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Investors wary of Old Republic MMO, says Hickey

Janco Partners analyst says market not behind Electronic Arts

Mike Hickey of Janco Partners has said that he believes large parts of the investment market will be betting against the success of forthcoming Electronic Arts MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Accoding to Hickey, many factors are keeping investors wary, including the track record for successful launches of MMOs, either at EA or in the industry as a whole, along with the pending $400 million lawsuit with Activision.

"We believe many investors are betting against SWTOR achieving market success, provided the company's, and industry's track record at releasing successful new MMOs," he wrote, as reported by Gamasutra.

EA's last MMO launch was Warhammer Online: The Reckoning, which garnered 500,000 users at launch only to see that number wither over the next few months, resulting in server closures.

Bigpoint CEO Heiko Hubertz was recently critical of EA's subscription model for the delayed massively multiplayer online game, suggesting it will never be profitable.

On top of development costs, EA recently confirmed it would be taking on full publishing responsibilities for the game instead of sharing them with rights-holder LucasArts.

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Latest comments (25)

John Donnelly Quality Assurance 6 years ago
If the game is good, people will pay and play.
If the game is OK some people will pay and play
If the game is not good, most people will only play for a month.

So, make the game good as I know its a game I am looking forward to checking out.
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Chris Kay Senior Level Designer, Crytek6 years ago
lets hope this is wrong we need a good new MMO :)
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Ben Pilgrim Studying Media and Public Relations, London Metropolitan University6 years ago
Well i'm not a big fan of MMO's but Old Republic looks really good and it's made by Bioware so it could be amazing!
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Show all comments (25)
Jordan Woodward Level Designer, Codemasters Birmingham6 years ago
As an MMO gamer, this is something I'm really looking forward to, along with quite a few of my friends. I can see why the investors would be a little worried, considering how EA handled Warhammer Online.

Star Wars has a huge fan base and the MMO audience is waiting for a decent sci-fi MMO to play. I think TOR can succeed as long as it's a good game and not rushed like so many MMOs.
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Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 6 years ago
Bioware has an incredible track record of not making rubbish games. You combine that with the power of the Star Wars franchise and EAs marketing machine and you have a winner.

I was a long time Wow player and now Ive had the chance of having hands-on time with Old Republic, as a player I cannot see how this game can fail. It has, even at the Beta stage, cornered all the critical elements of a succesfull MMO. Of course the public will ultimately judge, as will the upcoming launch.

Investors are known to be wrong, sometimes :)
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Saehoon Lee Lead technical artist, Kuno Interactive6 years ago
I will be surprised if this one fails. Bioware + EA + Starwars = ??? I am in!
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Alex Loffstadt Community Manager, Outso Ltd6 years ago
Honestly looking at Old Republic I'm not convinced that it's a confirmed winner.

Remember the last MMORPG that EA was involved in was Warhammer Age of Reckoning, build by Mythic, using the DAoC engine, solid IP from Games Workshop. Tanked, though I'll admit the writing was on the wall during Beta for those who were paying attention.

Having been following Old Republic some of the mechanics from Bioware lean towards more single player RPG like Knights of the Old Republic and it'll be interesting to see how they do in an MMO (eg the Theatrical mission briefs (Think these have been dropped)).

It has the potential but success isn't guaranteed and there is a habit with publishers atm to launch MMOs with a view to a Year's lifespan rather that 3-5, looking to make their money back on the user spike in the first 6 months and then playing it by ear re: updates. Which means a lot of recent MMOs tend to blow after the first 20 levels.

There's all the traditional chatter around what will topple WoW, and it's nice to see some looking to drive the genre a little further.

Personally I'm looking forward to CCP's Vampire the Masquerade effort, as it has the potential to be huge, and CCP have the track record for breaking the curve on MMO lifespans.

