I’m reading one of my many amazing and interesting horrific business books and I’m trudging through a section about break-even analysis when I casually alt tab and start browsing the web. The first article I see is one about SWTOR being substantially profitable at 500k subs. It’s fate. I have to write something about it now. *throws book aside*
John Riccitiello says their goal isn’t to challenge WoW while going on about not wanting to be happy being some lowly second — at which point I tune him out and focus on the important part which is not challenging WoW. That is a good goal. It’s a goal many claim to have but almost no one actually adheres to in their design. Every one of these theme-park clones does nothing but try and appeal to the same market. You don’t make a game like WoW because you decided to make a game that just happened to be like WoW. It’s intentional. You make a game like WoW because you know millions of people like that particular game and you want to perhaps interest them in what you’ve done. BAD GOAL.
A good goal for Bioware/EA, and any other game out there, is to make the game that you want to make without any interest in what WoW has done or is doing. Ignore them. Do some break-even analysis and realize the numbers you’ll need to break even and turn a profit. At that point, evaluate where you’re at and see if the type of game that you want to make is niche or mainstream. Chances are it’s going to be somewhere in the middle. At that point, do what EA does and realize you’re going to be fine at 500k (probably be fine at 300k, in my opinion) but would be like Uncle Scrooge swimming in his vault if you hit 1mill. Make a game that would be fine around 250k — most every great MMO in the past did. That’s my “if this were a perfect world” ideology.
Anyone on this planet knows that SWTOR will sell well and do fine on subscriptions. It’s Star Wars and Bioware. If WAR is still alive with even 50k subscribers for this long then SWTOR will do 500k sustained for at least a few months. The key lies with the timing. Their recent announcement that SWTOR would not be out in Spring is, in my opinion, a result of intentionally delaying the game. Bioware’s biggest competition will not be WoW but rather the dozen other games closely packed well below the mean. Delaying until after Rift releases, DCUO is chilled for a few months, and Cataclysm is but a memory means that they get to swoop in and clean house. It’s smart. It’s what I would do.