Electronic Arts is spending more money on the development of Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO than it's ever spent on any game in its history.
"It is the largest R&D project EA has ever undertaken in terms of total dollars that we expect to spend bringing the title to market," said chief financial officer Eric Brown at Janney Capital Markets' 2010 Consumer Conference, as listened in on by Gamasutra.
And an investment of that kind means a project that will take time -- the BioWare-developed Star Wars MMO won't see release before March 2011: "We're not expecting it to ship in fiscal 2010, nor have we given a specific ship date thereafter," said Brown. "We're intentionally being nonspecific on the ship date."
But EA feels it can spare no expense because of all the factors favoring The Old Republic's success. "In the past, for MMOs, the type of fiction that has resonated most broadly is fiction based on swords and knights and sorcery, et cetera," Brown explained.
"Star Wars is analogous to that -- instead of the swords, you have the lightsabers; instead of the knights you have the Jedi -- we think it's a fiction that does very well, we think it's a fiction that spans the decades," Brown added, pointing out that most if not all of the conference's attendees were likely to be familiar with the property. "We think it has very broad appeal," he said.
And EA believes the project couldn't be in any better hands: "BioWare is one of the highest-rated studios in terms of quality overall," Brown says, adding that Mass Effect 2, with a Metacritic score of 96 and among the third-highest overall on the aggregator, "is the highest-quality title EA ever released."
With a strong property, an enormous investment and the right studio, EA thinks it's found the project that should take top billing in its MMO strategy -- "our principal investment and commitment vis a vis the MMO space," says Brown.
As for Warhammer, it has "a couple hundred thousand subscribers to date," according to Brown. "But the Star Wars MMO does indeed represent our primary emphasis vis a vis this category."