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"Star Wars: The Old Republic" may not be released until January 2012

Analysts announced earlier this week that EA has invested over $80 million in the development of BioWare's first MMO "Star Wars: The Old Republic." 

"Star Wars: The Old Republic" is a new massively multiplayer online (MMO) game that is currently under development by BioWare and LucasArts. The game takes place 300 years after the events of "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" and thousands of years before Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, which is a fairly unexplored era of "Star Wars" chronology. 

Users will be able to choose from many different character roles such as Jedi or Sith, and give context to their personal story with the option to follow the light or the dark side of the Force. In addition, players can join friends through the game's battles.  

Now, EA has reported that its total investment in the "Star Wars" MMO has reached $80 million in development alone. 

"The contribution from the 'Star Wars' MMO is significant," said Michael Pachter, Wedbush Securities analyst. "Under the terms of its deals with LucasArts, EA is required to pay a royalty, but was required to front all of the development, marketing and distribution costs, as well as the costs of building out servers for the game. We estimate that LucasArts’ share is 33 percent of revenues, after EA recoups its investment in game development. Given that the game was in development for over four years, with an estimated 200 full-time developers working on it, we estimate that EA's investment exceeds $80 million.

"Fortunately for investors, the company expenses R&D spending, meaning that its revenues on sales of the 'Star Wars' MMO DVD will be pure profit. EA will be required to spend marketing dollars on the game, and we estimate total manufacturing, marketing and distribution spending will total around $20 million, meaning that at two million units sold, EA will generate $60 million of operating profit on the DVD sales." 

Pachter also noted that EA will not need a certain number of subscribers for "Star Wars: The Old Republic" to make a profit. 

"We estimate that EA will cover its direct operating costs and break even at 500,000 subscribers (actual number is closer to 350,000 subscribers), meaning that with 1.5 million paying subscribers, EA will have 1 million profitable subs," said Pachter. "We estimate that the incremental operating cost for each subscriber above break even is around $5 per month, so if the revenue split is 33 percent to LucasArts ($5 per subscriber per month), EA will be left with $5 per subscriber per month in operating profit. At 1 million profitable subscribers over the last six months of its fiscal year, EA should generate $30 million in operating profit from subscribers." 

EA also announced this week that the launch of "Star Wars: The Old Republic" may be delayed until January 2012. 

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By Saist on 5/6/2011 11:58:06 PM , Rating: 0
City of Heroes has by and large proven that MMO's do not need a PvP-component to be profitable or retain subscribers. So no, it does not have to "have" PvP. Rather, for the kind of epic scope EA/Bioware seem to be reaching for, they'll probably be better off in the long run not even bothering with PvP.

Much like CoH, dropping PvP would give them room to go completely wild on imbalanced character concepts.

As to what's holding WoW back, I have one word for you: Intel.

Intel's top of the line Sandybridge graphics still can't keep up with mid-range Radeon cards from 4 or 5 years ago, much less older Graphics Accelerators. The market reality for Blizzard is that an extremely large percentage of their player-base is using Intel Integrated graphics. The market reality for Blizzard is that the Intel Graphics-Accelerator market-share is not going to buy a new computer just to keep playing the game.

Now, yes, Blizzard could do the same thing City of Heroes did and leverage OpenGL fall-backs to provide an OpenGL 3.x/4.x rendering layer with improved graphics. However, Blizzard will run into the same problem Paragon Studios ran into. Old textures and old-geometry will still be old textures and old-geometry... and that really puts a limit on just how far the graphics engine can be stretched.

Of course, there is also the Eve Online / Ultimate Online solution, which is for Blizzard to maintain two or more separate rendering clients. One client with an OpenGL 3.x or higher rendering target, and one client with OpenGL 1.4 rendering targets for all those legacy system's users. However, that particular approach would require resources that Blizzard may not not have to dedicate.

By DNAgent on 5/7/2011 7:54:47 AM , Rating: 2
I'm pretty sure Blizzard has the resources to do whatever the hell they want. But why would they bother? When your product is crack, you just want your client base to be addicted. You don't care if they are addicted to high-end stuff or not, because they buy either way :)

By imaheadcase on 5/7/2011 11:36:36 AM , Rating: 2
I want to see valve make a MMO. That would set the bar high.

