22/05/2021

No More Refer-a-friend

I finally removed my referral link from my sidebar, almost a month after Bioware decided to shut down SWTOR's refer-a-friend programme.

The earliest reference to referring a friend that I could find on this blog goes back to July 2012, back before the game had even gone free-to-play. It sounds like it was quite a faff back then, and judging by my own wording, no actual rewards for referring had actually been added yet at that point, though I mentioned that "they are finally implementing a reward for successful referrals" so it appeared to already be in the works.

Based on this post by Vulkk, the "Friends of SWTOR" referral system probably went live at some point in 2013, though I didn't add my referral link to my own sidebar until early 2014. Your first five referrals earned you a mount and some pets, and beyond that you would receive some complimentary Cartel coins for every month that a player you referred stayed subscribed.

The first few rewards took a little while to trickle in for me, but soon the whole thing transformed into a steady stream of free Cartel coins, especially after my friend Traitine added my link to his own "how to get free stuff in SWTOR" page - he stopped playing at some point and decided that he didn't need endless free CC accumulating in his own account, so he added my link to the page instead of his own so that the funny money would go to someone who could actually use it - which was extremely nice of him!

Ever since that day, I've never been lacking for cash shop currency. It helps of course that I'm not someone who does a lot of shopping for virtual goods - for some reason I'm fine paying for a service like a subscription, but actual virtual items rarely feel like good value for money to me. That said, whenever fancy did strike me and I felt like buying a new armour set for myself or maybe a gift for a friend, all the Cartel coins I needed were right there. By the end of it all, I had over 300 referrals to my name.

But that's where my interaction with the refer-a-friend programme both started and ended. Beyond having those links sit there passively, I never promoted it anywhere, and I also didn't really try inviting actual friends to the game much anymore. Despite of being the owner of a fan site, I'm actually really bad at promoting my fandoms, because I'm always like: "Yeah, I think it's really great, but I appreciate not everyone likes the same things so I wouldn't want you to feel pressured into joining me or anything!"

From what I understand, there was a darker side to the system though, because for some reason referral links also worked for existing, current players under certain conditions (don't ask me about the details, I genuinely don't know), which meant that a shady sort of economy developed around it in-game as people tried to get each other to click their links for more rewards in general chat, often offering to compensate players for their clicking with in-game credits - obviously a market that was ripe for scamming. It's not something I was ever involved in but I did hear from a couple of guildies that they were taking part in such trades and at least one of them got scammed too.

So I can understand why Bioware would have wanted to get rid of that, though it's a shame that the system as a whole had to go as a result. Couldn't they just have changed it so that the links didn't work for already active players anymore (she said, having no clue about the technical details)?

Then again, maybe the free Cartel coins were also getting a bit out of hand. It's hard to say without having any kind of insight into Bioware's financials, but my understanding is that virtual currency that is being sold for real money has to be accounted for in some way, and giving out some of it for free always makes for a bit of a mess in the books. There are Cartel coin rewards being given out as part of Galactic Seasons as well, but at least that's a specific, one-time amount. It's not like the CC you got from referrals, which was awarded based on your referrals' subscription status and had the potential to scale upwards to a scary degree. (I want to know how many referrals Swtorista had by the end!)

In short, I can't blame Bioware for sunsetting this system, but it does feel a little bittersweet to me, considering how much I've benefitted from it over the years. Then again, as I already said I don't actually spend Cartel coins very often, so it'll probably be a long while until my existing stash is gone. On top of that I'm in a much better place financially than I was in SWTOR's early days, so it wouldn't break my bank to actually buy some coins as well if I wanted/needed them. Still, I think that a refer-a-friend system in general is a good thing, so I hope that Bioware will consider re-introducing the idea in the future, even if it maybe has to be more simplistic and less rewarding than the last iteration has been.

7 comments :

  1. I believe I actually used your RAF link, when I started playing for a little while. I think I subbed... once or twice? Hopefully I contributed!

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    1. Aww, that's nice to hear! I wouldn't be able to tell though as the page showing your past referrals seems to have been removed as well.

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  2. Bioware waited way too long to retire this program. I take a wild guess here, but i think, it was never used in the way it was originally intended. The biggest mistake was, that they never did something about this abomination... trading credits for clicks. This way, the whole system was abused to scam people. The clickers never got what their clicks were worth. They got underpaid,... even if they got paid at all.

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  3. The referral links in itself was definitely not a bad idea, but other players were constantly advertising their referrals in gen chat, especially on the fleets. I know I and several others had cautioned fellow guildies about using them because there were a lot of scams going on. Of course on the flip side there were also quite a few who were genuine in their monetary offers and kept getting accused/reported for scamming. It was honestly a mess and I'm surprised it took the devs this long to pull the plug.

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  4. I had understood that while you wouldn't be able to get *new* rewards from *new* referrals, the existing ones being paid would still work, isn't it the case?

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    1. I can't really tell since they seem to have removed the page that used to show your referrals and how many CC you got from each... and I don't keep a close enough eye on my CC balance to notice minor fluctuations. :)

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    2. @Diana

      yes, that is correct. existing referrals still grant you the monthly 100 coins. it ends, if the person will unsub.

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