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Looks like EA’s new Star Wars gamble is going to pay off

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Video gamers and Star Wars fans: There’s already a lot of overlap in those two segments of the population. So it’s not surprising that Electronic Arts(s ERTS) has done quite well with its line of Star Wars video games.

According to new data from the company, EA’s next Star Wars title — set to debut just in time for Christmas on December 20 — is on track to be a blockbuster success.

EA recently held a three-day beta test weekend for its upcoming Star Wars, The Old Republic game (SWTOR), and the results were really good. 725,000 users played, and the average gamer spent a solid 12 hours playing over the weekend, EA CFO Eric Brown said during his presentation at the annual UBS Global Media & Communications conference in New York last week, according to a research note by UBS analysts Brian J. Pitz And Brian P. Fitzgerald.

Two million people signed up for the beta test alone, which means the company is on track to make a nice chunk of change from the SWTOR title: EA will breakeven once it hits one million subscriptions, Brown said. That’s notable especially because of the development cost behind SWTOR, which is reportedly in the running to be the most expensive video game ever created. The kind of popularity it expects has required some preparation on EA’s part, Brown acknowledged, telling investors that the company’s servers are ready for launch.

According to sales data, Star Wars, The Old Republic will launch at the same time that lots of people are playing with new gaming gear. High definition console sales were up 60 percent year-over-year on Black Friday 2011, driven by Xbox 360 (s MSFT), which sold more units than during any other week in its six-year history, Brown pointed out during his UBS presentation. Of course, anything Star Wars has a massive built-in audience, but it seems that the timing couldn’t be much better for a new HD game launch in general.

14 Responses to “Looks like EA’s new Star Wars gamble is going to pay off”

  1. Michael Ivey

    One thing that SWTOR has going for it, honestly, is the immersiveness.

    I didn’t play much of the open beta – I did play some. And going in, I was pretty skeptical of the idea of every NPC having voice acting. But you know what?

    It actually works pretty well, I’m forced to admit. And if they can keep a steady stream of new, interesting content going, they definitely have a success on their hands.

    Heck – even IF there’s a dropoff eventually (I’m sure there will be one), so long as they’re still pulling in large enough numbers, the game will do just fine.

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  3. rick gregory

    High volume launches aren’t rare in the MMO world. What’s less common are games that maintain high subscriber numbers 12-24 months after launch. In the last 2 or 3 years Aion, Age of Conan and Warhammer all had big launches too. Rift, also. Of those, only Rift seems to have maintained some level of subscriber interest and it’s only 6 months in.

    SW:TOR has two things going for it and one thing against it. For it are the fact that it’s not fantasy based but is SF. Even more than that, it’s Star Wars, so it brings a backstory that’s known to a lot of people who aren’t hardcore gaming people. Against? It’s pretty much the World of Warcraft model both in terms of gaming (level, gear, raid…) and in business model (pay a monthly sub). They might pull it off, but if so I think they’ll be the last large subscription based MMO.

    • Molsonolson

      There is one other thing both for and against it. The fans. The fans give a solid base to work with. But alot of the Star Wars fans out there piss me off on a regular basis.(I have quite a few family and friends who are rabid fans of Star Wars). It has a good possiblilty of being worse that “Barrens Chat” in WOW.

    • This sounds like it was written by somebody who’s never actually used a computer.

      I guess I see the point…people are into games right now, so they might be into this game. It’s just really bizarre to call out “high definition” as if it means anything.

      I hear people are doing stuff on screens nowadays. It’s the perfect time to launch screen-based media.

      • SnarksAreDumb

        It has to do with consoles in the context of the industry as a business … this is probably difficult to comprehend as an outsider (HD is a term for high end AAA quality content commonly used in the industry).

        Console games potentially eat in to the profits of a PC title because people may choose one over the other. This isn’t a difficult concept people. The article was well written, and Eric Brown is speaking from a profits oriented standpoint. L2BeQuietWhenYouDontKnowWhatYouareTalkingAbout