May The Millions Be With YouMarch 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.