Star Wars: The Old Republic – SWTOR vs. WAR!

… and Age of Conan, for that matter.

I R GOOD RITTUR - dig at gaming journalism

As a games journalist, he's only re-writing what he saw first on Kotaku anyway.

EA announced during their earnings call that Star Wars: The Old Republic had sold over 2 million boxes and had 1.7 million subscribed players, beating EA’s internal projections. A lot of sources took that at face value as a great result, but was it?

Let’s look at EA Mythic’s Warhammer Online (WAR) and Funcom’s Age of Conan (AoC) as comparison points, given they were big MMO launches of a similar nature:

I haven’t matched up time periods exactly – EA made their SWOR announcement roughly 6 weeks following SWOR’s launch, WAR’s figures look to have been made 12 days after launch and AoC’s figures come from roughly 4 – 6 weeks following that title’s launch. But it works as a rough comparison.

So although SWOR has been successful, it is certainly in the same ball park as WAR and AoC, especially when you take the estimated development budgets (SWOR: US$200m, WAR: “south of US$100m”; AoC: not disclosed, but US$40m – US$80m is very possible given that Funcom needed US$30m in additional funding less than a year before launch).

Other interesting points to note are:

Anyway, my view on this is that in isolation SWOR’s sales look good… but put them next to other MMOs of a similar nature and considering the amount of hype and investment involved, they don’t seem out of line with what you’d expect to see – neither really above or below, but on par. I’d pretty much guarantee that there are people in EA mumbling, “SWOR is our most expensive game ever, and it only sold 2 million boxes? Battlefield 3 sold 10m copies at launch!” rather than popping champagne corks over SWOR’s performance.

Age of Conan Ad - topless woman and play for free

... and this is the level that AoC pitches at today.

(Yes, SWOR is PC-exclusive while Battlefield 3 is multi-platform, but “most expensive game ever created at EA” and US$200m in development costs is a great leveller when it comes to sales expectations.)

The challenge now for SWOR is to hold onto those players and earn that subscription revenue – something that WAR and AoC both failed to do.

2 thoughts on “Star Wars: The Old Republic – SWTOR vs. WAR!

  1. Just to make a point. The 12/31/2011 sales were 1.76 million. Of which 1.7 million had activated their accounts and were just, at the most, 10-days into the first month. EA deliberately conflated that meaningless subscription number with the 2.0 million January 31st sales figure to give the impression of a higher than normal retention rate. Obviously, as a CPA, I saw through that trick immediately. Unfortunately, the press and the vast majority of gamers did not so EA got away with it.

    What EA hasn’t released since the meaningless 12/31/2011 numbers is current subs. They will, of course, have to disclose them. They’re publicly traded and the March 31st FYE is almost upon us… However, being a CPA and an experienced modeler/forecaster… It’s pretty easy to see from the available third-party information coordinated with known performance profiles and cross-referenced against both known sales information and similar game sales profiles while using Court Approved indirect-method analysis.

    My conclusion is that people will be fired over this game. In the executive ranks. This dog is looking so bad that it may take over a decade to fully break even, though once revenues exceed direct costs they’ll declare victory. Games cost more than developer capitalizedable direct costs. There’s a lot of sales & marketing, manufacturing and distribution, never mind the royalties and the ever present over-head that was expensed to make this game.

    It’s like the movies. A $100 million movie, direct expense, will cost at least another $50 million for prints and advertising. And that doesn’t include it’s ‘share’ of studio over-head costs or percentage-of-the-gross. Which can run more than direct costs by a wide margin.

    • Oops, sorry for the delay in approving the comment. Been exceptionally busy.

      Agreed. EA BioWare were given a (near) blank cheque, swung for the fences and have delivered somethng that isn’t going to hold players. They may become the second-biggest MMO in the West for a while, but that isn’t a true success given their development budget.

      EA will attempt to hide SWOR’s performance by opening in new markets for a while (like they did with WAR), but there are some embarrassing disclosures incoming.

      And I’m betting on a cash shop before the first full year of SWOR is through.

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