EA Talk Big For SWTOR, But Low Numbers

Oh STUN them, right. Sorry.
Here’s a big quote from EA on the future of The Old Republic, as reported by MCV: “Our assumptions for break-even and profitability are not seven-digit subscribers. We think we can run and operate a very successful and profitable MMO at different levels,” said CFO Eric Brown, speaking at and event in New York. “The key thing here is to really perfect the product. We’re shooting for an extremely high quality game experience. We view this as a ten-year opportunity.”

So they’re not expecting to get into millions of subs, and decade lifespan suggests a long roadmap for expansions. It feels to me like EA/Bioware are gambling that there are enough people who want more from their game that free-to-play titles are perceived to supply that kind of continuous subscription income. And maybe they’ll be right: it could be so high quality that we’ll be fine with paying subs, even against the backdrop of better and better free-to-play stuff out there. Interesting, anyway.

80 Comments

  1. Simon Dufour says:

    I’ll try it.

    If they make it good enough, I might consider staying.

  2. Nick says:

    I was so looking forward to this until they started releasing gameplay and mechanics footage/details.

    • SAM-site says:

      Agreed. The more I’ve seen of the game the less I want it. Before SWG was turned into Holocron grind online it had the potential to be the greatest MMO evah™ Everything about this game makes it look like another quest-quest-level treadmill where there are no individuals, no chance to make a reputation and nothing to make it anything more than a hollow soulless experience.

      MMOs come in 2 flavours – theme park and playground. The playgrounds (UO/EVE/SWG) give you the tools to make your own adventures, the theme parks (everything else) treat you as though you have no imagination of your own and spoon feed you “content” in the hope of keeping you amused.

      I hope I’m wrong, but TOR smells like yet another theme park.

    • Aganazer says:

      I think you mean “Sandbox”, not “Playground”. But yeah, TOR is definitely a theme-park and its going to be very popular. I would guess that even the haters will come around and subscribe for a few years just like they did with WoW.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      The instant I saw healer Jedis I lost all hope. I really don’t want to play World of Warcraft: The Old Republic.

    • SAM-site says:

      Sandbox/Playground are interchangeable to an extent, but I prefer using playground as their real world equivalent tend to provide various swings, slides and roundabouts for you to play with as you see fit – want to climb up the slippery side of the slide? No problem.

      It just makes more sense to me when comparing them with theme parks, where you ride on the attractions in the way decreed by the ride designer.

      You say tomato. I say tomato etc.

  3. pakoito says:

    Smells like vaporware.

    • jeremypeel says:

      Really? This game has been such a huge operation, the parties involved couldn’t possibly afford to not release it.

      I hope for their sakes that it is a success; it’s big enough that I’m genuinely worried that Bioware could go under if it fails.

    • pakoito says:

      It’s less than a couple of months away and there is few information on the core rule system, the gameplay videos are generic and not too polished and the dev videos are mostly mini-cuts and interviews on HOW AWESEOME IS TEH WRITING.

      I bet they’ve spent more on ads than in the game, or the game itself was born dead but now they have to keep up with whatever they have in hands.

    • bob_d says:

      They can’t afford not to release it. I suspect it’ll be disappointing, given their budgeting priorities (full voice acting = expensive and unable to easily update content).

      A game of this sort usually has more money spent on marketing than the actual development budget.

    • mod the world says:

      Smells like troll.

    • pakoito says:

      It’s Axe, but thanks for noticing dear.

    • Scandalon says:

      Axe == Troll. :P

    • lumenadducere says:

      Less than a few months away? When did they announce a date? Last I heard it wasn’t going to be ’till late next year at the earliest. Still plenty of time.

  4. Miker says:

    I’ve been staring at it for literally years now, and I still can’t get over how /awkward/ the proportions for the bodies are. I know they’re going for a stylized look, but the style they happened to choose makes me want to into the arms of something less hideous. Why didn’t they mirror the look from the new Clone Wars cartoon?

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Because that’s even worse…?

