Too Big to Fail

As reported by Massively and Eurogamer, a market analyst is predicting that The Old Republic will do just fine financially, even if it only gets 500,000 subscriptions. To which I only have to say: “Well, duh.”

A lot of people are concerned/overjoyed at the notion that TOR will fail and fail hard, but my reasoning all along has been that EA/BioWare just need to do a competent job at the gameplay and the Star Wars name will carry the rest. I haven’t played it enough to develop a full opinion, but I’d say that it at least fits the bill of “competent” and might even be “good.” To wit, what did you think of the prequels? Thought they sucked? Well, they still brought in $2.4 billion in the worldwide box office and made another metric assload of cash in merchandising. (Unless you’re David Prowse, that is, in which case the movies didn’t make anything.) The Old Republic will be just fine, even if it doesn’t meet the needs of every uber-compulsive Star Wars geek on the planet. Despite their preponderance, they’re far outnumbered by the non-compulsive lot, who just want to play a Star Wars MMO that isn’t Galaxies (which had around 70-100k subscribers after the NGE was implemented; read this if you’re interested in the opinions of one former SOE employee).

You were supposed to bring balance to our bank account!

What’s a little more surprising to me is the large chunk that Lucas is taking as part of the deal. When I was working in the TCG industry, a typical licensing fee was around 15-25%, and that included big properties like The Lord of the Rings. (I don’t know what Decipher paid for its Star Wars CCG, or what Turbine pays for its MMO, but I’m sure someone out there does.) BioWare has a long history with Lucas, so it’s unlikely that the number was arrived at due to inexperience with the negotiating process. Maybe it’s just the going rate for a licensed MMO these days. I’ve always thought the MMO industry does a much better job than the TCG industry at creating new worlds (World of Warcraft, Rift, and Guild Wars/GW2, to name a few) than licensing existing ones, but maybe this is due more to the high upfront costs than a true desire to innovate.

Then there was the little tidbit I heard at PAX East… someone told me that, written into their agreement with Lucas was the provision that if EA/BioWare didn’t launch TOR in 2012, then that percentage cut would have gone up. If that’s the case, then it’s making it with a scant 11 days to spare, though it also worries me a little bit that the launch will have a slew of problems that could have been fixed, or at least smoothed over, with a few more months’ development time. In any case, I didn’t find anything game-breakingly bad in the beta, and I haven’t heard any such reports, so I’m hopeful for a smooth and profitable launch. Which it probably will be, no matter how much some people want it to fail.

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One Response to Too Big to Fail

  1. dndhatcher says:

    I do think its being pushed out a bit early, but as long as they can releases patches that fix more than they break and add some additional endgame content soon after release they should hit the first year 3+ million sales, 1.5 million subscribers numbers I see being thrown out by various experts.

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