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230 Comments

Electronic Arts Spent Almost $200 Million Building Star Wars: The Old Republic

"I spared no expense," said John Riccitiello, asked about space dinosaurs.

The Old Republic may be the biggest challenge to World of Warcraft yet, but it's no guarantee.

We knew Electronic Arts had spent a truck of money developing Star Wars: The Old Republic, but a report from the LA Times pegs the cost of BioWare’s MMO debut at almost $200 million.

That number is still rising, obviously, as the sprawling development staff (at times, as many as 800 people) continues work on the game.

The Old Republic launched on December 20, and represents a massive gamble for the publisher. You don’t spent $200 million on a project that’s not expected to perform, but we won’t know for a few months yet whether The Old Republic has paid off. Plenty of MMOs have experienced spectacular starts, only to wither on the vine, as genre fans go back to their old haunts, like World of Warcraft.

There are plenty of other interesting bits about BioWare’s process, too, including that BioWare tried to pick up Lord of the Rings, A Game of Thrones and various Marvel properties at one point.

Maybe it all happened in a parallel universe. In any case, you should read the whole story.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
230 Comments
Posted by patrickklepek
The Old Republic may be the biggest challenge to World of Warcraft yet, but it's no guarantee.

We knew Electronic Arts had spent a truck of money developing Star Wars: The Old Republic, but a report from the LA Times pegs the cost of BioWare’s MMO debut at almost $200 million.

That number is still rising, obviously, as the sprawling development staff (at times, as many as 800 people) continues work on the game.

The Old Republic launched on December 20, and represents a massive gamble for the publisher. You don’t spent $200 million on a project that’s not expected to perform, but we won’t know for a few months yet whether The Old Republic has paid off. Plenty of MMOs have experienced spectacular starts, only to wither on the vine, as genre fans go back to their old haunts, like World of Warcraft.

There are plenty of other interesting bits about BioWare’s process, too, including that BioWare tried to pick up Lord of the Rings, A Game of Thrones and various Marvel properties at one point.

Maybe it all happened in a parallel universe. In any case, you should read the whole story.

Staff
Posted by doomocrat

The big story is EA removing a cancellation option from their page here at the end of the free month, and then banning forum users (From Origin? unknown) who posted the direct link. Klepek, get on this!

Posted by patrickklepek

@doomocrat said:

The big story is EA removing a cancellation option from their page here at the end of the free month, and then banning forum users (From Origin? unknown) who posted the direct link. Klepek, get on this!

Not sure it's a real story. Jeff quit just fine.

Staff
Posted by MysteriousFawx

@doomocrat: I heard about that but didn't have the issue myself, I cancelled about 4 hours before my game was due to resub. Can understand how it would have the community up in arms however.

Posted by doomocrat

There was a lot of buzz on SA and NeoGAF about people having the links removed. If I can find screenshots or anything credible I'll send them your way.

Posted by DaBuddaDa
@doomocrat said:

The big story is EA removing a cancellation option from their page here at the end of the free month, and then banning forum users (From Origin? unknown) who posted the direct link. Klepek, get on this!

That was a bug only encountered in certain browser configurations and has been fixed. A non-story.
Posted by Nephrahim

There's a ton of hearsay about the disappearing unsubscribe button. Plenty of people quit just fine.

There's smoke, but it might just be blowing out of someone's *** at this point.

Posted by Brendan

@doomocrat said:

The big story is EA removing a cancellation option from their page here at the end of the free month, and then banning forum users (From Origin? unknown) who posted the direct link. Klepek, get on this!

This isn't a real story, just bugs and hyperreacting users spreading rumours before a fair explanation can be given.

Edited by DaBuddaDa

200 million is an absurdly high amount of money. If they sustain a 1 million strong user base for an entire year straight (which is a tall task for any subscription based MMORPG) that still wouldn't be enough to break even from these initial development costs (180 million, 20 million short).
 
But if you add in the $60 cost to buy the game and stretch this out over the course of the next 4, 5, 6 years, they will still make a ridiculous profit overall.

Posted by doomocrat

So it seems the real story is users getting mad that forum moderators were closing threads giving others the cancellation workaround. I can 100% see why such a thing would be necessary to protect player account security and prevent phishing. Just kind of mad how fast that all bubbled up.