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Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 6 years ago
I think it will be interesting to return to this thread later on :)
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Fred West6 years ago
Really waiting for a good new mmo to release (elite online would be nice) first impressions of this game are that it isn't that special tbh. And haven't they already kneecapped themselves with the reputed $500 mil there supposed to have spent already on this game?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Fred West on 25th January 2011 1:49pm

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Rick Cody PBnGames-Board Member 6 years ago
DC Online looked enticing. But I don't have a Windows PC or PS3.
Star Wars looks enticing to me. I can say that many core players I know have an eye out for it too. It's the right license, the right timing, (possibly) the right gameplay, the right story telling ideas.... There are a lot of things in this game's favor right now. I don't think it's unfathomable that it turns a profit
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship6 years ago
I'd agree that a Starwars Bioware MMO is not the guaranteed hit it might have looked like just a few years ago.

Bioware have never made an MMO before, though I'd actually not overemphasise this as a problem - the technology of a traditionally-architected MMO is 3 or 4 iterations in now, and is largely a known quantity, so an MMO is very much a content production problem as much as anything else, which is something I imagine Bioware have down to a fine art, given the style of games they make.

They seem to be making sensible design decisions for a mass audience, as far as I can tell - fairly low-spec friendly engine, a design that doesn't penalise solo play, and a game design that doesn't cannibalize new players. They've clearly avoided Galaxy's primary mistake which was a complete and DELIBERATE disconnect between the heroic mythos of the Star Wars lore and the banal grind that the game play actually involved.

My main fear for the game is how they marry the traditional flow of MMO gameplay with the trademark Bioware story focus, and the implications for the possible rate of content production. It seems pretty clear to me that this game will be a very designer-led experience, there's not going to be a lot of sandbox here; it's a thoroughbred 'theme-park' MMO a la WoW. How, then, will Bioware manage to produce content at the required rate to keep players interested, when Blizzard (with all their resources) can only release expansions every 2 years - and that's without voice acting and a fair dollop of 'filler' kill and fedex quests, of the type that SWOTOR purports to avoid.

Still, I'll be there on day one. I'm their customer to lose...
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Mattias Oldenborg Programmer, Colossai Studios AB6 years ago
I think the comparison with Warhammer online is a bit unfair. Even I could have told them beforehand that making a game which looks exactly like WoW with slighty worse graphical design would not be a success:p

Gut feeling tells me Old Republic is a hit. Bioware seems practically unable to make a bad game. That combined with the franchise and the marketing machine at EA should simply not be able to fail. Then again, a successful MMO depends so much on the support it gets post-release. Hopefully they have this plan laid out already.
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Alex Loffstadt Community Manager, Outso Ltd6 years ago
@Nick + Mattias okay interesting perspective re: marketing and why Bioware cannot fail etc.

There is a key factor here that as a rule tends to get over looked by so many games companies when developing online it's not funny. That's the inability to shift from the concept of game as a box and game as a service.

Community, communication, qa, support and service will be major factors in the success or failure of SW:TOR, it's an idea that many producers struggle with, and companies have a bad habit of underestimating and under investing in.
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Jeffrey Kesselman CTO, Nphos6 years ago
I have no doubt the game will be good, although even bioware has made some flubs (the packaged adventure for NWN was pretty rubbish, it was saved by its great UGC features, and soem of the "features" in mass effect were pretty bad such as the crappy mini vehicle shooter in the middle).

BUT this has also been a very long, very expensive development cycle which is also burdened with an expensive license.

So being good or even having lots of users doesn't necessarily guarantee that it is profitable.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jeffrey Kesselman on 25th January 2011 9:21pm

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Jamie Watson Studying Bachelor of Games & Interactive Entertainment, Queensland University of Technology6 years ago
this looks like a very good game. As a person who doesnt play MMO's this one i may have to try...
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Jeffrey Kesselman CTO, Nphos6 years ago
Id also disagree with the idea tha then technology of MMOs is a "solved problem". Quite the contrary actually, the users have been saddled with the limits of the imperfect solutions in use so long that they have come to accept them as de rigur.... but that will change when someone breaks out of the box.

Similarly, just because the play is stagnant and the fundamentally same game after game does not mean it should be or will be forever.
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Jeffrey Kesselman CTO, Nphos6 years ago
Id also disagree with the idea tha then technology of MMOs is a "solved problem". Quite the contrary actually, the users have been saddled with the limits of the imperfect solutions in use so long that they have come to accept them as de rigur.... but that will change when someone breaks out of the box.

