Close to 1.5 million people have signed up to be potential beta testers for Electronic Arts' Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO, a game the company thinks has the potential to greatly expand the existing MMO market.
Speaking at a Lazard Capital Markets Technology & Media Day presentation, which Gamasutra listened in on, EA CFO Eric Brown said the company has "over one million, closer to 1.5 million" people opted-in to be notified of a coming open beta test for the BioWare Austin-created game. "It's a great indicator in the interest level in the franchise," he said.
While Brown wouldn't comment on when the current closed beta would open up, he did say it was "reasonable to infer" that the full game would not be launching during the company's first fiscal quarter, which runs April through June.
Electronic Arts has previously announced the game would be released some time in the 2011 calendar year, but has not been any more specific.
Brown said he sees the current market for MMOs in North America and Europe at around 12 million people, roughly half of which play World of Warcraft.
With The Old Republic, though, he hopes the company will be able to expand to a much wider potential audience through word of mouth and inherent interest in the Star Wars license.
"We're not that concerned about generating initial demand," he said. "For us it's about creating the right experience for expanding from tier 1 and the tier 2 users to getting people who have never played an MMO before, but are interested in Star Wars, to engage and give it a try."
While Brown acknowledged it would require a careful balancing act to keep both existing MMO players and newcomers happy, he sees it as a target that has a very lucrative payoff.
"If we do that, our addressable market is well beyond 12 million people ... into more of a general gamer population, pretty much anyone that has a minimum spec personal computer," he said.
EA is going towards launch with the assumption that The Old Republic will use a standard monthly subscription model, Brown said, though he admitted the company hasn't ruled out adding a microtransaction model that could perhaps exist on top of those subscriptions.
"The key [question] is, what do you include in a base monthly fee versus what do you charge extra for?" Brown said. "That requires some careful decision making, [but] for now we're focused on the standard monthly subscription model."