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 Star Wars: The Old Republic  sub numbers already declining - analyst
Star Wars: The Old Republic sub numbers already declining - analyst
April 19, 2012 | By Mike Rose

April 19, 2012 | By Mike Rose
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    21 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



Analyst group Cowen and Company suggests in a new report that player subscriptions for Star Wars: The Old Republic have begun to decline since Electronic Arts said earlier this year that the game has 1.7 million subscribers.

Cowen's Doug Creutz estimates that subscriber numbers for the game peaked at 1.7 million in February, and that by the end of the current fiscal year in March 2013, the game will have around 1.25 million subscribers, based on server statistics provided on TorStatus.net.

Creutz also noted that EA has begun to heavily promote the game, leading him to believe that this is in response to the stalling subscriber numbers.

"We believe that the apparent decline in subscribers is most likely due to a lack of 'end-game' content for the title, meaning that players who hit the level cap have few compelling options in terms of ongoing game play," he noted. "While the game got off to a good start, the relatively light amount of end-game content does appear to be taking a toll."

"We believe EA is attempting to address the end-game content issue, including a recent major game update, but momentum appears to have stalled and we believe it is prudent to adopt a more conservative forecast on subscribers at this time."

However, Creutz said that despite this drop, the overall outlook for the company's fiscal year appears positive, thanks to EA's "highly predictable" sports franchises, growth in digital sales, and current reasonable valuation.

Revenue from The Old Republic along with contributions from EA's PopCap acquisition will ensure that the company's digital revenues are up around 46 percent year-over-year to $1.75 billion, suggests the analyst, while its retail game sales are estimated to decline by 8 percent during this fiscal year.

Compared to the rest of the video games market, Creutz expects EA to outperform the average by at least 20 percent.


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Comments


Iulian Mocanu
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That's concerning to hear. I've not had much contact with the game, apart from it's trial version, which I found appealing. Mind you, the combat is as dreadful as any standard MMO these days, but that extra touch, such as the ability to be role play a mass murdering psychopath gallivanting around the galaxy, almost tempered my dislike of it's basic mechanics.
Had they made this a singleplayer game, with better combat, I would have bought it. Especially since the multiplayer portion is so independent from the rest. It's probably of the easiest PvP modes to get into I've seen in a long while, where even a new player can compete alongside age old veterans.

Todd Boyd
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I loved the previous KotOR games, and I think you're right; this game would have been better off as a single-player (or even multi-player, but not MMO) game. It sort of goes along with an article posted here recently about how most modern MMOs are on rollercoaster tracks.

Kevin Matthews
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I don't know, I don't really see the difference between playing TOR as a single-player game and a KotoR 3 myself. I've played KotoR 1 & 2 and TOR and I really don't know what you are talking about. The combat in KotoR is almost exactly the same as TOR, except it lacks the pausing feature, which if you've played Mass Effect, you'd know that Bioware has done away with anyway. And the way the story is constructed for each class and plays out, I find it hard to believe that anybody finds this game objectionable but would love a KotoR 3. If the objection is having to pay a monthly fee, I can understand that, but that's not what's being stated here.

That being said, given the way the stories play out, the fact that sub numbers are already declining is hardly surprising to me. Playing through a game with 8 different classes just to see the stories isn't everyone's cup of tea, and once you finish your story, TOR turns into every other MMO you've ever played.

Eric Geer
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I wish this game was a single player game as well. I would have liked to explore it--but I'm not a fan of MMOs and not a fan of monthly fees either..I get enough of them already.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Agon Ushaku
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I think the End content problem is the issue. Bioware thought that due to many different classes with different story lines would push players to start over a new character to enjoy another story. It is OK but obviously not enough for all types of players. I hope that next patches and next payable add-on to be announced soon to fill this gap. E3 would be a good time to announce that.My opinion is still: This is my type of MMO and will stay for a long time :)

R Hawley
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SW:TOR needs comedy Gungans and Pod Racing. Clearly.

As a story driven game when you run out of story there's no much left to do other than re-roll (which you can only do eight times per server).

Joe McGinn
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"SW:TOR needs Kinect PvP Dance Arenas."FTFY

Jason Lee
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Does SWTOR have Pazzak as a mini-game like KotOR 1/2?

Just curious...

Michael Wenk
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I don't buy it. This game is less than 6 months old, and by all accounts is doing well. I suspect that they will see sub growth as the months go by. Most players (as shown by games like WoW) don't do the endgame anyways, they play thru the leveling and then just stop after and go to the next game. The key will be whether what content they put in is fun and accessible. I admit to being a bit worried as it seems like they are focused on "endgame" stuff like raids and dungeons. It would be nice to see a true story or some kind of dynamic story based stuff.

