Star Wars: The Old Republic Draws Impressive Numbers in Beta

Electronic Arts has revealed some interesting numbers for this last round of beta testing.  The numbers show two things: the game is definitely going to be popular and Star Wars: The Old Republic may actually be a profitable venture for its owners.

The beta test weekend event had over 2 million players entering the game over the three day span, 750,000 of those being new.  250,000 were playing concurrently at the game’s peak.

During the three day event, each player logged an average of 12 hours of play.

If all of these numbers are right, then SWTOR could reach profitability on day 1 of its release.  EA has previously claimed that only half a million players would be needed to make the game profitable, though many in the industry question that given the amount of money spent so far on marketing.

Garnering three quarters of a million new players in only one weekend of beta testing is likely unprecedented.  Having 2 million players before the game even launches is exceedingly rare, but not unheard of.  Getting industry pundits to agree on whether a game will fail or succeed before it’s launch is still impossible.

Popularity

SWTOR is obviously destined to become an extremely popular game when it launches on December 20.  Getting that 2 million and 750k number set is a pretty big deal.  Given the amount of marketing the game has received, however, it’s not mind boggling.  It’s safe to say that SWTOR has had more marketing than any MMO in recent history.  Even the famous World of Warcraft commercials featuring celebrities like Ozzy Osbourne and, most recently, Chuck Norris can’t compare to the onslaught that SWTOR has put out.

Still, the game has several things going for it on the popularity front.

First, it’s got the term “Star Wars” in its title and is an official franchise of the movies.  While that in itself is not a guarantee (many SW-based games have flopped), it’s a good start.

Second, it’s had a huge amount of media blitz both on and offline.  It’s been featured everywhere from gamer blogs to Facebook ads to the nightly news.  The marketing term for its exposure is “buzz” – it’s had a virtual swarm of it.

Third, SWTOR is a slick game that will immediately appeal to a relatively wide audience of intended players.  Will they be around in a year?  Good question.  Will they pay for the experience?  Another good question.

Profitability

The most popular game on the planet will not last if it’s not also profitable.  Accounts of what will be required for SWTOR to reach profitability vary.  It could be as few as half a million players or it could require two or three million.  The real answer, however, is not in number of players on day one, but in number of subscribers after its first month.

It seems likely that the game will need in the neighborhood of 1 million paying players to be profitable for all involved (marketing payback and continuance, development costs, and profit for LucasArts).  I don’t come by this number through any scientific guess, just by averaging the varying estimates being made by the industry itself.

So will SWTOR be profitable?  There’s little reason to think otherwise.  How profitable is another matter fit for another discussion entirely.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

The author team at Killer Guides has put in quite a bit of thought already as to how successful SWTOR will actually be. In response they prepared 18 SWTOR Guides to advanced classes, leveling strategies and making credits, giving it a coverage that is on par with World of Warcraft. It will remain to be seen if the game itself can also measure up to WoW in terms of subscribers (WoW Killer. There. I said it.)
 

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