Note: If you read blogs in absolutes, this post is not going to work for you.
The discussion around SW costing 300m or not, whether selling 4m box copies puts it in the black, or why anyone should care, is pretty complex. Actually it’s impossible for anyone to cover fully, and that includes BioWare, given the amount of unknown or yet-to-be-seen factors. But the day facts stop me from blogging is the day this site shuts down and I return to WoW atop a sparklepony to become the world’s greatest Panda. So here we go.
Why 300m matters: If you love SW content, then you now know what it costs to make it happen. Whether it’s actually 300m, less/more, it’s a lot of money. You can’t make an indy version of SW and have it resemble anything close to the current game. EA/BioWare are playing with a very serious risk/reward ratio here. If they don’t hit it out of the park, SW is not going to be a small footnote on the balance sheet. SW is either a smash hit and hits the mark, or it’s ANYTHING BUT a smash hit and fails. The farther from a smash hit it is, the greater the impact of that failure. This is not only significant for EA, but for the genre as a whole.
And that big number, 300m or something close, is further complicated by two other very important factors.
Factor one: Voice acting does not get cheaper the longer you do it. You don’t build a voice acting engine, and all content after is easier/faster because the engine is already in place. Voice acting is pretty close to a fixed cost (depending on who does the voice, of course), and unless BioWare moves away from it, all new content is going to include that cost. What this means is that unless SW is a smash hit, BioWare can’t keep throwing money into a hole by producing more voiced content. No new content in a themepark MMO is one short step away from shutting the game down.
Another important aspect to voice acting is that it takes time. How much varies, but it takes time. And listening to voiced content is a hell of a lot quicker than producing it. For most players, they will listen once and hit spacebar the next time. That’s all well and good for most games, but is killer for a game expecting to keep you entertained long-term.
Factor two: The game uses the SW IP. This further cuts into profits, and significantly, compared to something like WoW. Blizzard is only paying Blizzard for the rights to use the Warcraft IP, while BioWare has to give George his cut. This again factors into the decision to make new content, or to even keep the game up. History is very quick to point out that when an IP-based MMO is not performing, it gets the axe rather than the out-to-pasture treatment. Again, if the game is a SMASH HIT, George is happy, Bioware is happy, and blasters-to-the-face rolls on. The moment the whole equation stops working, bad things happen, and quickly.
Why you should care: If you like SW, you should want more of it. And the only way you are going to get more of it is if you and a million or so other people stay subbed. And stay subbed for a long time.
I love Skyrim, best single player game out in years, but whether I play Skyrim for a week, a month, or ten years, so long as I bought it Bethesda sees my “more of this please” vote and is one customer closer to producing more stuff I want.
BioWare seeing your $60 is not enough. BioWare entertaining you for 3 months is not enough. They need you to pay that $15 a month for a long ass time to make SW ‘worth it’. So if your attitude is “I know SW is not going to keep me for a long time, but it’s going to be a fun month”, know that you are basically making my point. I’ve never said SW won’t be fun-enough for some. I’ve never said the entire game is a giant pile of fail (at least not in any seriousness). What I have said, and again, what you state to support me, is that SW is a horrible pile of fail when it comes to being an MMO, and that exact reason is people playing it just for that one month of fun.
One month of fun would be bad enough for a regular MMO. SW is not a regular MMO. It’s the most expensive MMO ever, and it’s tied to a very pricey IP. It’s also potentially the make-or-break title for the ultra-pricey themepark model. If SW fails, you might not see another game of its kind.
And that last bit is why I’m rooting so hard against it. I want the AAA themepark model to die. It’s a complete waste of dev time, it teaches gamers horrible habits for MMOs, and it makes some devs (Mythic, Trion) do some incredibly stupid stuff instead of producing stuff I want (DAOC2, beta-Rift).
The above paragraph is of course all personal, but the stuff above that is not. Fact is, SW absolutely HAS TO BE A HIT, and not just by selling 4m boxes, but by keeping at least a sizable chunk of that base paying for MONTHS after release. If SW dips in popularity after 6 months, it won’t just get a slightly smaller dev staff and keep on keeping on. Nor will the genre as a whole. If you like AAA themeparks, SW might be your only hope.
Should be a fun 3-6 months, in-game or otherwise.