The franchise of Star Wars is obviously very big business and it has provided not only entertainment for the masses, but actual firepower to use on the battlefield of gaming consoles. Could Star Wars: The Old Republic put a serious dent in World of Warcraft, continuing the fight between EA and Activision/Blizzard? The bitter feud is sometimes as interesting to watch as the Star Wars saga itself. But make no mistake. The only one laughing his way to the bank might be Lucas.
World of Warcraft has been the staple of the MMORPG arena for a long time, having beaten out a lot of developers who have tried their own MMOs only to fail later on. It’s a vastly expensive process from planning to programming to maintaining the playfield for millions of people, something most companies don’t want to even try. Activision/Blizzard has done it well, but the interest in WoW has been waning over the years and they’ve been bleeding users at a pretty noticeable rate. My guess is that people are getting tired of the same old, same old. When things run for as long as the MMORPG has, players tend to get a little restless after awhile, bored with the terrain. Just like if you were stuck in your town for years, you’d probably like to travel and see other places, just to get out of the rut.
When asked in an interview what the CEO of Activision/Blizzard thought of the new competition, he said that he didn’t understand how EA was going to make it work from a profitability standpoint and warned that it would be Lucas who would benefit, not the developers/producers. After all, they have added cost of running the servers day to day for the subscriptions and paying out the licensing fees while Lucas just reaps in the cash. His comment may sound like just normal business talk, but given the deep rivalry the two entities (EA and Activision) have had in the past, his words underline the concerns that if Star Wars did make it into the mainstream and is profitable enough to keep it together, that WoW could be in some serious trouble. But it sounds as though he believes that EA has little idea of what they are getting themselves into once the game goes live. Of course, experience from other companies that have tried it does give him insight into how volatile the market is, but then few are as dedicated as EA is to bringing this into the fray.
The question that all the analysts and number crunchers are concerned with is not the 2 million copies already sold in pre-order. Its how many of those will stay after the complementary introduction period has ended. That is the true measure of a game’s viability. Initial estimates by way of a recent poll speculates that at least 1.6 million WoW players are prepared to switch when EA’s offering hits the airwaves. That is a significant number. And since they are both pay to subscribe, it’s going to come down to whether people like the shiny new worlds yet to be or the old and familiar that WoW provides. It will also depend a lot on how many of one’s teams and friends bail for new lands. Activision is betting that once the newness wears off, their people will return home just as people return from vacation in the real world.
EA and Activision have had a long history of battle amongst themselves. Activision even sued their rival over accusations that EA had stolen a few of their employees after they were let go, albeit indirectly. When the group of fired developers started their own company, EA bought them and later on came out with Battlefield 3, a title that was specifically targeted to go after the Call of Duty market. So any volleys they throw may be intended to scare off investors and to talk a bit of smack about the competition.
I guess we’ll see, won’t we? Star Wars; The Old Republic comes out on December 20, 2012, and is currently in beta testing on specific weekends with earlier entry for the players who pre-order the game.