    • Miker says:

      Really? Compared to the screenshots I’ve seen of TOR, the Clone Wars style would be a huge step up.

    • pakoito says:

      It’s halfway there, it’s Clone Wars proportions but with mature skins. Is like covering Disney Castle with mud and pretend it’s for adults.

    • alseT says:

      I think it would’ve been best if it had the look of the original Tarkarovsky Clone Wars series.

    • TubeSockFace says:

      I was following it right when the first screen-shots were released, and immediately afterwords signed up to the forums to BEG the devs to go another direction in the characters and art. I got heartily flamed by suck-up fan-boys but many agreed and the thread went over 2000 comments before it was shut by the developers. They did slightly decrease the hand and lightsaber size from monstrous to too big.

      But yeah, the whole superhero in tights / cartoonish shading / poor animations and general dumbed down look is going to be the death of this game. And I’ll bet you my mouse and keyboard that it’s due to the involvement of LucasArts (The Destroyer of Worlds).

  5. AlfRGB says:

    As long as Sony stays away from it, or EA doesn’t turn it into what SWG became after 1 year, then the game can remain steady. However, if EA also approaches it with distaste toward the company (Bioware) like they did with Mythic, then it’ll fail quicker than Warhammer Online did.

    • opel says:

      EA didn’t screw Warhammer Online. Mythic did. They had several major corporate management issues. Any sort of ‘distaste’ from EA was justified.

  6. SirKicksalot says:

    Bioware seems to think that a MMORPG should have much of the same game design focus as a single player RPG.
    Either that or someone fudged up the marketing again.

  7. PureUncut says:

    *WOOP WOOP* “Engineering, give me more power to damage control!”

    If that was a line from a Star Wars film I’d be so proud right now, but it isn’t so I’m not.

  8. Rib0 says:

    “It feels to me like EA/Bioware are gambling that there are enough people who want more from their game that free-to-play titles are perceived to supply that kind of continuous subscription income.”

    Probably just me, but I cant quite get my head around that sentence. otherwise, interesting.

  9. Jason says:

    Ah yes, the lowering of the bar. I’ve seen a lot of this around this game recently. Tobold basically said recently (paraphrasing) that he expected TOR to be “WoW with Lightsabers” and we should be fine with that.

    I also expect it to be WoW with lightsabers, and I expect it to do about as well as SW:Galaxies did. Meaning it might just sink EA.

    • Jimbo says:

      I don’t think you appreciate just how big EA is. The only way TOR can possibly ‘sink’ EA is if Revan comes to life and kills everybody that works there.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      It’s going to be worse than WoW with lightsabers. It’s going to be Jedis with Holy spec.

  10. Matthew says:

    It will be WoW with lightsabers, and we won’t be fine with that.

  11. Jockie says:

    If they can fulfill the promise of this being several Kotors in one package and keep the high quality content flowing, I can see myself subbing. Shame all the videos of combat look exceptionally dull and unimaginative.

  12. Alaric says:

    It seems to be another WoW, which in itself is not at all a bad thing, however, there is only one company that is REALLY GOOD at making WoW. That being Blizzard. I just played cataclysm after not having played since May 2009, and let me tell you, whenever someone mentions a “WoW killer” I can’t help but laugh. Even if MMOs are not at all your thing, claims that there is a better one out there are based on all sorts of reasons except actuality.

    • Skurmedel says:

      They are probably based on subjectivity, just like your claim :)

    • DrGonzo says:

      What? I completely disagree that WoW is the best MMO.

    • Alaric says:

      Substantiate.

    • Wulf says:

      I find a cheesegrater to the face more compelling than WoW, and even free-to-play games like Free Realms will always be far more enjoyable, enthralling, and involving to me than WoW ever was. My leanings tend to be toward things like Guild Wars, City of Heroes, and Champs Online (in chronological order!). So all my MMORPG hopes currently hang on Guild Wars 2 really.

      (Oh, Uru Live was amazing, too. Can we have another one of those, eventually? UL made me happy.)

