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Hyperspace Beacon: From a certain point of view


It's interesting to me how a very tiny bit of misinformation can skew people's perception of -- well, anything, but let's say a game, for today's purposes. Just like a snowball rolling down a hill, misinformation collects more and more misinformation until it's totally out of control. People accept it as truth because there is no denying it's there. Sure, it's packed with lies. But it's big, so there has to be some truth in there, right?

There are many misconceptions and untruths about Star Wars: The Old Republic. People have posted in blogs about EA or SWTOR citing unnamed sources. It seems that a good chunk of these people are looking to knock down the giant that is The Old Republic. This surprises me because the game isn't even out, yet people see it as some sort of oppressive overlord -- like a certain Sith Emperor, maybe.

Today, I would like to analyze a couple of these myths and really attempt to understand why they are accepted. Although I want to show how these stories are wrong, there is a bit of truth in most of them, and I don't want to discount that. Follow me after break as we talk about release dates and wingless insects.

Let's start with the assumed pushed-back release date. I'd like to state that it is a bit hard for a date to be "pushed back" when that date doesn't exist in the first place, but I will set aside that fact because it was said on multiple occasions by EA and BioWare that they did expect a spring 2011 release. What is spring? Well, a normal human (in the Northern Hemisphere) would define that as sometime between March 20th, 7:21 p.m. EDT and June 21st, 1:16 p.m. EDT, but we aren't talking about normal human beings -- we are talking about corporate suits, software developers, gamers, and internet "journalists."

BioWare stated, again, that SWTOR is set for a spring 2011 release, discounting the rumor MCV roused, rewrote, retracted, and restated -- seriously, that little 200-word post has been rewritten at least three times without indicating any kind of update. However, the situation became muddied after the EA Earnings Conference Call and Community Manager Stephen Reid's post that stated, "Star Wars: The Old Republic is expected to launch this year after the close of EA's fiscal 2011 (which ends March 31st, 2011)." Wait, so did you just change the scope for the launch date or not?

In that conference call regarding the Q3 financial report for Electronic Arts, it became more confusing as CEO John Riccitiello mentioned that, "EA is incurring significant development costs for the Star Wars MMO, which is expected to ship in calendar 2011 but after the close of fiscal 2011." For anyone who has been following the game, this is not news. In the same call, EA COO John Schappert lists the titles EA will release in Q4 and SWTOR is absent, which would be expected by those who know know that EA's Q4 is January to March of 2011.

Gamers seemed to be confused by the whole fiscal year vs. calendar year and fiscal Q4 vs. calendar Q4. Twitter exploded with non-news and rumors stating that SWTOR was now pushed back to next year! WHAT? Hold on a second here, Twitter. All John Schappert was confirming was that SWTOR was indeed not releasing until after March 31, 2011 (the end of fiscal Q4 for EA). So calm down, Twitter; nothing has changed.

Let me break this down simply. There is no release date, but there was a release window. The window used to be April 2011 to June 2011, but now that may have expanded from April 2011 to December 2011. This doesn't eliminate the original spring release, but it does include the rumored September date given by MCV. If for some reason BioWare cannot keep the spring window, I would suggest releasing in October just to make everyone wrong (except me). You heard the rumor here first, internet: October release date.

First, I want everyone to be completely aware that EA, BioWare, investors, and all the developers are out to make money from Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I think it's no secret that they are going to make money from you, the gamer -- surprise, if it was a secret! What we don't know is how much money. There have been a lot of rumors flying around regarding how much money is budgeted for this game, and -- let's get real -- some of the sources are less than reputable.

I have intentionally avoided the subject of EA Louse because I feel to mention him is to give credit to his inflated statements. However, I did mention MCV above, so I guess I will mention EA Louse to discredit him but not link him. (He's received too many hits as it is.) The bug said in his post, "[BioWare has] spent more money making The Old Republic than James Cameron spent on Avatar. [Expletive] you not. More than $300 million! Can you believe that?" To which, I answer, "No, I don't believe you." I did not believe it when it was first stated, and I believe it even less now, and not because I have a tingly feeling that the hexapod is lying.

I believe, during the conference call that I mentioned above, Riccitiello was addressing the EA fahrenholzia pinnata specifically when he said, "[T]here's been a fair amount of talk on various blogs describing spends that are vastly higher than anything we've ever put in place." Riccitiello did mention, however, the estimated number of subscribers. He stated the game would be "substantially profitable" with 500,000 subscribers in the game. So if we break that down to estimated numbers based on current boxed game and subscription prices, we will get a better understanding of what he was talking about. The average boxed game sells for $50US and the average subscription is $15 a month. We know that at least 500,000 people will have to buy the game for EA to have a hope of as many subscriptions, so EA would make $25 million in box sales alone, given those profitability numbers. Then, if you couple that with a year's worth of subscribers (about $90 million), you get an estimate of $115 million, a number substantially lower than the $300 million our friend, the louse, said.

Some would argue that there is some truth to the $300 million claim. It is possible that the parasite received his number from somewhere, and it is completely possible that BioWare does have $300 million to spend from EA, but did you also know that BioWare was working on at least two other big budget games at the time of the insect's post? DragonAge 2 is set to release on March 8th. Mass Effect 3 will release sometime later this year. And there is a rumor of another MMO -- not SWTOR -- in development right now. So maybe the supposed Mythic employee saw a memo on someone's desk that indicated that BioWare had a $300 million budget and assumed the whole thing went to SWTOR.

There is so much more that can be said, but I'm out of breath. I will leave the rest to you. I know you all have an opinion on these topics. I know some of you believe I am dead wrong or spot on. Hit me with it. Perhaps we will solve the mysteries, or at very least, we will vent our frustrations. May the fiscal year be with you.

The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!

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