By AssBall on 5/8/2011 1:14:36 PM , Rating: 2
A counter-strike MMO would be interesting, at least.

By TimberJon on 5/10/2011 11:40:07 AM , Rating: 2
By AssBall: A counter-strike MMO would be interesting, at least.

I disagree. As a 'Mech fan, a MechWarrior/BattleTech MMO would be more interesting, but the BT universe doesn't have a good base for 'roaming solo', grinding and such. What would you stomp around and shoot? You can't just go ravaging anything because in that Uni you only engage other units when necessary. If you were defending a planet, a merc or enemy unit would need to make planetfall every 5 minutes or so - Boring.

On the same note, what the heck would you do in a counterstrike mmo? For a successful mmo you need a huge map base that is difficult to explore the whole thing. Thats one of the things that initially made WoW so engaging, the scale of it all. You need elements like enemies to grind on, places to go, and alot of ground to cover. STO is lacking in places to go really because the galaxy map appears limited at this stage. EVE is huge if you take a look at their starmap, but your always fresh meat almost anywhere you try to explore. Aion is slick.

We need something fresh and alien, but based on some kind of lore. It really has almost "all been done". The only true thing to focus on is blockbuster hits. But Star trek has theirs, Star Wars is coming. Matrix would be tricky, LotR has kind of happened. Wow covered the fantasy storyline. Elder Scrolls did their part. It appears that all that is left is the Comics.. but what to grind on...
The Homeworld story comes to mind, but no. Command & Conquer might be a good base. I can't think of anything else.. It would need unique and VARIED enemies to grind on.

By jeff834 on 5/9/2011 4:14:51 PM , Rating: 2
The same thing was said about Blizzard before WoW came out. Frankly if ToR can't beat WoW, only the next Blizzard MMO stands a chance.

By Master Kenobi on 5/9/2011 7:19:19 PM , Rating: 2
Star Wars as an IP is worth more than the Warcraft IP, but Blizzard is a big name in the gaming world. They haven't made a game yet that wasn't a massive hit. It seems appropriate that Bioware would be the only other company in recent memory with an RPG resume capable of competing with WoW. The jury is still out on ToR, but so far it seems like it has a chance to do just as well. Time will tell. Truth be told they could probably do an MMO based on Mass Effect or Dragon Age and make some cash too. Mass Effect would be a fun universe to explore for sure.

By GaryJohnson on 5/7/2011 8:00:58 AM , Rating: 2
The market reality for Blizzard is that an extremely large percentage of their player-base is using Intel Integrated graphics.

Have any credible source that backs that statement up? Steam reports that only 6% of it's users are running Intel video hardware. 92% are running nVidia and ATI. I would think that Steam probably has a similar user base to WoW.

By kmmatney on 5/9/2011 12:41:04 PM , Rating: 2
ATI and NVidia make motherboards with integrated graphics, so the number of people integrated graphics is probably higher.

By callmeroy on 5/9/2011 3:37:20 PM , Rating: 2
I'm with you -- is the "market reality comment" based on ones own opinion or is there an article floating around with someone in the know (ie Blizzard) stating that?

I tend to find it hard to believe especially because I am a wow player of almost 6 1/2 years (though I haven't played much for 2 months now)... I'm in a guild of nearly 500 players (not characters...PLAYERS...we half almost 800 "characters").... and a huge number of those players have tricked out gaming machines. More evidence is the LFG tool...which for not players is a tool to throw dungeon groups together it pulls people from both your realm and other realms (realms are servers in WoWspeak). Anyway in LFG formed groups if you ever get to chatting it up about what system you are running 95% of the time its almost always either half decent or state-of-the-art...I never hear anyone say "nah I'm just running off the mobo graphics"...

By Azethoth on 5/15/2011 1:49:47 AM , Rating: 2
Here is another take on it: each major release Blizz ups the graphics. So on my 2560 x 1600 monitor, buying the fastest single card GPU each year, I still had to turn down the settings so I do not lag out when things get tense.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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