Imagine you’re a shit-hot PI looking into the mysterious disappearance of The Old Republic’s prospects. There’s a few places you’d be tempted to start: its publisher’s investment in comprehensive voice acting it would take years to recoup; a broadly conservative game design in an era of Eve and Guild Wars 2; and reliance on a subscription model already starting to look dated in 2011.
But here’s EA’s femme fatale tugging at your ear, pointing to something else - the declining fortunes of MMOs in general.
In a wide-ranging UBS conference chat that also skirted over Battlefield’s resistance to annualisation, EA maths bloke Blake Jorgensen admitted that the publisher’s early game plan was too ambitious for what he perceives to be a more modest post-WoW MMO market. A free-to-play option was introduced to The Old Republic in November last year, less than a year after its release.
“Yes, the original expectations obviously were very, very large,” he said, “and obviously the multiplayer MMO world has - the popularity has come down over time and we tried to restructure the Star Wars business to better match the economics.”
That said, Jorgensen was confident that The Old Republic’s future is secure as EA enter into a 10-year deal with Disney for the Star Wars license.
“It's a great business that's very repeatable,” he said. “We brought the economics in line so it's a profitable business for us.”
He added: “As the Star Wars franchises start to grow with Disney's investment, we'll continue to see more excitement around that game as well as the other games that we'll start to produce.”
Outside BioWare, EA have put the Star Wars license in the hands of Dead Space factory Visceral and DICE, who’re working on their own Battlefront successor. What they won’t do is make movie games, said Jorgensen.
“The beauty of the Star Wars franchise is that it's so broad and so deep you don't have to do a movie game,” he explained. “You can do a game that's very focused on the world that's been created around Star Wars.”
That’s somewhat reassuring. But where would you like to see SWTOR, or dare I speak its acronym, KOTOR’s future headed?