Edited by Annev0

Pachter said this amount of money was to much, probably more then 100 million.

Posted by Niksis

@DaBuddaDa: You forgot to add in the base cost for a game upon purchase, not just the billing.

Posted by rjayb89

Man, a Game of Thrones game by BioWare. I would play that. So many incest options.

Edited by Grissefar

that's million bucks

And boy have EA betted betted on the wrong horse. Going up against WoW? No way in hell they are making profit from this game ever.

Posted by Veektarius

Personally, I think it turned out pretty well, but enough people came into this with (and possibly only because of) unrealistic expectations about how much if would change the MMO formula that I don't know how they'll do. However, @DaBuddaDa: that might be true if you only count subscription costs, but of the initial sale price of 60 bucks, I think I remember Pachter saying they keep 2/3rds. Keeping in mind that many sales are directly through origin and the $60 is not split with a retailer, that is an underestimate. Estimates are that it sold 1.7 million, which equates to 68 million dollars (going with the conservative 2/3rds calculation) so they'd need .73 million subscribers over a year to cover development costs. EA has said they need .5 million to turn a profit. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/332966/old-republic-sales-concerns-are-overblown-pachter/

Posted by jozzy

@Niksis said:

@DaBuddaDa: You forgot to add in the base cost for a game upon purchase, not just the billing.

Calculations like these are useless anyway. We don't know how much Bioware recieves per sold game, we don't know what their monthly costs are on the hardware side, etc, etc. Only Bioware knows what's coming in and going out.

Posted by WJist

That is a boatload of money...but are they done spending? I imagine if they go into developing expansions (and not just patch updates/free content expansions), EA/Bioware could spend a lot more.

Posted by Mumrik

I still doubt they'll end up making a real profit on this, but perhaps they'll break even. That's more than I originally expected. I've been surprised by the interest in this game around launch.

Posted by TomA

And then most people are unsubbing at the end of the free month. Way to waste money EA

Posted by FieldCommanderRick

Is that amount including marketing as well?

Posted by Grimluck343

I'm really curious to see what the servers look like today, just not curious enough to actually pay for a month.

Posted by OllyOxenFree
Edited by murse2008

@rjayb89: Do you mean a variety of incesting dialogue options?

Posted by CornishRocker

That is a ridiculous amount of money, there's no way they're making this back in a hurry. Makes sense why we have to pay £50 to retailers for just the standard box.

Posted by connerthekewlkid

@Grimluck343: still pretty high numbers of servers at max so i guess pretty well.

Posted by rjayb89

@murse2008 said:

@rjayb89: Do you mean a variety of incesting options?

A multitude of incesting options.

Posted by JRock3x8

someone said $500 million last week - can't remember the source...

Posted by Lotus

@Veektarius said:

Personally, I think it turned out pretty well, but enough people came into this with (and possibly only because of) unrealistic expectations about how much if would change the MMO formula that I don't know how they'll do. However, @DaBuddaDa: that might be true if you only count subscription costs, but of the initial sale price of 60 bucks, I think I remember Pachter saying they keep 2/3rds. Keeping in mind that many sales are directly through origin and the $60 is not split with a retailer, that is an underestimate. Estimates are that it sold 1.7 million, which equates to 68 million dollars (going with the conservative 2/3rds calculation) so they'd need .73 million subscribers over a year to cover development costs. EA has said they need .5 million to turn a profit. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/332966/old-republic-sales-concerns-are-overblown-pachter/

Oh interesting, it can be good for them in the long run then, especially if they forget that "must copy wow" mentality and open new ways for people to buy and play the game.

Posted by Vodun

@TomA said:

And then most people are unsubbing at the end of the free month. Way to waste money EA

Could you link to the source for this?

Posted by Death_Unicorn

#toobigtofail?

Posted by McShank

@Grimluck343 said:

I'm really curious to see what the servers look like today, just not curious enough to actually pay for a month.

since i didnt buy the game on launch i have until the 28th, already canceld my account so i dont have to worry about that unsubscribe button not being there :D,, The servers are decently empty compared to what they were 2 weeks ago.. it is also a friday in the afternoon but still, theres a big change in population already.

Posted by BiG_Weasel

Why so much? Hell, 80% of the gameplay and UI elements were ripped right from WoW, so that should really cut down on dev costs.

