The Price Of Success

Yesterday Massively posted an article about how BioWare and EA not only expect 2 million plus subscribers for Star Wars: The Old Republic, their upcoming MMORPG, but also how they need at least 1 million to make it ’successful’. Anyone else getting a feeling of deja vu? *cough* Warhammer *cough* Online. Geez, I should really get that cough seen to.

This is not the job you're looking for

This is not the job you're looking for

The whole thing’s got me slightly worried. When a company talks about how amazing, large scale and grand their game is and then comes out with statements that it needs an entire country sized playerbase in order to even begin being successful, it just seems like they’re setting themselves up for a fall. In an industry were only one Western MMO has ever succeeded 1 million players, there isn’t exactly an achieveable precedent for setting such a loafty target.

By publically stating this goal, every critic on the planet is going to be watching BioWare and EA like a Korriban hawk. If the game doesn’t hit that magic 1 million number, the entire spin on the game is going to go from positive to negative and the result could be an unrecoverable spiralling downfall. We’ve seen it before with games like Vanguard and Warhammer and as soon as staff start getting laid off, the game becomes a dead duck in the eyes of the players.

Considering that BioWare/EA have also already starting discussing additional and further payment models, I’m starting to get the feeling (justified or not) that the main motivation behind the MMORPG is more money than anything else. Yeah, I know that’s the founding principle of any company but at least most have the good grace to try and hide that fact and let the product speak for itself.

I’m still looking forward to SW:TOR and will judge it when I play it but all of this talk about subscribers and payments is making me a little uneasy. I just want to play a game and for it to be fun. I don’t want to be thinking about money and its success as I’m doing it (or before it’s even come out).

Honestly, I can’t help but think that BioWare/EA would’ve been better keeping their mouth’s shut about it all. I’m not sure what they were trying to achieve.

-Gordon

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13 Comments

  1. Scott says:

    Since BioWare & Mythic are merged for MMO purposes, someone didn’t let Paul Barnett go speaking to the press again did they?

    Mentioning numbers like this is just dangerous and stupid. Yes, stupid. Now, as someone on another blog already mentioned, even if SW:TOR sustains 900,000 active subscriptions — which is triple the players of any other Western subscription MMO — it will be deemed a “failure.”

    And the layoffs *will* come; it’s part of the MMO process. Huge team to build the thing then once it launches, the team gets cut down to a more manageable size to keep it running. Most players who follow the industry know this, but it’s still a very negative perception of each game’s health when it happens despite that knowledge.

    • It very much is stupid. It’s one thing to have an internal target to shoot for to base projections and numbers and business plans on, but to release it like that, even with the almost-sure thing that TOR is, is stupid.

      And, Gordon, what were they trying to achieve? They were trying to bolster their prerelease numbers by showing how confident they are that their game will be a success, despite–like Scott said–those numbers being at-this-time absurd for non-Blizzard, NA/European MMOs.

      I’m afraid, too, that despite the quality product that Bioware is known for, they are putting too much faith in their IP. Branding can only go so far, even (especially?) when it’s Star Wars.

      “Your overconfidence is your weakness.”
      “Your faith in your intellectual property is yours.”

      Yes, I know that was bad. It’s late, and I am very sorry.

    • Gordon says:

      Absolutely. “Pride before a fall”.

  2. amcl says:

    Hopefully they’ll make the right design choice with SW:TOR, and also release it for the Mac.

  3. ogrebears says:

    I think Bioware can get an initial 1 million sub during the first few months, maintaining them will be the harder part.

  4. Bootleg says:

    I was burned so badly by WAR and EA’s management of it, I simply won’t purchase another MMO until I’m totally convinced it’s worth my time.

    I have very little faith that SW:ToR is going to be a good game. No faith in SW:ToR? But it’s Bioware!?!

    Does Bioware make good games? My answer is no, Bioware makes mediocre games at best. What Bioware does, fantastically, is employ excellent story writers and graphic artists. Their stories are so well done, their imagery so interesting, Mass Effect is my favorite single player game ever. But honestly, as for game play, it’s kind of crap.

    I hope EA/Bioware produce a good MMO. I’d love to find something of interested in the MMO field besides WoW and EvE. I’m just doubtful Bioware’s talents will translate into a a compelling MMO especially with EA backing them. Hope I am wrong.

    • Gordon says:

      I think MMOs can be fun for a short period of time and it’s only because we have such high expectations of them that we feel like we must play them for months until burn out occurs. I’m played plenty of MMOs for only a few weeks and felt like it was money well spent. After all, even 4 weeks of a MMO is more value for money that I get out of console games.

  5. orlly says:

    If anything this is good motivation for BioWare to do a great job….no not great, FANTASTIC job. Cuz if they deliver anything short of that, well they are screwed

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