    • Skurmedel says:

      What I mean is that such a claim (some MMO is better than WoW and the opposite) is based on preference and taste. There is no right or wrong.

  13. Tilla says:

    Since when is 6 figure subscribers a bad thing? All but the very top MMOs are 6 figures or /less/. EA has been running Ultima, Warhammer, etc with 5 figure subscribers for ages. Initial box sales should cover most of their budget anyway, even before you factor in subscription. Will it be good? Only time can tell.

  14. Josh says:

    I’m still looking forward to this. Unfortunately they can’t avoid the hype machine without getting backlash, or hype the game without backlash. Too many gamers see MMO’s in three categories: WoW, WoW Killers, and failures. If an MMO plans to “beat” WoW they will always fail. If the plan to have reasonable (sub million) subs, people consider it a failure. WoW only planned to have 250,000 subs, even after the first year, even with the response from their beta.
    I loved KotoR and was disappointed by KotoR 2. Bioware at the helm of a Star Wars Old Republic game is a day one purchase to me. ToR has the added benefit that my wife and I can play together without having to pass a controller back and forth.

    • Wulf says:

      I personally have a fourth category.

      MMORPGs are total bullshit, plain and simple. Let’s do our own thing, and toss any care we have for existing conventions to the wind. Hack the virtual planet!

      This absolutely has nothing to do with WoW (which is a complete failure, in my eyes), or being a failure. It has everything to do with something a bit new. Therefore, the only MMORPGs I follow are those of this category.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      You have Sega LucasArts being total dicks to thank for KOTOR 2. Try the restored content mod. I know it won’t be the same as if you were playing for the first time, but those are the breaks.

    • LevingLasVegas says:

      @ Grape Flavor:

      SEGA had nothing to do with KoTOR2. KoTOR2 was developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published (as all SW games are) by LucasArts. Obsidian has commented before that they were denied extended time to work on KoTOR2 by LucasArts and that LucasArts was not willing to pay Obsidian to stick around to patch any bugs.

      What you might be thinking of is the Aliens RPG that was being developed by Obsidian. SEGA was set to publish it, but decided to drop the project, even after Obsidian said that Aliens RPG was “finished.”

    • Grape Flavor says:

      @Vegas

      Ah, thanks. I knew the publisher cut Obsidian off and made them release the game too early. I don’t know why I thought it was Sega, you’re right, LucasArts publishes all Star Wars games.

  15. Morgawr says:

    I can’t understand why people are expecting this game to be a flop. When was the last time Bioware made a game that didn’t succeed critically and commercially? I think EA are being too conservative with their numbers. Initial box sales will be huge, and if EA/Bioware support SWTOR properly, they should be able to retain quite a few subscribers.

    • pakoito says:

      So what? Game by bioware -> instasuccess? I left that train of thoughts a while ago. No company is gonna come up with right games every fucking time. Not even Blizzard or Valve.

      Even if it’s critically (lol game magazines) and commercially awarded some games are just “not that good” with PR cream on top.

    • Starky says:

      No but past success is an indicator of possible future quality.

      Nothing guarantees success, but coming from an experienced successful and skilled company like Bioware makes it a whole mountainous heap more likely.

    • pakoito says:

      Somebody is gonna hate me for saying it, but Bioware could have done better since/because they joined EA. They dropped the squad control on Mass Effect crippling the strategic factor, streamlined Dragon Age combat, etc…Not that those are bad games, but they are missing something. And I highly suspect that Bioware did TOR not because they wanted as they did with their other IPs but because they were made to to use their name to sell SPACE RPG BIACHES.

    • Wulf says:

      That’s because you have a very singular understanding of ‘flop’, I suppose. To some, flop can simply imply only popularity, and to others it can instead invoke quality and creative thinking. It can flop in regards to being about as creative as a wet blanket, and as cowardly as your average bar drunkard, morbidly terrified of trying anything new or interesting at all. Because new and interesting might cut into profits, when you could just make the same old familiar tripe, dressed up in a new skin, with new content, based off of a familiar license, and make lots of money anyway.

