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Early Star Wars success points to healthy MMO market

Impact on rival World of Warcraft is "minimal" say analysts, as Bioware title gets off to steady start

The early success of Bioware and EA's Star Wars: The Old Republic is an indication of a healthy market for subscription based MMOs, according to analysts monitoring the high-profile release.

Electronic Arts said over the Christmas period that more than one million users had registered for the game, which officially went live on December 20, although it had steadily rolled out early access to the game beginning two weeks before that.

"We view the early success of Star Wars as an indication of a healthy MMO market," said Baird Equity Research's Colin Sebastian. "While there is likely some shifting of usage from Activision's World of Warcraft, we see a viable market for multiple million-user MMOs in the US and Europe."

Baird Equity estimates that the game has peak concurrent users of roughly 350,000 players.

According to analysts at Cowen and Company the uptake of The Old Republic has had "minimal apparent impact" on Blizzard and Activision's market-leading World of Warcraft.

But it also noted that it expects a decline in WoW subscriptions the fourth quarter to be higher than 2.5 per cent, following recent trends in the game which have seen players leave the game.

As of December 31, EA has a total of 215 operational Star Wars servers, with 124 in the US and 91 in Europe. That compares to 491 European and US servers for World of Warcraft combined.

Early critical response for The Old Republic has been generally positive, although many outlets are still in the process of reviewing the game. It currently boasts a Metacritic score of 88, but the game has not been without its launch controversies, including gold-farming and bans for players that some have seen as unfair.

All eyes are now on the game to see if it can maintain its subscription business model, with many expecting a shift to free-to-play, as has been the case with multiple MMOs over the past 18 months.

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Matt Martin avatar
Matt Martin: Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.
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