I'm kinda surprised we didn't see this article weeks ago, as once ME3 dropped the # of players on TOR dropped on each server I played on, but its back growing.

Maxime Doucet
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I've played the game since launch and, although a great game to pick up and play the first time, SWTOR turns into a huge grind pretty quick. The class-centric storylines are enthralling as much as any Mass Effect or KOTOR game, but the player is bogged down in unavoidable and unappealing side-quests, which have to be completed in order to reach an acceptable level to continue the class-centric quests.

In other games such as World of Warcraft, the player always has the option to leave the current leveling grounds for alternative ways to progress; be it entering PvP battlegrounds or a joining a dungeon-finder group, raising crafting skills, starting an alt character or just leave and go adventure somewhere else. WoW also had an issue with end-game content, but there were so many activities, venues and leveling grounds available, people simply started alt characters. SWTOR doesn't have that openness; you're pretty much forced to pursue this "rollercoaster-grind".

I'm still subscribed to SWTOR which I play casually and mostly solo. It's a fun game to explore if you're willing to invest the time and don't get too bored by local quests. But since all characters vector onto the same leveling grounds at around level 12, starting an alt character isn't an attractive option unless you try the other faction (Empire vs. Alliance).

Mark Venturelli
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That's what you get by trying to shoehorn (shallow) single-player gameplay and structure into a MMO, and copy-pasting a decade-old-model for all the rest. This has done better than it deserved so far, in my opinion.

Mike Griffin
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Almost unbelievably, still able to scratch my traditional MMO itch via Rift. Sure, it's clearly a MMO firmly rooted in this generation's template (like TOR), but you can't beat Trion's pace of updates and end game additions.

I've played 'em all going back to Ultima Online, and few can claim to have Rift's constant delivery of new world events, zones, and end game extensions. And the stuff arrives functioning, polished and tested. For this particular well-worn template of MMO design, nobody is doing it better. Bodes well for Trion's other forthcoming online titles. They're good at reading and reacting to online player trends, like the importance of "end game" to the traditional MMO demographic.

On another note: Game industry analysts are entertaining -- so often allowing their spellchecker to alter gameplay into "game play." Common newbie error in game PR as well. It's not a real word, but it absolutely is, and it's just one word.

David Glenn
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Well, all that work players put into it and in the end, No Cookie? Outrageous!!
What was EA thinking anyway?

Jeanne Burch
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Lots of qualifiers like "apparent", "we believe," "appears." In other words, conjecture. Wait until the next financials come out before playing Taps.

Esa Karjalainen
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I played a bit during a freebie weekend, and the storyline has me hooked. The combat is a big meh, but bearable. I plan to subscribe, at least long enough to play through what storyline there is. However, that'll probably be sometime late summer or maybe even closer to next christmas.

Rasmus Bjerregaard
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Ive been in SWTOR since launch. WAR since launch, and DAOC for 7 years.

IMHO EA should not be afraid to take the winning formula from its Mythic employees which made DAOC. DAOC is still alive today and probably the best PVP endgame MMO out there. If you have tried it, you know that I am not boasting in any way. EA could easily adopt the endgame that worked in WAR, which was based on the DAOC formular - realm points for killing other players, and base (fortress) sieges.

SWTOR took a big step up on the crafting side compared to WAR. The singleplayer aspect of the game is great as well, a definite step up from WAR or WOW. But the endgame is sorely lacking.

The big issue lies in early design flaws that I think it would be hard to get over for SWTOR. The Daoc producer, Kai Schober, said it clearly in his last newsletter - the reason why DAOC is still a competitive game is because of its complexity, not because its complicated. It seems like WAR and SWTOR deliberately were made to avoid new players feeling it was complicated. But in so doing, EA removed the complexity of the game. Its a given fact that computergames that are easy, loose their appeal after a shorter while than those that presents a challenge to us. Also - the multiplayer facet of games today mean that we constantly have new opponents to gauge ourselves against.