      It won’t flop as a financial success, it won’t flop in regards to popularity, but it will flop in regards to actually being something interesting, something worthwhile, the gaming world won’t be better for its presence, but worse. It’ll be a flop for that reason, at least by the latter definition of flop. I personally thought Halo was a flop, World of Warcraft was a flop, and this looks like a flop to me, too. Not involving money, but actually making something worthwhile. Because creating something worthwhile actually matters. Or at least it should.

    • Morgawr says:

      @Starky: Exactly.

      @Wulf:

      I do not have a very singular understanding of the term ‘flop’ .Obviously I was defining the term ‘flop’ as a barometer of commercial success, which was what the article was about. Your reply implies that I should take into account every individual’s subjective judgment of a game before deciding whether it is a flop or a success, which is clearly impossible.

  16. Jimbo says:

    I called a break-even of ~1m subscribers the last time this came up, but I’m surprised to hear them pitch even lower. Obviously those numbers only work because he’s talking such a long lifetime for the game, which itself seems kinda crazy.

    Personally, I think the scenario he’s pitching is pretty unlikely. I imagine two years after launch it will either be making so much money that break-even is a distant memory, or it will be on the way out. I can’t see it ticking over quietly toward break-even for the next ten years.

    How many subscribers does the second largest subscription MMO currently have? Anybody know?

    • Starky says:

      Agreed, I can however see it launching massive, and then dropping down to roughly half a million and slowly ticking away at that number for a good 4-6 years.

      Which I’d wager will be more than enough to make it profitable.

      5 years at 500k subs is a whopping 450 million revenue. Not counting any expansion box sales and other secondary income sources (item sales, so on).

    • DrGonzo says:

      I would like to know that as well. I know WoW isn’t the most popular MMO as such, but it is the most popular subs based MMO. I would like to see the income generated compared.

    • Torgen says:

      “Sirbruce” used to do a mmochart thing, tracking subs, but he seems to have stopped it a few years ago.

  17. ScubaMonster says:

    When will companies learn you can’t make a WoW killer by making a WoW clone? You will NEVER beat Blizzard at their own game. Not this late into it. Nobody is pretending this will be a WoW killer, not even EA, as that thought alone all but ensures automatic failure. But cranking out more of the same isn’t going to garner long term support for this game. It will be just like every other WoW-esque game; people will check it out because it’s new, then the subscriptions will fall by at least half.

    I really want to see a big name publisher pump a lot of money into making a MMO that is actually unique. That will never happen though because investors will deem it too risky, even though making more of the same is just as much of a risk. I actually expect the next innovation in MMO’s come from Blizzard, as odd as that might seem. They are about the only company given a blank check to do it their way. I’m sure even they know that making WoW 1.5 isn’t going to cut it.

    • Delusibeta says:

      Last time we got a game that claimed to be “MMO that is actually unique”, it closed within three months. EA got it’s fingers burnt, so the odds of it doing it again any time soon is fairly slim.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Pirates of the Burning Sea is definitely different from WoW. It seems to be doing well, but it’s difficult to tell really.

    • pakoito says:

      Guild Wars 2 and Atlantica online are examples on how to survive outside WoW.

      Also, the ancient Ragnarok Online, though being a pirate-fest is still quite popular.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      @Delusibeta: I can’t for the life of me figure out which MMO you’re referring to. Can you elaborate?

      Edit – Okay it’s APB. I wasn’t aware EA published that one. In that case, it’s obviously a situation of unique idea with horrible execution. I’m not sure what’s the magic formula for a dev to not fail on the execution. Is it a matter of a rushed deadline, or simply incompetent game designers/programmers that causes games to be dead on arrival? Most likely it’s a combination of both. I guess then I should qualify my statement with “a unique idea that is done well”. Unique ideas alone don’t make good games, obviously.

  18. ScubaMonster says:

    10 year lifespan? Not if Blizzard releases their next MMO in less than 10 years.

