23/07/2020

SWTOR's on Steam, but What Does It Mean?

On Tuesday, the team at Bioware ran its first community livestream in a while. They talked about a couple of different things, but the main occasion was... SWTOR launching on Steam?


This is one of those things that's simultaneously huge and completely irrelevant, depending on how you look at it. It's huge because it's undoubtedly a good thing for the game - launching on Steam is the digital download equivalent of selling your product on Amazon, which is to say that it gets put in front of a huge number of eyeballs that wouldn't otherwise have known about it. Lots of new players plus more money for the developers are good things in my book!

For someone who's been happily playing without Steam all this time though, it's simultaneously kind of a non-event. Sure, the starter planets might be a bit busier than usual (but then, lack of new players has never been an issue for the game from what I could tell - it's the mid-level zones where population sometimes drops off), but it's not like there's any new content to play through or anything.

So what does this mean for existing players? Is there any point in "moving" to Steam?

I had to have a think about this myself because I have a slightly weird relationship with Steam in that I do have it installed and also allow it to run on startup, but almost never actually use it. All I ever play is a small number of MMOs and I just install and play those through their native launchers! In fact, the only reason I have a Steam account at all is that a number of years ago when I went through a pretty rough time in real life which also included several months of unemployment, my significant other pushed me towards getting an account so he could gift me games through Steam to keep me busy and distracted, heh.


Anyway, after reading up on it I learned that there are some advantages to linking your SWTOR account to Steam, beyond the obvious "Steam stuff" such as tracking your play time, showing your Steam friends what you're playing, trading cards and whatever other gamification things Steam has going on these days.

First off, you get extra payment options! I've been on a stable income with a functional credit card for a while now, but that doesn't mean that I've forgotten that this isn't necessarily the case for everyone. As far as I remember, when I first started playing MMOs I used to pay with physical time cards from a store, and later when I switched to paying by credit card I recall having payment issues more than once. SWTOR stopped selling physical time cards where I live quite some time ago, so payment options have been limited ever since. (Though while researching this I found that there's a thing called "EA game cards"? Don't recall ever seeing one of those before, and not sure if they work without going through Origin.)

Anyway, Steam gift cards are pretty common and if you link up your Steam and SWTOR accounts, you can pay for your subscription or Cartel Coins that way as well. Plus if people gift you money that way and you haven't known what to spend it on in the past because you only really play MMOs all the time (cough) you can now turn those gifts into subscription time or Cartel Coins too. A guildie also pointed out that since there are ways in which you can earn money on Steam (from selling trading cards and so on), you could even "finance" your subscription through playing other games. It's nice to have options!

I also mentioned giving gifts through Steam earlier, and this is a big one for me. I've long been baffled by the fact that SWTOR doesn't allow you to gift sub time or Cartel Coins to other players. Considering that this would be another reason to give them more money, you'd think they'd be able to justify the dev resources for developing such a system! (Fun fact: when I went back to WoW for a few months back in 2013 this was purely because my significant other gifted me the then-current expansion and some game time to "force" me to play with him and I didn't have the heart to reject the gift - just one way to get more people to play your game.) Anyway, my point is that by linking your SWTOR account to Steam you gain the ability to gift both sub time and CC to other players or receive either from them in turn. How awesome is that? Swtorista describes how it works here.

Anyway, what does it mean to "link" SWTOR and Steam anyway? Well, just linking your accounts for the purposes of making payments or giving or receiving gifts is very easy: Select to install the game on Steam (which initially just installs the launcher), and then launch the game through Steam and log in, which will link the accounts. You can stop the actual game download and never go back after that if you like.

However, if you want to do things like track your play time, you need to actually install the full game through Steam, which is a bit more annoying simply because like most modern MMOs it's a huge download and feels a bit redundant if you've already got it installed and are happily playing away. Sadly, unless you previously switched from the default to the non-streamling launcher (which you wouldn't have done as an average player), you can't just copy the files from their current directory to the Steam one either but have to re-download the whole thing. I did decide to go through with that anyway and therefore have two copies of SWTOR installed on my PC right now! Let me tell you, it's not good for your hard disk space... I'll probably delete the duplicate eventually, maybe once they add a few more pixels to the Steam launcher icon so that it doesn't look completely atrocious.

All that said, the reinstallation should only be a one-time nuisance and I don't think there are any other downsides to switching, as you're logging into the exact same game afterwards, so things like your characters, preferences etc. will be there as they were before.

What about you? Have you made the switch or has this development not affected you in any way?

7 comments :

  1. EA decided that they would rather have the money Steam users might give them than stay away. Annoyingly, many of their Origin games are now on Steam, and when you click play it just launches Origin. SWTOR at least doesn't require Origin, at least the last time I tried it, though it does have its own launcher. But so does nearly every other MMORPG on Steam, so it fits in.

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    1. That sounds quite annoying... wonder what happens if you install an Origin game through Steam but don't have Origin - does it then prompt you to install that too? I've never actually used Origin (you're right that it's not required for SWTOR); I just remember downloading it once many years ago because they were giving away a game for free that interested me, but then said game didn't work on my PC anyway so I never touched it again after that.

      And yeah, MMOs having their own launchers is very much a thing - are there even any these days that don't have one?

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    2. It can get even more convoluted if you have Gog Galaxy installed and linked it to your Steam account. Galaxy to Steam to Origin potentially to launch a game. It's one thing for a company to have a unified launcher for all their games, but yeesh, Storefronts R Us these days.

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    3. Yeah, SWTOR is likely the last of the Origin games added to Steam. This is the culmination of EA admitting that Steam is better than Origin itself, even though Origin does get called from within Steam.

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  2. I copied everything over to my Steam folder and am running it. I use Steam to launch/login to Secret World Legends, so adding Swtor felt like a natural fit. Plus, I wanted to add one more person to the Steam counts. While those counts should be taken with a big grain of salt, they at least give us some idea of the game's popularity (if only compared to other MMOs on Steam).

    The Steam goodies you get are nice (trading cards, backgrounds, etc.), but they aren't something that I'll go out of my way to get. Now, I do like the extra payment options, too. The more flexibility on these things the better.

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  3. I have nothing against Steam as an MMO launcher if it actually works. As in, not launching the launcher. That's kinda annoying, and I'm not a big fan of the SWTOR launcher in the first place. So it would only make the experience worse. (Please let me avoid using my 2FA every day and save my damn password on THIS machine, like WoW does. And GW2.)

    Overall? Can't tell from a personal standpoint, but I also guess more people is strictly better for the game, so yay I guess.

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    1. Not sure how you could argue that the experience is worse when both come down to "click the icon and the launcher appears" - it's not like there are any extra clicks or anything?

      But yeah, I hear you on remembering the 2FA. It's annoying but I can live with it.

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