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 Star Wars: TOR  Points To 'Healthy' MMO Market - Analyst

Star Wars: TOR Points To 'Healthy' MMO Market - Analyst

December 27, 2011 | By Kris Graft

The MMO market is highly competitive and often volatile, but if the recent successful launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic is any indication, there is still good demand for MMOs, according to one analyst.

"We view the early success of Star Wars as an indication of a healthy MMO market," said Baird Equity Research analyst Colin Sebastian in a Tuesday note. "While there is likely some shifting of usage from Activision's World of Warcraft, we see a viable market for multiple million-user MMOs in the U.S. and Europe."

Star Wars: The Old Republic, developed by Electronic Arts-owned BioWare Austin, is an ambitious, story-driven PC MMORPG that EA said gained over 1 million users within three days after its December 20 launch. That makes it the fastest-growing subscription MMO in history, according to Sebastian.

The analyst said he expects the game to sell around 3 million units by the end of EA's fiscal year, ending in March 2012. But he added, "We think Street expectations for 1.5-2 million paid monthly users through 2012 may be too optimistic."

Blizzard's market-leading MMORPG World of Warcraft still dominates the scene with 10.3 million worldwide users as of November 2011.

Sebastian estimated SWTOR reached around 350,000 peak concurrent users across more than 200 servers, with the initial million-user customer base skewing slightly towards European players. EA said Monday that players logged over 5.5 million gameplay hours over the weekend.

Of course, the MMO landscape is littered with strong launches that rapidly turned sour. Players will need to continue to re-up their subscriptions in order to seal SWTOR's success in the future.

Ben Schacter, analyst with Macquarie Capital said in a separate note on Tuesday, "Staying power will be key measure. The speed with which TOR crossed the million-subscriber threshold is certainly a positive, as the early feedback remains encouraging (88 rating from Metacritic, with 60 percent positive user reviews vs. 35 percent negative). However, the key, as with any MMO, will remain longevity -- only time will tell."

For now, BioWare Austin is committing all of its substantial resources to the support of SWTOR. "It's hard to say right now what we may or may not do as far as future projects," said BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk in a recent Gamasutra interview. "We're really busy working on future SWTOR content as well as continuing to improve the service. This will never end."

[Image: David Moore, TORWars]

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