May The Millions Be With You

March 18, 2010

I don’t think anyone was at all surprised to hear that Star Wars: The Old Republic is EA’s biggest project to date. A massive amount of money is no doubt being pumped into its development, and in fact, Industry Gamers reported that the game will likely need at least one million subscribers to reach the break-even point.

I admit, when I first heard this news, I thought, “One million? Bah, SWTOR can achieve those numbers easily!” Bioware has so much going on for them, I can see them making big numbers at time of launch from box sales alone. We’re talking Star Wars here, people! Anything less than one million would be a travesty!

But after considering it for a little while, I realized that one million subs is actually quite a lot (I mean, this isn’t Blizzard we’re talking about, as World of Warcraft is in a league of its own). How many times have we seen a MMO kick off with a huge number of subs only to have that figure dwindle to a fraction of its original glory several months down the road? There’s a small window to make an impression, and if you don’t deliver on content or playability, no amount of hype or marketing is going to help. Add to that an already saturated online gaming market, and well, achieving one million subscribers and keeping them might not be a cakewalk after all.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that SWTOR will be a smashing success at release. While I’m loathe to make any predictions about the game until I’ve actually seen more than five minutes of game play, I do have faith that SWTOR will make a splash in its first few months; if anything, the legions of Star Wars fans and Bioware addicts will see to that. The question is whether or not they will be able to hold on to those numbers. Also, considering how EA/Bioware is like any other company, they generally aren’t in the business just to “break even.” So we’re talking about long-term sustainability, growing the customer base as well as retention. The Industry Gamers article did say that management believes two million subs+ is a possibility, but what they’re really aiming for is several million subscribers.

While I really want to say with confidence that SWTOR will have no problems with achieving those numbers, I’ve seen how unpredictable the online gaming industry can be. Speaking as a Star Wars geek and a Bioware fangirl myself, I’m certainly hoping for the best. If any MMO is going to have a chance at pulling this off, it’ll be this one.


  1. I’m a big Star Wars fan and a decent Bioware fan myself, although I’m also very cheap and would find it hard to justify subscribing to any MMO on a regular basis.

    With that out of the way, I wanted to express my concern about the 3D engine and the combat mechanics. I am a big fan of KOTOR I and II, but I’m not sure if the graphics and combat mechanics are the right fit for a new generation SW:TOR game. Compared to the other MMO’s out there, it’s probably very competitive, so maybe I’ve just got unrealistic expectations from looking at screenshots and videos of current generation games in other genres (e.g. ME2 [RPG], Crysis/Modern Warfare 2/Bad Company 2 [FPS], etc.).

    That being said, I’m not intimately familiar with SW:TOR’s graphics and combat – I’m just going off of memory from watching a few videos 😛

  2. Hmm, ok, I don’t know if my last comment went through, but I was wondering if you had any thoughts on Mass Effect 2, regular vs Digital Deluxe version. Impulse is having a sale on them for $30 and $40, respectively, so I think I’m going to buy it since I figure Steam will never have a sale that’s better than that (in the near future). I don’t actually have a computer that can run ME2, yet, lol.

    I think what’s enticing me the most are the Original Soundtrack, the Digital Art Book, and the digital comic. Do you know if those are any good?

    • Well, throw in an art book and it’s usually a done deal for me, so I may be a bit biased. Add to that a soundtrack, I guess for $10 more it sounds like pretty sweet deal.

      With regards to your previous comment, SWTOR’s graphics has been a concern for many, I think. They did say very early on that will be going for the stylized look, keeping graphic requirements low so even older computers can run the game. Coincidentally, I just linked to some new animations on the SWTOR site in my latest post, you can see a sample of the combat in the video.

  3. well i figure if dragon age can sell 3.2 million based on a brand new IP, I’m going to have faith, even though it’s a slightly different situation with it being an MMO, that it will sell at least similar numbers.

    as for holding on to subscribers… that’s a lot harder to predict.

    • Yeah, there will be a lot of people who are going to be hesitant about having to pay a subscription fee. For some it could actually be quite a big decision…I think as MMO players, we’re all just so used to it that we think it’s no big deal 😛

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