Where Is the Group Content?

SWTOR has long had a reputation of being a "single-player MMO", and I've always hated that. One of the very first posts I ever wrote on this blog dealt with this topic in fact. Don't get me wrong, I have no issue whatsoever with anyone praising the personal storyline or preferring to play by themselves, but the thing that has always ground my gears is how this often dovetails into people being dismissive of the game's group content, calling it sub-par and not worth anyone's time.

Especially at lauch, that was just so not true. Coming fresh out of WoW's Cataclysm, where Blizzard had removed all group content from the levelling content in the open world, I loved that in SWTOR, heroics actively encouraged you to team up with others while levelling, plus you got bonus XP for questing in a group, instead of an XP penalty like in WoW. Social points also offered an incentive to do group content in PvE. While WoW players were moaning about being stuck with the Dragon Soul raid for nearly a year, SWTOR pumped out a new flashpoint or operation every other month. It was objectively a glorious game in terms of group content if you enjoyed that kind of thing.

Players from the guild Twin Suns Squadron assemble on Hoth to kill the world boss Snowblind

Sadly, over time, SWTOR's dedication to encouraging grouping has been watered down quite a bit. Rise of the Hutt Cartel was the first and last story expansion that supported group conversations in new story content. Heroics were nerfed in difficulty and turned into just another kind of soloable daily quest in 4.0. Social points were removed with 7.0. Any plans to add new flashpoints or operations were discarded with 4.0, until they eventually made a come-back a few years later, but things have kind of petered out a bit again since then.

This has made me a bit sad, but not... devastatingly so, because while I enjoy group content, I obviously don't spend all my time in it either. I love getting new story updates! And I suspect that catering more to solo players is simply where the money is. At the very least, I'd assume that it's much more straightforward to measure the return on investment when you see a subscription up-tick after a new story update as opposed to a patch adding a new operation. I wouldn't expect many lapsed players to specifically come back for a new operation, and I'm guessing it's more of a retention mechanic for existing long-time players, giving them something to do with their friends once their interest in playing by themselves has been exhausted.

With all that said, I do think that spending some time on catering to players who like group content is still important, because they are the ones most likely to get others to try or stay in the game, to gush about it in public and promote it on social media. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single well-known SWTOR content creator that doesn't participate in group content at least some of the time.

And recently, I've been hearing a lot of discontent - from different directions, so it's not just one person and their group of friends - around the fact that we haven't heard anything about upcoming group content in a while. Now, players always want more of the stuff they like, but the reason this really drew my attention is that I've heard these kinds of complaints before... and they usually did not bode well for the months ahead, as in the past these were the times when I had to watch people I cared about leave the game and never come back. I think at this point SWTOR players who are invested in group content have mostly come to accept that their preferred mode of play is not a high priority for the devs and that they can't expect updates tailored to their interests very often - but there's still an expectation of getting something at certain intervals, and there's definitely a point where they'll lose patience and unsub.

Looking at my timeline of major content additions from last year, the longest gaps between major group content releases over time have been as follows:

  • Between operations: 2 years and 10 months, between the release of Dxun and R-4.
  • Between flashpoints/small group content: 1 year and 5 months, between the release of Nathema Conspiracy and Objective Meridian
  • Between major PvP updates: 4 years and 2 months, between the release of Vandin Huttball and the introduction of PvP seasons (yes, really)

I'm writing this at the end of June, shortly after we just got a major patch, so I wouldn't expect another one until October at the earliest, by which point it will have been:

  • 2 years and 2 months since the last operation (R-4)
  • 1 year and 4 months since the last flashpoint/small group content (Shrine of Silence)
  • 1 year and 10 months since the last major PvP update (introduction of seasons)

In other words, it's not totally unprecedented to have to wait this long for new group content, but considering that it's been this long for every type of it, I'm not surprised to see people going stir-crazy all over the place.

I really hope that the devs will have something relevant to share whenever they announce the next major patch (I'm not counting the next Galactic Season, as I know that's its own thing), because few things are as much of a downer to me in this game as seeing players I like and whose company I enjoy slowly turn away from the game because the devs just don't care about giving them anything new to hold their interest.


  1. I kind of wish the Devs would (or were able to) release group content on a predictable basis. Knowing that a PvP or an Ops/Flashpoint patch was coming up would go a long way, I think, to help keeping group players engaged with the game. Not everything new has to relate to the main storylines. There's always room for the group content to deal with side stories (unlike Wow who loves to finish offer expansion stories in raids).

    1. I never really thought about it that way re: predictability. I did write that "Never Knowing What Comes Next" post last year, and I think they've actually been better recently in terms of how regular things like story updates and seasons have been. Group content sadly seems to have remained a blind spot in that cadence though.

    2. Most of my comment comes from Kaylriene's comments about the predictability of Final Fantasy 14's story structure and patches. I think when you can only do so much, having visible predictability really does help with keeping players engaged. That's helped with the Galactic and PvP seasons. Well, at least for me because I know when to expect the new ones and when to expect the breaks.


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