I Guarantee SW:TOR Will Pass A Million Subscribers

SW:TOR Jedi

Jedi are always the first to be picked for basketball teams

Star Wars: The Old Republic is going to be huge. I unequivocally guarantee it*. EA are playing a strategy so perfect it would make a Russian chess master blush. Everything from the design of the game and its IP to their business model and hype tactics is utterly flawless. If SW:TOR doesn’t crack at least a million subscribers and manage to to gain a foothold against WoW, I don’t think anything ever will.

Aside from the obvious factors like an incredibly popular IP, a well-respected development company, financial investment larger than Han Solo’s well-hidden insecurity complex and the guarantee of polish so bright it could serve as a second sun, EA are manipulating their target audience (us) into a frenzy of epic proportions. And as dirty as I feel for letting them do it to me, it truly is quite amazing to watch.

I guess the penny dropped for me when I saw their price for the retail and digital boxes – they certainly aren’t cheap. Even the most basic digital edition costs a third more than normal MMOs whilst the Collectors Edition retails for something like a billion dollars (OK, $149). Now while many people would call this plain greedy, I call it rather bloody clever. See, it’s not about money, it’s about perception. EA are making us psychologically connect value and significance to their product and once we’ve done that, we’re going to antipicate it more than ever and hype it to hell.

The pre-order scenario is another perfect example of this as the number of pre-orders is limited. Yep, EA Bioware have actually manage to limit digital registrations of a digital game under, according to their FAQ, the guise of some cock and bull story about wanting to maintain quality. And of course this has caused a lot of complaints and moaning and groaning around forums and blogs etc but at the end of the day it’s achieved exactly what the developers intended –  it’s created artificial supply limits to increase demand. It’s exactly the same strategy that was employed by Nintendo with the Wii, Apple with the iPad 2 and plenty of manufacturers and retails before that.

I learnt a while ago that sometimes creating a product that’s the cheapest or the most mass market isn’t always the right solution. Humans are strange creatures and we place value on items in different ways, not necessarily just as by judged by the total of the sum of their parts. We become enticed and intoxicated by quality, by brand, by rarity, often without any real logical reasons behind it all. EA have recognised this and are crafting SW:TOR into more than just a MMO but rather a complete perfect experience that we are starving for.

Plus it’s going to come out right at the time when everyone is royally bored and fed up with WoW. Maybe that will play a small part in it all too..

-Gordon

*I by no means guarantee anything.

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  1. Will SW:TOR Get The 500,000 Subscribers It Needs?

47 Comments

  1. jeremey says:

    I agree down to the last sentence with this one Gordon. Very well written and spot on with what E.A. And Bioware are doing. Count me as one whos wallet has fallen into their hands.

  2. Lycanthrope says:

    I will not be buying. As much of a SW fan as I am, I am not fan enough to shell out $60 and another $20 a month for it. I have learned not to equate price with value; I equate price with how much profit the company wants to make. It has no direct connection whatsoever with how fun, interesting, or engrossing a game is. It can be directly related to the costs of labor and materials used to produce the game. In this case I believe they are using console game market pricing as one of their guides.

  3. jon says:

    This is one that I think I’ll be passing on, also – at least for quite a while after launch, if not forever. I don’t see anything terribly revolutionary, the art style that I’ve seen in the existing videos leaves me pretty cold, and certainly don’t see anything here worth $20/month that LOTRO doesn’t give me for $15 (or free, if I decide to cancel VIP for a while).

  4. SirOccam says:

    I don’t think I’ll ever seriously play another MMO aside from EQ2, and that one I hardly ever play either but keep an active subscription anyway. Just way too time-consuming. That said, I am a huge BioWare fan, and for that alone I have to buy it and at least try it for a month. I’ve heard great things about the solo/casual game as well, and I think it might be perfect for a player like me.

  5. I agree limiting pre-orders is kind of a dick move, but is it just me, but I don’t think they’ll even actually reach this limited number? Somewhere I think I saw they allotted about 500,000…say what you will about artificially creating a shortage, but in the MMO world, that’s still A LOT. Even with the pre-ordering frenzy happening right now, I don’t see everything including the SEs selling out before launch.

    But I may be wrong. If I am, then we might very well be seeing a million subs.

  6. ScytheNoire says:

    Any time you create artificial scarcity, it’s a failure. This is always a bad move, one that just irritates customers. And you know the game stores are unhappy about this too, it’s driving away potential sales. It’s just a dumb move overall.

