Big Sales for Skyrim, Big Hopes for The Old Republic

Posted on 16 December, 2011

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Early indications are that the absolutely marvellous Skyrim is a smash success for Bethesda.  Not only has it shipped more than 10 million units, but it has also become the fastest ever selling game on Steam.  Next year the Creation Kit will allow keen modders to take the game forward with fan-made mods, whilst Bethesda will roll-out substantial DLC to extend the life of the game.

It has probably been the most talked about game within the Preloaded studio this year, claiming many passionate players and water-cooler tales of emergent gameplay experiences.  Skyrim is unquestionably my game of the year.

Moving from succes to the hopes of success, The Old Republic is merrily in to it’s early access phase now, with full launch only a few days away.  I enjoyed my beta sessions with TOR immeasurably.  It is kind of old school with a subscription model, but really does raise the bar with nice character class differentiation and voice-acting throughout.  There’s some neat ideas with group conversation and outcomes, and it has more cinematic moments than other games within the genre.  Whilst I’m generally of the opinion that the interactive nature of gaming is only weakened by trying to ape cinema too directly, the feel of cinematic drama that TOR delivers is really bang on the money.

Game qualities aside, one of the interesting business aspects of TOR is launching a game of this size and development cost using a subscription model at a time when so many games are launching or migrating to a free to play model.  There’s an interesting article on Eurogamer looking further at this.

Clearly there’s no avoiding the fact that EA and Bioware have spent a lot of time and money developing TOR.  But the brand is so strong, and the retail copy plus subscription model far from dead, so I don’t see any real likelihood of them not making their money back and ending up with a profitable game.  The question as to how successful TOR ultimately is, will rest on the quality and quantity of game updates, and the player freedoms they deliver.  It is very easy to leave an mmo and switch to the latest, especially if the alternatives are free to get playing, and as such the only worlds that players stick with are those that offer a genuinely immersive experience.  Hopefully TOR can deliver on this.

My collector’s edition is currently waiting for me at the post office, so I’ll be picking it up first thing in the morning!  TOR first impressions next week.

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