400K Players Lost, Star Wars: The Old Republic Doomed?
I’ve gotten a ridiculous number of emails and tweets asking me what I think about the recent announcement by EA that the subscriber base for Star Wars: The Old Republic shrank by 400,00 (25%) last quarter. Rather than send a ridiculous number of replies, I decided to write up my thoughts instead. So, is the game dead? Is this slide going to continue until someone pulls the plug on the final three remaining subscribers? Are we all doomed?!?!
No. I really don’t think we’re doomed at all. If you look at all the official announcements, EA gives it a positive spin saying they’re pretty much where they thought they would be subscriber-wise. Sure, this is good PR but it’s good to see that they aren’t overly negative and still have plans to continue developing new features to enhance the player experience. If they seemed all gloom and doom, well, that’d be a bad sign.
I noticed something interesting when I was at PAX East last month. There were a lot of MMOs. They all looked really good with fantastic stories, beautiful graphics and trailers that were immersive enough to stop gamers as they passed and make them watch. But when you listened to the chatter as the trailers and demos finished, there was one common theme. “I don’t have time for this one, too.”
There are so many MMOs available right now that it’s impossible to play them all with any kind of regularity. It’s also financially difficult to manage all those subscriptions every month. I talked with a lot of people who had just left #SWTOR and they left for a lot of reason, but the biggest was a lack of time. They wanted to try other games and they knew they couldn’t play them all so they quit.
This isn’t the case for every player, though. The hype around #SWTOR was unbelievable. It was the must-have game last December and people who had never played an MMO in their lives were as excited as people who’d been playing World of Warcraft for the last seven years. The excitement was shared, but the expectations were very different.
I’ve talked about this on the Sith Heads Podcast with Michael Gaines
. He is a hardcore, veteran player. He forgets more about playing an MMO in a day than I’ve learned in the last five months. His expectations were not at all the same as mine. We both wanted an experience that was innately Star Wars, but he had definite requirements that I didn’t even think to want. It was a case of me not even knowing what I was missing.
From Mike’s point of view, the game is lacking. He doesn’t have the same types of things he’s had before and the things that have been added that are unique, like the Legacy System, aren’t appealing to him. At all. It’s disappointing. Despite playing in the Star Wars universe, swinging a lightsaber and Force Choking his enemies, it hasn’t met his expectations. This kind of player may have moved on to trying a new game, or is it back to an old one?
If you’ve spent actual years creating a character, playing with a guild, developing friendships and an in-game life, it can be hard to leave. Sure, it’s nice to take a vacation and try something new, but many players miss the group that they know and love. At some point, they may decide that, although they like the new game, the old one is where their heart is and, eventually, they’ll follow their hearts and leave.
So, who the heck is still playing? I am. Lots and lots of people are still playing. Roughly 1.5 million or so depending on which source you check. These are newbs like me who are relishing the experience of their first MMO being Star Wars, veterans like Mike that are still vested enough to want to see where it goes, and people who fall somewhere in the middle. They like the universe and how the game plays. They like the Legacy System. They’re having fun.
It was inevitable that the overwhelming rush to play #SWTOR
would also result in a rush in the opposite direction as the initial buzz and excitement faded. It’s not over, it’s just a work in progress. I mean, come on, if Luke had just given up after that droid zapped his butt on the Millennium Falcon, he’d have never been a Jedi. I’m willing to give this game some time, see where it goes, and just enjoy the ride.