Thursday, October 6, 2011

I don't think we matter for long-term success

Ravious from Kill Ten Rats is worried about Star Wars: The Old Republic. Quote: "One half of me thinks it’s going to sell like freakin’ hot cakes, possibly make back it’s money, and then fall flat. BioWare won’t be able to sustain a fraction of the same support after 3-6 months." The reason he worries is all those reports that describe SWTOR in beta as some sort of World of Warcraft with light sabers. Some nice features, like the story-telling and voice acting, but nothing that feels as if SWTOR was pushing the envelope of the MMORPG genre.

Now if the target audience of SWTOR consisted of Ravious, me, and the people reading our blogs, I would think he is right. There is a rather large probability that I will be bored of SWTOR after 3 months, because it feels too much like games that I have already played for thousands of hours. Fortunately for EA Bioware, and unfortunately for me and you, I don't think we actually are the target audience. There is nothing in the design and marketing of Star Wars: The Old Republic which makes me think that this is a game which is targeted at veteran MMORPG players. I am pretty certain that EA Bioware rather targets both people who played other MMORPGs just a little and casually, and people who didn't play MMORPGs before because they weren't into elves, orcs, and wizards. There are simply far more Star Wars fans out there than there are World of Warcraft players.

Now if you manage the difficult feat to put yourself into the shoes of somebody who has never played a MMORPG before, you realize that the prospects of SWTOR are rather good, as long as EA Bioware delivers a polished product in December. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the themepark MMORPG formula, except that it gets boring after several thousands of hours. As long as EA Bioware can capture a significant number of people who haven't already done those thousands of hours in a different game, they are golden.

But of course this target audience isn't the people currently reading or writing MMORPG blogs. Thus while you certainly will read in the MMO blogosphere in early 2012 how quickly SWTOR becomes boring, that opinion might be one which is limited to a group of people who don't really matter all that much for the long-term success of the game. The people who *do* matter might instead be saying how much better SWTOR is than Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, or how it compares to KOTOR or Lego Star Wars. This will be the first MMORPG for many people, and if history tells us anything about the success of MMORPGs, it is that everybody loves their first MMORPG. But unless you can get hold of a Men in Black Neuralizer, you and me are going to miss out on that first love experience. We already had ours with previous games.

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