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With Record Demand, EA Confident In  The Old Republic  Server Scalability, Profitability
With Record Demand, EA Confident In The Old Republic Server Scalability, Profitability
July 26, 2011 | By Frank Cifaldi

Though BioWare's upcoming MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic has the most preorders in Electronic Arts history, the company is confident that it is prepared to keep the game running smoothly at launch.

"We've got a really aggressive plan to be able to scale multiple millions of users," EA's Frank Gibeau explained on a Gamasutra-attended conference call.

"We're pretty relaxed about what we're going to be able to achieve there. We'll be able to scale up and light up new severs on a fairly quick basis. We've got a plan to do that over the months following ship, and we've got a lot of capacity built into that," he continued.

While Gibeau was unwilling to give exact preorder numbers, he did say that what the company is seeing is ahead of its internal goal for a successful launch.

"It's the largest number we've done at EA comparison to other titles; the next closest title was Battlefield 3, and it was up significantly from there," he added.

The company is hoping to appeal to lapsed World of Warcraft players, said Gibeau, which make up a good part of what EA sees as a healthy MMO market, though admittedly one that is hard to track.

"Our internal judgment shows [the overall MMORPG player base] in the double digits millions of subscribers in the Western markets," explained EA CEO John Riccitiello. That number ranges somewhere in the 12 to 14 million range depending on which games are included, and higher "if you start including some of the lower price-per-month competitors," he said.

"This is a product that starts to make profitability at about a half a million subs," he said. "At about a million subs it's a business that makes good money on an ongoing basis, but it doesn't feel great about the historical investment that sort of got us here.

"And anything north of a million, as we approach a million and a half or two, starts to look like a great investment, and justifies the entire purchase price... of BioWare in a very positive way."

While a launch date has not been set for Star Wars: The Old Republic, an announcement is expected to be made around September, according to Gibeau.

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Steven Ulakovich
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Hopefully EA learned their lesson with the issues that Warhammer Online faced with server balance issues shortly after launch.

Tim Hesse
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Agreed, Rift fell victim as well. Load balancing is hard work for MMOs.

At launch there are THOUSANDS, potentially MILLIONS of players wanting to log in resulting in queues and unhappy players who can't log in, meet up with friends, etc., etc., so they start on some other server that either ends up a ghost town or they move to where they want later making their old server, a ghost town. The end result? Unhappy players and tons of servers...too few servers and unhappy players...

Erik Hieb
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That's probably impossible. A huge number of people take off work to start playing on launch day. Definately doesn't qualify as normal conditions for a normal load.

Martain Chandler
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F2P, 2YRS.

Erik Hieb
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Personally just wish they wouldn't bother with servers and just have one, like Cryptic games. Yeah, there's people that are irrationally annoyed with that. But you don't actually see them complaining once they're in the game and they realize that just about every single zone is instanced anyway because it's simply impossible to have 1000 people in a single area in most games (the ones that allow it it's extremely annoyed, super simple graphics F2P MMOs have some good examples of not being able to see anyone or click on your quest giver in towns.) Since pretty most games are instanced as it is, the anti-instancing people don't really have much room to argue.

Plus you don't have to deal with coordinating with people. My friend has more friends than play MMOs, so he ends up on their server usually, but I start playing before they do and end up too invested in my server to start from scratch elsewhere. Plus you don't have to deal with the inevitable dead servers. Large number of people will quit after the free period is over, more will quite a few months later. My Rift server was dead by the time the free transfers came around (which was the only reason I managed to play with the above mentioned friend in Rift.) In the games I've play for more than a year, think 4 of them I've ended up on dead or merged servers in.

David Paris
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Requiring a million subscribers to be financially successful as an MMO is a pretty tall order. Granted, the SW franchise is quite strong, so they have better odds than most. We'll see how much of the market they can hold onto once the initial excitement has passed.