The SWTOR Figures Thus Far
You have probably already heard about the 1.7 million subscription number, 2 million boxes sold, and so on surrounding SWTOR’s launch. What I am finding a bit more interesting are some of the investor call break-downs as gathered by Darth Hater. For example:
Q: What are your plans at expanding the global market?
A: We are looking at the Asian market. Expanding into Australian market on March 1st. We’re looking specifically at opportunities to expand in the Asian market.
Q: How long will it take to get into the Asian market?
A: Australia/New Zealand is the low-hanging fruit. Think in months rather than weeks. Individual Asian markets will be announced in the future, we’re bound by confidentiality agreements. When WoW was introduced in 2004, they were in Korea shortly after, and 9 months after in China. It was easier in those days – server outages were considered par for the course, that is not the case today. We hope to execute as well in Asia as we did in the NA/Europe launch.
Q: You’ve previously said you need about a half million subscribers to be profitable, is that still the case?
A: At 500,000 subscribers, we’d break even. At a million, we’d be making a profit but nothing worth writing home about. As it scales up from there, we’re talking about a nice profit. At this point with the successful launch, we can take the worst case scenarios off the table.
The ability for SWTOR to launch in Asian markets was one of the biggest concerns I had with the game from a success standpoint, as you may recall. Indeed, if/when the game is released in China, that will be the moment beyond which we will be unable to talk about its subscription numbers with any sort of coherency – not because it will necessarily be super-popular over there, but because, just like with WoW, millions of Eastern subs obfuscates armchair analysis. Remember Nils saying “[…] I would now say that EA could be happy if they had 500k subscribers one year after launch”? Would it “count” if there was some Western mass-exodus down to 250k but 2 million Chinese subs?
In any event, there are still legitimate questions about how the game will perform 3 to 6 months down the road, when there is less ambiguity surrounding whether 1.7 million was as-of December 31st or as-of the investor call (and what “most” means in the context of “Most of those 1.7m are paying at this point”). Then we have Frank Gibeau who says:
In the next phase, our goal is to grow the number of subscribers with frequent releases of content that make the game even more exciting. […] We plan on delivering another major update, even larger than the first, in March.
It is kind of interesting, on several levels. Can Bioware keep such a pace for any length of time, or will there be a drought soon after March wherein the reserve content drys up? Do frequent patches even drive subscription growth to begin with? Blizzard’s Mike Morhaime said back in November that patches were mainly about reducing churn, not growth. Maybe it’s different for games below market saturation? And speaking of games and markets, let’s not forget at least a half dozen high(ish) profile MMOs will also be dropping this year, including the mythical Guild Wars 2 and Mists of Pandaria. No doubt there will be some impact, eh?
Time will tell, but so far so good.
P.S. If you had bought EA stock after it dropped 3% in mid-January, when people were laughing about SWTOR’s “disastrous launch” based on that one analyst, you’d be sitting on a 10.22% return on your investment a little more than two weeks later. Or, hell, a 6.1% return between yesterday and today.
P.P.S. Christ. BRB opening eTrade account.