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EA Studies  WoW  Carefully For  The Old Republic 's Post-Launch Pipeline
EA Studies WoW Carefully For The Old Republic's Post-Launch Pipeline
September 7, 2011 | By Frank Cifaldi

September 7, 2011 | By Frank Cifaldi
More: Console/PC, Social/Online, Business/Marketing

While preparing for the launch of its upcoming BioWare-developed MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Electronic Arts says it is looking closely at the lifecycle of World of Warcraft, ultimately concluding that user experience during an MMO's launch is the most important factor in its potential success.

"We've actually studied WoW pretty carefully," CFO Eric Brown said at the Citi 2011 Tech Conference on Wednesday.

"We spent a lot of time studying the first twelve months or so of WoW, and just to be clear here, when they initially launched, they did not launch in dual geographies. They went North America only."

According to Brown, particular attention is being paid to the game's initial customers.

"We really want to make sure that the first group of users into Star Wars has the best experience," he said.

"For example, when they log on, they have instant access. [Even] when they're playing in a densely-populated world, the bandwidth and response time is excellent. So quality of service is really important to us."

So important, in fact, that the company recently announced that it would limit the number of copies available for sale at launch, in order to ensure that the initial customers get the best experience possible.

"In the short term, we would [opt] for a higher level quality of service versus a sheer numerical count of subscribers, because we're quite confident that, with a great game experience at launch, we'll get this viral effect," Brown explained, saying he hoped the game would attract "whole groups or squads or clans" of players from other MMOs.

Post-Launch Plans

Of particular interest to the publisher is WoW's post-launch strategy. As Blizzard recently admitted, subscriber churn for the leading MMORPG has been a significant issue of late, as experience players are able to consume new content much more quickly than in the past.

"[BioWare] has built in a very extensive development plan to make sure there is enough content coming out in intervals," said Brown. "We haven't specified it, but industry norm is 18-24 months. And the idea there is to keep the game fresh and interesting for all of the players."

"So the BioWare team, I think, has demonstrated with a number of its packaged goods titles, a really rich, detailed post-launch DLC plan for their console games. They have a similar detailed and rich expansion plan for Star Wars," he continued.

Even with these post-launch plans, Brown also said that the company expects that "a lot of people are going to burn through the content as quickly as possible, they'll be left ... waiting for the next expansion pack installment."

Star Wars: The Old Republic does not have a formal release date set, though Brown confirmed that internally, the game is expected to ship during calendar Q4.

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Katheryn Phillips
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Blizzard dummed WoW down to attract more players, the concequence of that action was that the game became too easy for veterans. That is why the experienced WoW players chew right through content. Sony made a similar decision with the Star wars Galaxies "NGE" (New Game Enhencements), taking the very difficult, yet enjoyable of creating a Jedi, and handing it the players on a silver platter at L1 to appease a very vocal minority of players on it's forums...The consequences of that decision cost nearly all of their players over the next year, and relegated SWG to being a foot-note in MMO's history rather than a leader.

BioWare is cognoscente of all of these many former SWG folk make up the SWTOR team, but will they be able to avoid the "Dark Side" of more subscriptions over longevity off subscriber interest/satisfaction. If you ask me this "Dark Side" is fraught with temptation to MMO devs, and the "Light Side" of this endeavour requires much work, but assures that the game lives a long life...If you ask Yoda about the Dark Side being stronger/better, he would agree with me saying, "No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive." Not stronger or better. I am hoping there is enough wisdom from these former SWG folks and within the BioWare vets to keep SWTOR from stepping down the slippery slope of appeasing the masses and giving them what they say they 'want', when what they need is constant challenge with fairness for as many as possible.

The takeway from their Blizz studies should be keep the game hard, keep the fans waiting for the next great thing, and by all means don't invent giant black dragons that rock the world, right after you have told Vader's story.

Cody Scott
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too bad the giant black dragon was around before "vader", and probably did a lot to change the game more so then fighting arthas did. I mean deathwing recreated old zones, i re-leveled through the old zones that i use to hate when the game first started and now i can say that there isnt an old world zone i dislike.

Bruce Mills
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The time spent grinding does not equal player skill. The Jedi thing from SWG was just obtuse and long. It wasn't difficult or particularly challenging. It required a lot of grind to get to point of being a Jedi Master.

That kind of thinking was highly prominent in EQ, and other earlier MMOs: That by making something that takes months to accomplish that you somehow earned it, even though you were doing the same basic easy tasks repeatedly.

Making a difficult boss fight is fine. But when the boss is artificially lengthened with a ton of HP and regenerative abilities (that MUST occur regardless of what the player does) in order to drag the fight out and then say: "This is an EPIC fight!"

No. It's a long fight, a drawn out fight, but certainly not epic. When I fall asleep during the fight because I've been moving my hands in the same pattern for the last 20-30 minutes I can safely say that the developer is trying to drag out the encounter.

I certainly hope Bioware does not follow any of those path ways with their content. You can make a major dungeon boss but don't rely on dragging out the fight.

The point is make the fight memorable, not long: Randomization in boss Patterns, different types of bosses based upon the path players take in the dungeon, adding new gameplay mechanics for the boss fight. Those are what they can extract difficulty from instead of forcing the player to play “Simon” for nearly an hour.

Patrick Miller
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I seem to remember a time when it took a month or two just to hit lvl 20 in Everquest. That is when MMOs were about player interaction, forming working relationships with people in a virtual world. Some would develop friends while others would develop enemies. It was all part of what an MMO was.

Granted there have been improvments in gameplay since then, but where is it written that you should be able to solo from 1-max in less than 2 weeks? Think about it - Yeah you can be max level, have epic raid gear, and be top of the PvP charts - and then what? Do the same raid again, and again, and again? How is that any different than 1 battle taking 20-30 minutes? I would much prefer the latter. A drawn out battle is far superior to a redundant one.

Day in and day out, you sit in Ventrillo or teamspeak waiting for someone to schedule a raid or for someone to ask for some help on some obscure quest until that expansion comes out that you master in less than a week... WHAT FUN!

Bring back the days when it took effort and time to be awesome, not repetition of mundayne macros and wiki strats.


Whoever called experieinced WoW players "MMO Veterans" is waay off. (no Offense) Most WoW players have never played another MMO and the ones that have, quit because they "were too grindy" (which in my opinion means the player is too lazy to put forth any sort of time effort).

Martain Chandler
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Well, now that I think of it, a company the size of EA would be insane not to have a ten year plan for such an expensive game.

Simon Ludgate
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"[BioWare] has built in a very extensive development plan to make sure there is enough content coming out in intervals," said Brown. "We haven't specified it, but industry norm is 18-24 months. And the idea there is to keep the game fresh and interesting for all of the players."

I think Trion and Rift have totally blown that 18-24 month statistic into the stratosphere; they're bringing out content updates every 1-2 months. They've put out 4 major content updates (each with a new raid zone) in 6 months, so EA can't really consider waiting 1-2 years between updates.

Tyler Overby
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Yeah, Wow can't match Rift's 1-2 month patch schedule, but at least WoW has content more often than once every 18-24 months. It's more like every 3-4 months.

Jacob Barlaam
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too bad what they release every 3-4 months is so small. Last patch was 1 new raid and 2 rehashed instances. Pretty weak. Should have been 2-3 raids and at least 3 brand new instances.