Similarly, just because the play is stagnant and the fundamentally same game after game does not mean it should be or will be forever.
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Adam Campbell Studying Games Technology, City University London6 years ago
I'm not surprised, it will be very difficult and it takes more than a pretty good games and a brand name attached for an MMO to be a success.

This is an incredibly expensive undertaking, and really it's anyone's guess how the market will respond.
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I have faith in Bioware. The Force is strong within them! They will not fail!

PS: Definitely buying and subscribing to this game.
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David Stenow6 years ago
Dont forget Bioware is larger than the Dragon Age and Mass Effect dev teams. EA:s strategy with branding their genre divisions with the names of their most successful developers seems to be working, as much of the gamer hype is based on the Bioware brand. Dare I guess expectations would be lower if the name EA Mythic were still in place?
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship6 years ago
I'm not saying the tech is a solved problem from a player or design perspective - it would be nice to get away from the standard sharding and instancing. I'm saying that if you're prepared to accept the limitations of your standard MMO technical architecture (and there is every indication SW:TOR will do just that), then it's technically well understood what you have to do. Not trivial, but understood. It's not the same as trying to make one of these things 12 years ago.

I'm saying that the primary challenge of shipping a successful MMO in 2011 is getting enough polished and interesting content, which is somewhat intertwined with having a stable and productive tech base, but is distinct enough to be called out, I think.
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Anuj Malhotra Studying Business Management, Imperial College London6 years ago
I think the controversy with EA louse and the massive budget (read: risk as most successful mmos competing in WoW's space are stripped down and F2P) is scaring investors off more than whether or not the game will be any good at launch. I think some of their much vaunted features like every line of dialogue being voice acted is superfluos (and at its huge cost, totally unnecessary). I'll probably give this game a miss, but much can change before release and I hope for bioware's sake they manage to evolve and succeed on this, or they won't be making another mmo anytime soon.
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Alex Loffstadt Community Manager, Outso Ltd6 years ago
Last MMORPG EA released was APB which was based off the back of the successful Crackdown franchise.

EA aren't exactly batting a thousand with regard to online.
For any developers used to working with boxed product trying to ship an MMO the primary challenge is never the stable tech and enough content. The fields of online gaming are littered with titles which got those bits right and still folded after 6 months.

-It's making sure that what works on a handful of shiny PCs in QA doesn't whimper and run away when a few hundred thousand hit the servers
-It's making sure that your dev team understand that the content in the box sets of level of expectation for the community and that they will want substantive and interesting updates at least every 6 months, making if not exceeding the quality of the initial release
-It's convincing the Board that they need to spend <em><strong>at least</em></strong> as much on Marketing, QA, Community Management and Customer Support as you did on making the game (preferably more)
- That you're providing a service, and this means when you ship the work has just started. Initial development is only the overture.

If you think that having content and stable tech are you primary challenges for 2011 you're missing the laundry list of mistakes of common errors made by devs when publishing MMOs.


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Jeffrey Kesselman CTO, Nphos6 years ago
Well, the sharding based architecture hasn't *really* changed since EQ. So its more then a decade :) And ist heavily based on the MUd "room" architecture which goes back even further.

Phantasy Star Online reintroduced "virtual rooms" from MUDs and called them "instances" but, basically, its SSDD :) I agree though that at this point everyone knows this way to skin the cat, even if it removes as much or more fur then skin ;)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jeffrey Kesselman on 27th January 2011 12:57am

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Michael Bowe Student, Griffith University6 years ago
I think someone further up hit the nail on the head, EA (and this problem is NOT limited just to EA) treats MMO's as "a box of software", not as an on-going "entertainment service".

Turbine and Asheron's Call have been the best in this area IMHO, every month they'd add something new or different so you would actually look forward to the monthly update. They treated AC as a living, growing thing and weren't afraid to even destroy one of the hub towns so the players could rebuild it...
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