BioWare is set to finally launch Star Wars: The Old Republic at 12:01am tomorrow. Undoubtedly, executives at the company will be crossing their fingers in the hope that this eagerly-anticipated game can take on the dominant player in this arena: Blizzard Entertainment's venerable World of Warcraft. As we prepare for The Old Republic's official debut, stories are popping up online with predictions and speculations about the new Star Wars MMO's potential for success against WoW and other hurdles.
Having steeped myself in both games recently, I can say that any notion that the Old Republic will be a WOW killer is absurd. World of Warcraft boasts a variety, breadth and level of handcrafted content that no other game is close to matching. That said, the Old Republic is by far the best, most exciting online game since the original World of Warcraft. It should be a Star Wars fan’s dream and deserves to attract in excess of two million paying players in the three languages — English, French and German — available at release.
Also considering TOR's prospects is Dean Takahashi at VentureBeat, who called BioWare's new offering "one of the most ambitious games ever." In his article, Takahashi points to a recent survey that indicates significant TOR-WoW player crossover.
Atul Bagga, an analyst at Lazard Capital Markets, said in a recent note that his survey of MMO players suggests a “strong tailwind” for Star Wars: The Old Republic. He estimated that the game may find a receptive audience among 3 million to 4 million players within the World of Warcraft subscriber base. About 50 percent of World of Warcraft subscribers plan to buy the EA game. Among those who played the beta test, about 90 percent plan to buy the game. And 87 percent have either pre-ordered or plan to pre-order the game.
Doug Creutz from financial firm Cowen & Company reported today that TOR has opened up 140 servers (77 in the US and 63 in Europe) to customers who've already forked over the cash. Based on Creutz' experience, those servers feel fuller than WoW's. From those two pieces of information, he estimates that 1 million to 1.5 million are already playing The Old Republic.
Plus, as The Daily Mail reports, World of Warcraft, which launched in 2004, has seen its subscriber count drop, "with two million leaving in the past year." This may be due to displeasure with the repetitiveness of WoW's game-play, but it may also speak to general dissatisfaction with the MMO's business model: buy the disc, then pay a monthly fee. With the economy in bad shape, free-to-play games are taking off, and unless it appears singularly compelling to gamers, TOR may face the same subscription unease as WoW.
Only time will tell if TOR can topple or even match WoW, but one thing's for sure: this new Star Wars game is the talk of the video-gaming town, and there's no shortage of opinions about its future.