Posted by SSully

@WJist: They aren't done spending. MMO's require the game to constantly be changing, that is adding new content, quests, etc. So they will need a decent sized dev team as well as voice actors and what not for new content.

Posted by Draxyle

I wonder how many of those millions went into the absolutely pointless CG trailers. Probably at least a quarter of it.

Posted by MonkfishEsq

And not a single dollar of that was well spent. Utterly awful game.

Are you even trying any more Bioware? You died after Mass Effect2.

Posted by Arkasai

@BiG_Weasel: Well it'd be different if they didn't have to actually code and design everything to work and look just like wow. That and the Star Wars license probably runs a couple million these days.

Edited by mbr2

@Draxyle said:

I wonder how many of those millions went into the absolutely pointless CG trailers. Probably at least a quarter of it.

What. I don't know if you've heard this hot new thing called advertising but it's pretty effective also those were all made by Blur so no Bioware man-hours went into working on those "absolutely pointless" trailers so they probably saved money.

Edited by Sooty

 Imagine how good a Kotor 3 could have been with that amount of money...then again BioWare haven't had the greatest time with TOR and DA II both not being so great.

Posted by Vexxan

That's a lot 'a bucks.

Posted by crusader8463

The hate this game gets makes me laugh. I for one can't wait to see where this game goes in a few months once the devs start adding the new content.

Posted by FMinus

The mega awesome instancing is what is destroying this game. That's partly why WoW is/was successful, because there was no instancing when not in raid/dungeon. They even tried instancing with WoW which was called phasing (little in Wrath and a lot Cataclysm) and they've noticed how fail it is, so they're staying away from it in the future (so they said).

Nothing is more retarded that making a MMO and then splitting the player population into instances while you're walking around in cities or in the open. Dungeons/Raids it's fine, but everything else is just retarded, 'cause it turns the massive multiplay feeling into yet another 16 player multiplayer game feeling.

Copying WoW is also the worst way to go. WoW worked, but it's getting stale now for even the most hardcore fans. Many MMOs failed to realize that and push forward, Rift, Warhammer Online, Age of Conan and now Star Wars.

I just hope THQ gets smart and listens to the customers when it comes to Warhammer 40k. Two factions in that game is seriously pissing down on the lore, and questing really wont work in WH40k univers. Just take SpaceMarine add some more factions, make it awesomer and turn it into something like Planetside a MMOFPS/TPS.

Posted by FMinus

@crusader8463 said:

The hate this game gets makes me laugh. I for one can't wait to see where this game goes in a few months once the devs start adding the new content.

Free to play...

Posted by Etnos

@doomocrat said:

There was a lot of buzz on SA and NeoGAF about people having the links removed. If I can find screenshots or anything credible I'll send them your way.

Neogaf...

Life is short, don't waste your time like that.

Edited by JohnHenryEden
Posted by JohnHenryEden

@Death_Unicorn said:

#toobigtofail?

The titanic?

Posted by BawlZINmotion

@patrickklepek said:

@doomocrat said:

The big story is EA removing a cancellation option from their page here at the end of the free month, and then banning forum users (From Origin? unknown) who posted the direct link. Klepek, get on this!

Not sure it's a real story. Jeff quit just fine.

I quit just fine last week. The whole process is very much like WoW, there was even a sad droid begging me to stay.

Posted by 014

I hope the game does well. I played the beta a bit and thought it was a really good one.

Posted by Twinsun

I've sadly already unsubbed. I'm not at all interested in the multiplayer aspect, only the story of my character, and I don't see why I should pay a monthly for that alone. They really should add a free to play model for people who only want single player.

Posted by crusader8463

@FMinus said:

@crusader8463 said:

The hate this game gets makes me laugh. I for one can't wait to see where this game goes in a few months once the devs start adding the new content.

Free to play...

blows... See I can post stupid comments too! Nifty.

Posted by coakroach

What did they actually spend it on?

The character models are hardly high detail, the armor designs range from decent to ugly, the quest structure has very little variation beyond the MMO norm, almost every skill in the game has a WoW counterpart and they launched with only about half a dozen group instances.

I understand a lot of people like the game but I just dont see where all that money went, was it just for the voice actors and writers?