More bad news from a galaxy far, far away: Just weeks after it was announced that Electronic Arts and BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic lost nearly one-quarter of its subscribership between February and April, the game’s creators confirmed that members of the development team have been laid off from the company.
In a statement released on The Old Republic’s official website on Tuesday, BioWare heads Greg Zeschuk and Dr. Ray Muzyka confirmed that rumors about restructuring, the most dreaded word in any professionals life, are indeed true. “Since you’re reading this you may likely have heard that we’ve done some restructuring here on the SWTOR team. Sadly, we are bidding farewell to some talented, passionate, and exceptionally hard-working people who helped make SWTOR a reality,” read the statement, “Impacting people’s lives this way is always very hard, but we’re ensuring the affected people are treated with dignity, fairness, and respect.”
The message goes on to paint an optimistic portrait of the MMO’s future. “Looking forward, the studio remains vibrant and passionate about our many upcoming initiatives for Star Wars: The Old Republic. We still have a very substantial development team working on supporting and growing the game, and we feel we are in a strong position, with your continued involvement and feedback, to continue to build SWTOR as one of the most compelling and successful online experiences in the world today. There are many strong initiatives planned for cool new content and new features that we’re excited to tell you about in the upcoming weeks and months.”
It was inevitable that at least some of the extended BioWare staff working on SWTOR would lose their jobs eventually. By the time the game was completed in December, the staff had swollen to over 800 people spread across BioWare’s studios in Texas, Quebec, and Alberta. EA spent over $200 million developing the game. Even if subscribers weren’t abandoning the game at an alarming rate in the months following its release, BioWare and EA would still have needed to cut staff. It’s the unfortunate mercenary nature of the entertainment business, not just video games.
That BioWare’s head honchos said they’re committed to bringing new content to the game with the help of a substantial staff is a hopeful mask painted over a dire situation. SWTOR is definitive proof that the subscriber-based MMO payment model founded back in the 1990s is no longer tenable if you plan to build a massive audience on the scale of World of Warcraft at its peak. It’s time for SWTOR to go free-to-play.