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Star Wars MMO 'won't be profitable. Ever'

Bigpoint CEO predicts harsh reality for EA and BioWare's big online hope

Heiko Hubertz, CEO of browser games publisher Bigpoint, has said that he believes BioWare and EA's Star Wars MMO, The Old Republic, will not be profitable.

The main issue is the subscription business model, which Hubertz suggests doesn't make financial sense and will not be able to generate enough revenues for a title with such high development costs - estimated in the region of $100 million.

"If you look in the traditional industry there are still a lot of big bets there," said Hubertz, keynoting the London Games Conference this evening. "Still there are companies investing $20-40 million for a game. These companies have to be profitable after one or two months. They don't have 12 months or even more. I think these companies are really in trouble in the future if a user can play online games for free.

"If you look at a game like Star Wars from EA and BioWare, they estimated a development budget of more than $100 million. This is an online game for many million of subscribers, so a big publisher does not understand that a subscription model is not the future.

"With micro-transactions and longer lifetime maybe I see a chance for this game but I don't think that EA or BioWare will be profitable with this game. Ever."

A number of high-profile subscription MMO's have changed business models this year, favouring a free-to-play model after declining user numbers, including Turbine's Lord of the Rings Online and Atari's Champions Online.

Hubertz, who's own company is developing free-to-play MMO's using licenses such as Battlestar Galactica and The Mummy, insisted that developing games for a single format or device is a mistake, and the future of the games business is in content created for cross-platform and multiple devices.

An interview with Heiko Hubertz will be available on GamesIndustry.biz next week.

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Matt Martin

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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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