What SWTOR needs to be succesful to the same level as DAOC is:

1. Realmpoints. Ie. points accumulated for killing other faction players, that can be converted to meaningful PvP abilities. (in essence expanding the level bracket withouth changing the main formula).
2. A 3rd faction. This was ignored in WAR, and has always been an issue in WOW. DAOC shows how much of a difference it si when the conflict becomes more than 1-sided. With only 2 factions, there will always be a superior side, and people who quit on the other side. Not so with a 3-faction system.
3. Farming potential. Any game designer today who believes that gaming should be made for the casual gamer who does not have time/inclination to farm for hours on end, limits the scope of his own game. Look at the events in EVE - this would never have happened with casual gamers. The game would have been dead years ago. Its not the casual gamers that make your game great - sure they make money, but they dont pay for long before they are on to the next shiny bauble.
4. Essential crafting. As it is, you can bygo the crafting system completely and still have endgame gear which is the best. Removing the reason to craft for anything than apperance. And as important as appearance is, it wont keep your playerbase interested. Just look at SW galaxies and how that went. In DAOC you needed to have at least 2 pieces of mastercrafted player gear in order to have a viable PvP template - that makes it important.

Its not really complicated. SWTOR, as most recent EA games, cater to the casual sub who is willing to play for a bit. I belive this approach is wrong. You need to cater to the powerplayer, the farmer and the raidleader and the empirebuilder, and you will have a MMO that will last forever.

SWTOR has the IP for it, and the lack of endgame design against it.

Have to say, its one of those times where I really, really wish EA had asked Mythic employees to build DAOC 3 in space. Dont get me wrong, I like SWTOR - but it could be so much more. And I think with 1.2 mio subs, EA still has the chance to fix it. The sooner, the more subs will be saved.

Otherwise I believe you are completely right - SWTOR might die faster than WAR did - again, due to a flawed initial design. That said - I hope SWTOR is going to be around for a long, long time.

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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I played DAOC for many many years, and I think WAR had some incredible ideas, notably the public quests, and some abilities (yay for punting people in lava!). But they made two mistakes:

1- Too much content!

Now this seems wierd right? But there was so much to do that it spread the playerbase too much, the public quests were awesome but soon after launch it became rare to get enough people to tackle them. The elf/dark elf maps completely emptied. They should have focused the early-mid content more, keeping mostly the public quests and the Pvp content.

2- Balance.

The eternal Mythic problem. In my years on DAOC, Albion kept an uninterrupted dominance on almost every server. Same thing for Order in WAR. People get tired of losing, they leave their server to get on the wining side on another server, which increase the problem. I left when I saw a war priest tank 5 same-level characters unassisted. I dont care so much about losing, but I want it to be fair. I think you're right when you say the 3rd side was important. The problem wasnt nearly as worst on DAOC as it was in WAR.

Ryan Marshall
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@Rasmus

I can't help but disagree with you on both points:

1) I think you're seriously over-estimating the number of people who enjoy PvP, especially open-world PvP, and even if SWTOR was the greatest PvP game of all time (which it's not) that wouldn't be enough to capture the kind of numbers they want. I'm sure you remember what happened in Ultima Online. I enjoyed the game for almost five years after they exiled the griefers to their deserted wasteland, but I would have quit in an instant if I thought that the only way for me to win was to make someone else lose.

2) Farming and crafting are kind of boring, and essentially just huge timesinks. I agree that there should be some benefit to be had for those who do pour dozens of hours into playing every week, but if it begins to feel mandatory for success, then you've just alienated a huge segment of your player base. You've just killed off the people who WANT to play, but can't because they have a job and family, etc.

While there's definitely room in the world for a hardcore PvP-centric game, it's still a fairly small demographic, and not an under-served one either. Massive mandatory timesinks can ensure significant loyalty from anyone who goes through with it all (seriously, EVE has some of the most loyal playerbase I've ever seen), but you'll get so few takers that you still come out behind in the long-run.

Johan Wendin
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When will people (notably game developers and useless professions like analysts) realize that it's part of the MMO (or heck, ANY game)'s lifecycle. More people buy the initial box than intend to play it for more than the (subscription) free period. The initial sales figures only show how hyped the game was. What they land on after 2-4 months is where they'll more or less stay and hopefully slowly grow from.

Game developers should plan ahead for this and just say outright that after the initial month - they will go ahead and merge servers as well as possible to create a healthy population all across the board. Instead, merging servers "too early" is viewed as a failure - where in fact the failure is NOT providing the good experience for those who cared enough about your game to start a subscription.

Alexander MacIntyre
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Even if Cruetz' analysis is correct (and bearing in mind that he, and by extension Cowen's have generally doomsayed Old Republic's chances), the numbers he estimates are still nearly double EA's estimates for what constitutes a profitable game.

This is, of course, ignoring that decline is numbers is less attributable to any flaws the Old Republic might have (and it does has several), and is far more likely due to the weaknesses of the MMO model in general, as well as impeding competition from other titles. But at the end of the day, it is far more likely that we'll end up seeing population similar trends with upcoming games as well.


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