The Force, it seems, isn’t particularly strong in Star Wars: The Old Republic. EA’s latest earnings report shows that the MMO game has lost an almost 25 percent of its subscribers in a matter of months. Is it time to think about calling 2-1B in for a consult?
In today’s report, EA announced a figure of 1.3 million subscribers to the troubled game, down from its peak of 1.7 million in February. The drop was played down, with EA Labels President Frank Gibeau describing the fall as being in line with “original assumptions” about how the game would fare post-launch. The drop, he suggested, was due to the audience shifting from a more general Star Wars fan as curious about the mythology and settings of The Old Republic as the game itself to a more hardcore gaming demographic: “As the service evolves, some of those initial casual customers have gone through a billing cycle and decided not to subscribe,” he explained.
That’s certainly possible – Although, surely, it would’ve been hoped that the game would’ve been something that could have transformed general Star Wars fans into gamers – but the drop in subscribers is nonetheless worrying considering the cost (Estimated between $150 million and $200 million in development costs alone) and time (More than five years between conception and the December 2011 launch, if reports are to be believed; there were three years between the project’s original announcement and the game launch) EA has invested in the project.
There’s been concern for some time about the health of the game, with lead writer Daniel Erickson telling PC Gamer last month that EA and developer BioWare were doing “anything and everything” to increase the number of concurrent users at peak playing times. “Nothing is off the table when it comes to making sure our communities are strong and active on each server,” he was reported as saying at the time, while simultaneously denying that subscriber numbers had fallen since the 1.7 million figure had been announced.
Downplaying the idea that the project could be in trouble, EA CEO John Riccitiello called the game “stable, profitable” and added that the company has “strong plans” to grow the game and community over the next fiscal year (Part of those plans are two new content packs for the game, called Legacy and Allies that will be available soon). There’s math that we don’t know at play here, perhaps: Riccitiello has previously hinted that SW:TOR could remain profitable with as few as 500,000 subscribers).
Of course, there are always the lessons to be learned from the movies themselves. If subscriber numbers continue to fall at the rate that they have been, don’t be too surprised if Star Wars: The Old Republic 3D is announced sooner rather than later.