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.
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.