The Old Republic is here

Posted on 21 December, 2011

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The Old Republic Jedi Consular

The Old Republic, Bioware’s first foray in to the MMO market is now live.  I’d really love to share the launch documentary but I’m struggling to embed it, so go here and enjoy eight minutes of Lucasarts and Bioware folk talking about the making of their epic MMO.

I’ve been playing The Old Republic (TOR) since closed beta a few months back.  It isn’t quite as revolutionary as the ‘pitch’ might make it sound, but that doesn’t stop it being a brilliant MMO.  The decision to focus on story and character pays off.  More than twenty writers are credited on TOR, and Lead Writer Daniel Erickson has calculated the written content at 60 man-years worth of work.  Yikes.  The icing on the cake was to ensure all the dialogue was fully voice-acted, and that the player is given choices in conversation – meaningful choices – so your adventure truly becomes your own.

Bioware are already experienced with the Star Wars universe having developed several critically acclaimed single-player rpgs under the Knights of the Old Republic banner.  Combining this and their broader rpg expertise with the planet’s insatiable appetite for Star Wars suggests that TOR cannot possibly fail.  Initial estimates from Doug Cretuz of Cowen and Company put player numbers at launch at around 1.5 million.  Even if 50% of these fell away after the first (free) month the value of boxed copy sales plus subscriptions should see the company earn back the estimated $80 million development cost.

However the real question is not whether it can break even, but whether it can make a profit, how much profit, and whether it can still be around in 5 or even 10 years time.  Bioware are already promising exciting news on future updates are just round the corner, demonstrating that the launch is very definitely only the beginning.  That means the development and support costs are going to remain high for some time, especially if every update includes the same gold-played production standards of the initial launch product, complete with 100% voiced dialogue.  At a time when the MMO market has taken a massive swing towards the F2P model being the standard, TOR stands defiant as a product that sticks to the older subscription model, confident that it has blended the strengths of single-player style story and choice with the familiar mechanics of the leading MMOs.

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