    • rargphlam says:

      MMOs have a funny way of kicking around. Basically if you get enough people on board at release, then the game will theoretically be profitable indefinitely. Almost every MMO release demonstrates this, even Star Wars: Galaxies, a game that languishes and is generally an MMO pariah, maintains enough subscriptions to remain profitable.

      And Blizzard actually MIGHT be releasing their next MMO in 2014, according to a supposedly leaked presentation slide outlining their game release schedule.

    • Nick says:

      Everquest is still going 12 years on.

  19. Grape Flavor says:

    I love the KOTOR setting, but my interest level is basically zero at this point. It’s WoW in space. A reskin. And I highly doubt even Bioware can make that appealing to me. Not to mention that the voice acting and dialogue in the gameplay trailers appears to be quite subpar by BioWare standards.

    If I’m to get into the MMORPG space, Guild Wars 2 looks to be by far the brighter prospect. Why oh why couldn’t BioWare have just made another single-player KOTOR. That would have been awesome.

    • bill braski says:

      It’s actually more like KotOR with multiplayer features and an “always on” thing.

    • Nick says:

      Kotor was holy trinity tank and spank?

  20. ExplosiveCoot says:

    This is an interesting (and well deserved, in my opinion) walking back of the 2 million+ subscriber numbers EA was previously discussing:

    link to joystiq.com

  21. Kurt Lennon says:

    If I was a fan of Star Wars I’d be gravely insulted by this disastrously bad looking game.

    This game will crash and burn like Warhammer Online.

  22. outoffeelinsobad says:

    I think we, as serious gamers, might be looking too far past the fact that this is a Star Wars game.

    • Nick says:

      And Star Trek Online was a Star Trek game. A huge nerdy fanbase doesn’t mean success. If that is the point you are trying to make, I’m not 100% sure.

  23. NegativeZero says:

    Maybe I’ve been missing out or something, but every free-to-play MMO I’ve ever tried has been an utterly awful, soulless Korean graphical-MUD grindfest. Given Bioware’s pedigree I’d expect it to be far better than those, even though the gameplay they’ve shown so far is a bit disappointing. Where are these ‘better’ free to play MMOs which I could be playing instead of paying a subscription for one that’s at least reasonable? I’m genuinely curious.

    Not that I’ll have much time to try them any time soon, since the next hit of Blizzard’s drug is available. :(

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Guild Wars is pretty good and Guild Wars 2 looks phenominal for two.

    • NegativeZero says:

      Guild Wars isn’t free to play, you have to shell out at retail for a copy.

  24. OldRat says:

    Well, yes. They don’t, necessarily speaking, need millions of subscribers. Just like Bob sulkily informs everyone he didn’t really need Billy’s shiny and pretty ball (despite drooling all over it) when Billy doesn’t give it to him.

  25. SanguineAngel says:

    I kinda like the art style…. sorry….

  26. Actung Englander says:

    Please please please please please PLEASE

    NO MORE STAR WARS
    No more movies (thank god)
    No more bullshit cartoons
    No more games
    No more Star Wars of anything – including the going to be shite TV series

    please just stop………….

    2 decent movies and 4000 shite spin offs

  27. fallingmagpie says:

    I’m going to continue to wait until I get to play it before saying how good it is.

  28. alice says:

    I was fully ready to ignore this game like most MMOs until I realized that the two games that have affected me the most over the past year were Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2. So basically I need to pay attention to anything BioWare does, even if it is an MMO with questionable everything.

  29. Kdansky says:

    WoW was really outstanding when it got released six years ago. Bioware is now making a carbon copy, and obviously won’t have the vast and gigantic six year backlog to cover up the rough edges and the fact that MMORPGs generally are dull and grindy. So we will end up with WoW in its fourth iteration and an addicted 10 million subscribers vs WoW in space in its first iteration with zero people pot committed. And on top of that, WoW isn’t actually that great a game anymore, but at least their mediocre game is very well polished. Put another way: WoW manages to make the most of a bad game formula. Bioware cannot expect to top that with zero experience.

    Star wars is going to crash so hard, they should invite some people from CERN to study the black holes.