… and Age of Conan, for that matter.
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:
- WAR shipped 1.5 million boxes to retailers, sold 1.2 million to players and had an active player base of 800k at launch.
- AoC shipped 1.2 million boxes according to their earnings report, and had 800k of those copies activated by players (page 2 of that linked report).
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:
- All those titles had phenomenal sales within the first two weeks of launch. SWOR hit the million mark in 3 days, WAR hit the million-plus sales mark in 12 days and AoC shipped (not sold) over 1 million copies for 700k active subscibers in that first month.
- Somewhere between 15% and 30% of these sales are to people who don’t subscribe to the game immediately. I’m guessing that’s a lot of gifts, collector’s editions, bonus copies, games-I’ll-play-later, oops-my-PC-can’t-run-this and impulse purchases in there. But that’s a significant portion of box sales that aren’t generating subscription revenue.
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.
(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.