    SWTOR will be big, but EA is making a lot of mistakes and handling things the wrong way. They are also drastically overpricing the subscription. WoW can easily hand EA their ass by dropping WoW’s subscription to sub-$10 is they want, and really put the squeeze on them in a bad way. I’m not sure how many are going to stay for that subscription price.

  7. Carson says:

    Luckily, I’m not interested in SW:TOR, since they’re not selling it to Australians anyway. I’ll make some popcorn and watch to see whether the inevitable feeding frenzy is followed by the almost-inevitable plummet in numbers after a month or two – I can’t see anything to persuade me that that’s any less likely than it has been for any other MMORPG in the last five years.

  8. vortal says:

    I agree with a lot of the comments here. I’m not interested in SW:TOR, doesn’t grab me in anyway. Another Star Wars MMO (wish they had a Star Wars RTS I would play that). Sure it’s going to attract butt loads of new players, and everybody is gonna check out the new game in town. But give a couple of months, it will crash and burn.

  9. [...] Gordon @ We Fly Spitfires and the Sypster see a conspiracy to create artificial demand in EA’s alleged decision to [...]

  10. Stratagerm says:

    Yet another reason not to buy.

    Lately EA is all about marketing, not gameplay, and treats gamers like sheep with wallets to be harvested.

  11. bhagpuss says:

    Of course it’s going to sell a million boxes at launch. That’s not anything like an ambitious target for a project of this scale using an I.P. of this magnitude. I would think they expect to sell a LOT more than that.

    The interesting part, as always, will be how many subs the game has 3, 6, and 12 months after launch. For SW:ToR to be gamechanging for the MMO genre the subs would need not just to hold steady at over a million but to grow from there. That’s not to say that an SW:ToR that stabilizes at around 1 million subs and sits there or thereabouts for a year or more would be any kind of failure. Far from it. But it wouldn’t change anything in the MMO space.

    I think we all imagine that SW:ToR will be at least the second-largest “western” subscription MMO. If it isn’t then something really will have gone wrong. The only interesting question is whether it can be the largest. To get there it doesn’t need a million subs, it needs four or five times that. And it needs to hold them. For years.

    That’s the scale of the challenge for them. If they achieve it, then we’re back in another MMO gold rush. If not then nothing changes, WoW was a freak event and it’s back to everyone fighting for second place, as it has been for more than half a decade.

    • Gordon says:

      I would like to see something challenge WoW, not because I hate WoW but just because I want to see the market segment a little bit more. Right now it’s so top heavy in WoW’s favour that it’s kinda killing it for everything else.

  12. Nils says:

    I agree, they are quite perfect so far. I wouldn’t have released these boring gameplay videos, but maybe they didn’t have a choice in that if they wanted the publicity.

    I also agree that SW:TOR will be a great success – I wrote that before. They will only reach 14 million, however, if Blizzard fails. That’s not unthinkable ..

    Maybe GW2 will have an impact, maybe there will be some secret AAA next-gen MMORPG somewhere. But in the absence of this, SW:TOR will be a great financial success and finally stop these rumors about an evolving genre.

  13. Rackham says:

    A fantastic article, Gordon. I don’t think anyone could have written it any better and with more of an understanding of EA’s release plans.

    Personally, I can see merit in Bioware wanting to limit pre-orders. To me it says they’re cautious of hitting the servers too hard right out of the gate. This is their first MMO and if limiting pre-registration early access means the initial servers will be under a controlled pacing, I’ll be all the more happy for it.

    Not to mention Bioware needs to show a steady population first before they’re authorized by EA to purchase and run more servers.

  14. MMOCrunch says:

    There’s no doubt SWTOR will pass one million, the combination of SW and BioWare pretty much guaranteed that before the first line of code was ever written. But, it will be interesting to see if they can finally dethrone WoW as king of MMOs.

  15. [...] It seems that EA are only selling a limited number of Star Wars: The Old Republic pre-orders in orde… Sorry, but like Gordon I don’t buy into that. The thing about pre-orders is that they are PRE-orders… i.e. they’ve got time to process the information on how many they’ve sold and put enough servers in place before the headstart. Setting a fixed limit now reeks of either a marketing ploy to build frenzy, or an absolutely incompetent infrastructure capacity management team – a judgement I feel reasonably able to make, seeing as my day job involves capacity planning and management for a real-time service. [...]

