EA preparing for 'multiple millions' of Star Wars gamers
Electronic Arts says it won't release "Star Wars: The Old Republic" until it's sure the game is ready.
By Winda Benedetti
As we gamers sit here waiting ... and waiting ... for Electronic Arts to tell us when they will launch their highly anticipated "Star Wars: The Old Republic" online game, EA continues to tease us with tidbits about how well they expect the game to do.
Patience, young Jedi. Patience. All will be revealed soon enough.
In its first quarter earnings conference call this week, Electronic Arts talked up the forthcoming massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) – an epic Star-Wars-themed game designed to take a bite out of the seven-year-old "World of Warcraft" game published by rival Activision.
"We feel very bullish to be able to come into this category with a fresh offering, something that's brand new that appeals to a majority of that category," EA Games label president Frank Gibeau told investors, according to a transcript of the meeting released by financial analyst site Seeking Alpha. "And it's a category that hasn't seen a lot of releases that fit the scale over the years and we feel like we're in a good position to pick up on a lot of latent demand."
What kind of demand are they expecting? Well, for starters, Gibeau said they see the MMO category as being a "tens of millions person opportunity."
And Gibeau said, "We've got a very aggressive plan to be able to scale multiple millions of users coming into the Star Wars franchise and service this fall."
And they'll need those multiple millions of subscribers to make the game a solid financial investment.
EA CEO John Riccitiello told investors that the game starts to become profitable at about 500,000 subscriptions and "makes good money on an ongoing basis" at 1 million subscriptions. But really, considering how much money they've put into this game and into purchasing the game's developer — BioWare — he said, "anything north of 1 million, as we approach 1.5 million or 2 million, starts to look like a great investment."
For the record, "World of Warcraft" currently has some 12 million monthly subscribers.
But apparently EA has good reason to be feeling "bullish" this early. Though EA wouldn't release the specific "Star Wars: The Old Republic" pre-sale numbers, they have apparently broken the company's record.
"In general, the pre-order numbers are ahead of our expectations on Star Wars," Gibeau said. "It's the largest number we've done at EA in comparison to other titles. The next closest title is 'Battlefield 3,' and it was up significantly from there."
As for the launch date that has MMO and Star Wars nerds hanging on EA's every word, Riccitiello told investors that they will reveal more at their next earnings meeting, but in the meantime they are pushing hard to launch the game sometime during the final three months of this year.
But he said the launch could get pushed back into early next year if their testing showed that they needed to do so to ensure the quality of the game and its digital distribution at launch.
Paying customers, he said "have high expectations for perfect performance, and that's what we intend to provide at launch."