About an hour ago this news story broke on Joystiq's Massively section. It confirms that SWTOR is going F2P. There are no details as to why BioWare Austin is making this move but it has been confirmed that it is happening. Free-to-players will have restricted access to the game. *EDIT* New information made available here shows the kind of limitations set on F2Pers.
A new cash-shop has been confirmed and the F2P is estimated to drop after the 1.4 patch which will tie up the story line regarding the Dread Masters. No confirmation on how this will affect their plans for expansions or future content patches.
Current subscribers will have the option of continuing their subscription where they will be exempt from microtransaction purchases for new content and will be given an allotment of cash shop currency per month with which to purchase cash shop items. *EDIT* Subscribers will be getting extra cash shop currency for every month subscribed since the beginning of the game and bonus cash shop currency for every month they remain subscribed after this announcement and another bonus if they remain subscribed the day F2P drops. That information can be found here.
For a detailed breakdown of what this could mean Larry Everett of Joystiq.com predicted this F2P move just one week ago. You can find his article here. One interesting point made is that this move is not necessarily in response to dipping subscription numbers. This news comes at an interesting time in that the EA Q1 2013 investor's conference is happening today. That report will contain detailed information on SWTOR's current subscription numbers. The fact that this news was released mere hours before the subscription numbers become public is likely not a coincidence. I'll post more information as it becomes available.
*EDIT* The investor's call was extremely dodgy regarding current subscription numbers, however one quote stood out and I will post it here:
"EA First, the game many of you have been tracking closely, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Although it launched well, subscriptions have been on a declining trajectory and have now slipped below one million. Last year we announced that the breakeven point was roughly 500,000 subscribers. And while we are well above that today, thats not good enough.The message from players exiting the game is clear 40 percent say they were turned off by the monthly subscription. And many indicated they would come back if we offered a free-to-play model. Our plan now is to pivot and provide a two-tiered pricing plan which will make the game more accessible and grow the audience.The new pricing will go into effect in November."
So that's about as good as it is right now. Less than a million, more than 500k.