  16. hordemaster says:

    I for one am not jumping on the SWTOR pre-order bandwagon, perhaps because my need to upgrade my gaming rig and purchasing better photo gear for work take priority. Still, it will be nice to see how the launch goes. Would be nice to be there for launch, but I will sit back and see how it all goes down.

  17. Epiny says:

    I’m still not convinced this game is anything different that any other MMO we’ve seen in the last 5 years. I could see this very much going the way of WAR, a good game that had alot of issues and the fanbase simply placed to much emotion in it to admit when it was bad.

    I’m not at all interested in TOR and I’m a bit of a MMO whore.

    • Gordon says:

      Oh I don’t think SW:TOR will offer anything different at all and of course it will be berated as a WoW clone. Still, I have little doubt that it won’t be very casual, very slick and highly playable… probably the exact combination needed to de-throne WoW.

  18. [...] Gordon thinks (and Syp agrees) that this is simply a clever marketing ploy. It might just be, but if it is, it seems ill advised. The hype is already huge. Sure, the limit made me pre-order immediately instead of waiting a few days, but what does that actually mean for Bioware? I doubt they’ll sell more units this way and a few people like me might have taken the rush as a reason to decide for the normal version instead of the collector’s edition. Add to that that their “cock-and-bull story” (Gordon’s words, not mine) actually makes a damn lot of sense and I doubt that this is just marketing. [...]

  19. Jomu says:

    i’m in the same boat as a few people here: not gonna get or preorder SW:TOR. Not a big SW fan which is the main factor.
    My younger brother is getting it; so ill take a look on his pc first before committing.
    Not to mention, i have more interest in Guild Wars 2 and am more of a monogamous mmo gamer ;)

  20. [...] Collector’s Edition are mixed, but more or less united in the conclusion that this is an intelligent marketing move. My opinion? $150 for a video game is highway robbery, and if you bought it, you’re a sucker. [...]

    • Rik says:

      I’m a happy sucker. Collectors Editions are meant to be limited. I’m happy with the goodies that come with it, both in game and out. I have a few Gentle Giant bust statues and they were not inexpensive, you mix that with the other items, most Star Wars art books are $20 bucks on Amazon or in Barnes and Noble, add that with the soundtrack, and it may not be $150 worth, but it’s not highway robbery in my eyes.

  21. Tesh says:

    My marketing class in college had a curious market simulator assignment. It was effectively a game, one in which we took on the role of a computer manufacturer startup in the early home PC days (say, a HP or Dell). Over the course of a virtual six financial quarters, I earned over $200 million. My top selling products were a pair of computer lines, one marketed aggressively to the mass market with highest quality components and market leading low prices, counting on quantity discounts from manufacturers to profit… and profit they did. Almost equally profitable, however, was my other product line, my high end computers marketed directly at the luxury market with highest quality components and a high price. I moved fewer units, but each had a higher profit margin.

    The ultimate difference between the two product lines that sold for $700 vs. $1500? $5 in software and the product name. (The expensive machines were loftily labeled the exotic “Ripoof” model.)

    Simplified though it was, I learned a lot from that class. Then again, as a gamer with longstanding skill in maths, perhaps I just saw through the “matrix” and gamed the system. Still, one might ask… is marketing just a game to these guys? If so, some play it better than others.

    • Gordon says:

      Oh I think marketing is definitely a game and as I get older I find it more and more interesting. Brand, marketing, PR… these are often the things that sell products through conveying emotions to people. It’s all physiological manipulation at the end of the game, something I find very fascinating. Then again maybe I’ve just been watching too much Mad Men :P

  22. br3ntbr0 says:

    I once made such a bold claim about a game:

    http://imtalkingames.blogspot.com/2009/09/eating-my-own-words-warhammer-online_25.html

    So I am leary about guarantees and such. While I do think they’ll hit some big numbers, guarantees are risk. The MMO mob is far too fickle…

  23. Ancestor says:

    EA has played this brilliantly; they’ve whipped the playerbase into a frenzy, me included. What a brilliant move. Let’s see what they do to ensure a successful launch.

  24. MMO Tomb says:

    I will not buy/play the game simply because I have been playlng the same thing for a long time and no matter how good they make the stories i wont be interested. I will instead wait for something fresh and new.

  25. [...] we respond to Gordon’s statement, “I guarantee SWTOR will pass a million subscribers.” Gordon, we formally invite you on the show. We’ll talk about Japan and [...]

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