set to only the character name, etc. However, if you apply an unlock before you log into a character for the first time, then it keeps whatever has been unlocked.
The most annoying of these resets has to be the quickbars. That’s why I suggest using your least progressed character for the first one you log into, that holds all your unlocks: That’s the character that will have the least work involved with fixing their quickbars. And if you’ve applied the quickbar unlocks before you log into your higher level characters, you won’t need to touch their quickbars.
Go ahead and apply your unlocks. Here are a few quirks I noticed when I did mine:
- Legacy surname – The box may be marked as “on” when you first unlock your surname, but you need to uncheck it and then recheck it for your surname to show up.
- Crew Skills – If you open your crew window before applying the unlock, it will at first look like you still have all three. It’s not until you try to open one of the skills that it will prompt you to pick two of them. And even after you apply the unlock, your crafting is still limited. You can only assign a max of three companions (remember, if you have one out questing with you, that counts as one of those three), and there is no crafting queue; companions can only craft one item at a time.
- Quickslots – As I mentioned before, it wipes whatever was in quickbar 5 and 6 so you will need to refill those if you had been using them on that character.
- Artifact Authorization – It does not apply to orange gear. You can still get that great looking orange gear without this unlock… but it does apply to purple item mods, so you can wear the shell so long as you don’t put any purple item mods in it. Any purple gear or mods that are already bound to you are not affected by this restriction, so you don’t need this unlock until you’re ready to upgrade your gear or if you get a great purple shell — but it tends to be the most expensive and you may be unable to purchase it due to your credit cap if you wait to buy it until after your subscription runs out.
Other things to watch out for
- The security key fleet passes don’t work if you’re f2p or preferred.
- One seemingly arbitrary limit I actually get, and that’s the mail limits. You can’t send money to anyone (even your own characters), and you can only send one item per mail. Not allowing people to send money enforces the credit cap (because you can’t just spread it between characters) and combats gold sellers. The item limit I’m less sure on but I can see the argument that it inhibits free accounts from being used strictly to farm things and send them back to a single character for sale.
- You only get 5 field revives per character. Ever. Not per day or week. Ever. I’m not sure if it counts as a field revive if another player resses you (if you know, leave me a comment). You can buy additional medical probes, but they’re expensive (comes out to nearly a dollar apiece in terms of real money), and I have not seen them on our GTN on my server. Unless you absolutely must res in place, take the walk from the nearest med center.
- You can’t trade until lvl 10. That means that the workaround where you give your subscriber friend some money from your main to hand off to an alt won’t work for you until after you reach level 10.
- Chat access. The page says there’s restrictions on preferred chat but I haven’t encountered any of them so I’m not sure what those restrictions are.
- It seems to have caused a lot of confusion: Extra character slots. You have a base, (2, 6, or 12). You can purchase up to an additional 10 spaces. So when you read “up to 22 characters” around the web, that’s subscribers only. It’s 12, 16, and 22 as your max, respectively.
- You can only expand your inventory or bank via cartel coins… if you use the button on your backpack anyway. You can purchase additional inventory space on the GTN if anyone’s selling. This is another one of those unlocks where it will be vastly more cost effective to only by it for account-wide, not per character. 10 spaces in your backpack will be called “Inventory Module” and a new page in your bank will be under “Cargo Bay.”
- There used to be an event gear unlock. It’s been removed but there are reports that some people are still getting the error that they can’t equip event-specific gear.
- You will lose most of your animated emotes, other than the specifically unlockable ones that came in cartel packs. There is no way to unlock them without resubbing.
- There are a lot of changes to xp gain, rep gain, etc, but basically it boils down to this: You will gain less of everything, and have lower limits on the max amount you can have of it. For a full list of those, I suggest the swtor reddit account type page, as it spells out most of the caps and limits and reductions. Those numbers have changed a few times too as they tweak how f2p works, but Bioware doesn’t seem inclined to make those updates on their website in a timely fashion, nor are they inclined to be specific about what the caps are.
Got any questions or comments about downgrading to preferred that I haven’t covered here? Drop me a line and I’d be happy to find the answer for you.