Basically, in case you somehow don't remember, I was quite opposed to the game transitioning to free to play. In my ideal world it would have remained sustainable as subscription only, but I pretty much made my peace with not getting that. It probably helps that even though the free-to-play conversion has had some pretty dramatic effects on the game, my experience as a continued subscriber hasn't actually been affected that much.
I had three major concerns when F2P was first announced:
1. I was worried about having the new payment model pushed in my face and having to deal with intrusive advertising reminding me to buy stuff from the shop every five minutes.
2. I know this is something that a lot of people will scoff at, but I was worried about the effect the cash shop would have on my immersion in the game. People love to buy silly random crap, so obviously Bioware will sell them silly random crap... but will it still feel like Star Wars if the fleet gets overrun by the SWTOR equivalent of sparkle ponies?
3. If most of their revenue came from selling items in the shop, development resources would shift to making more items for the shop, instead of, you know, working on actual gameplay additions.
Point one has just been a pleasant surprise all around. Yes, the Cartel Market button is a pretty prominent part of the UI, but it's not as bad as it could be, and seeing how it's located on the top bar it's honestly fairly out of the way. Most importantly, it's simply there for me to take it or leave it, with no obnoxious pop-ups or anything of the like attempting to remind me of it every five minutes.
Even the infamous gambling boxes seem to be fairly low-key compared to other games as far as I understand it. Where other F2P MMOs drop locked boxes out in the world in an attempt to make you buy keys for them ("hey, you already got the box, what's a little money for a key") and thus constantly remind you of the cash shop, SWTOR's are again something that you can simply buy in the shop if you want to - or you can ignore them completely. You only get the occasional reminder of their existence when someone near you goes on a spending spree on the fleet and it sounds like there's a mortar volley coming down somewhere close-by, going by the sound of all those boxes slamming into the ground.
(I seriously hope I haven't jinxed anything by praising these features. I'd be rather miffed if I found out that the next patch suddenly included Cartel Market pop-ups and locked boxes dropping out in the world.)
As for my fear of the harming of immersion... that one's a funny one, because in a way it's completely come true. People are prancing around in silly bikinis all over, Jedi dress up like Sith and vice versa, and both scoot around the fleet on "thrones" that make them look they just escaped from the Jetsons. I don't really get the appeal in most cases, but some of my guildies are going absolutely bananas over this stuff.
Pictured: smuggler on a meditation chair
Still, I laugh and shake my head a little, but other than that it doesn't actually annoy me that much, which surprised me. I don't think it's that I don't care about immersion, but after all this is Star Wars we're talking about, where the very source material contains things like Ewoks, alien strippers and musicians that leave you unsure of which orifice they use to produce sounds, and that's without even getting into some of the expanded universe stuff. I guess the game is less serious now than it was, but it still doesn't feel like it's completely deviated from its original IP.
Now as far as the last of my three fears goes, that's something that I can't yet determine after only two months anyway. I've certainly noticed that the first thing on each new set of patch notes is a big chunk of new cartel market changes and additions that I don't really care about. However, Damion Schubert has also gone on record for saying that the success of the cash shop has allowed them to allocate more resources to working on the game in general, which would definitely be a good thing if it turns out to be true.
So, as a subscriber the game is still as good as ever and apparently its performing better for EA as well. What more can you really ask for?