EA Studied World of Warcraft to Prepare for Old Republic Launch

EA Studied World of Warcraft to Prepare for Old Republic Launch

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The publisher thinks that The Old Republic could have viral appeal if the launch is handled right.

When it comes to MMOs, it doesn't really get much bigger than World of Warcraft. Knowing this, EA has studied the first year following WoW's launch, to see if it can pick up any pointers it can use when Star Wars: The Old Republic comes out.

"We've actually studied WoW pretty carefully," said Eric Brown, EA's chief financial officer. "We spent a lot of time studying the first twelve months or so of WoW, and just to be clear here, when they initially launched, they did not launch in dual geographies. They went North America only." Brown also reiterated the point that EA was deliberately keeping the initial numbers low in order to keep the launch as smooth as possible, something he thought would pay dividends in the future.

"In the short term, we would [opt] for a higher level quality of service versus a sheer numerical count of subscribers, because we're quite confident that, with a great game experience at launch, we'll get this viral effect," he said, adding that he hoped that The Old Republic would attract entire groups from other MMOs.

Brown said that EA had also studied WoW's post-launch strategy, and how it handled content updates. He said that BioWare had put in place a plan to make sure that content came out in regular intervals, and that while it was inevitable that there would still be people who blazed through the game's content, most players would not be lacking in things to do.

Source: Gamasutra

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Wait ... What?

History tells us Blizzard launched 6 plus years ago. Much less saturated market. They also severely underestimated the interest by their own admission, which forced them to stop selling clients until they could purchase and set up more back end systems to handle it.

And EA are trying to repeat all they have done badly? O.o

I find it incredibly amusing that I read this just after watching Jim Sterling's episode about the 3DS, and how "The success' of the past do not guarantee those of the future".
As he said, basing your expectations on a game (or console) that was released in a completely different market, is being rather naive about the matter.

PingoBlack:
Wait ... What?

History tells us Blizzard launched 6 plus years ago. Much less saturated market. They also severely underestimated the interest by their own admission, which forced them to stop selling clients until they could purchase and set up more back end systems to handle it.

And EA are trying to repeat all they have done badly? O.o

Since when did studying became copying?

Copying is blind, it doesn't care about current circumstances and just duplicates.
Studying takes current circumstances into account and compares them to previous circumstances, attempting to work out what will still work and what will no longer work.

But it'll be amusing to see how much EA-hate and WoW-clone we'll see in this thread.

Yes, and I bet those intervals of content release will be just around the time when people have to renew their monthly subscriptions. Which isn't necessarily a bad strategy, rift is doing something very similar(so far from what I've experienced playing the game) and it seems to be working out for them.

Hagi:

Since when did studying became copying?

No, I did not say that man, really. :) You may be to used to "camps", haters or fans?

I saw Blizzard 20 anniversary documentary and they were describing the fact they had to limit sales due to underestimated capacity as a failure. But I also see EA trying to emulate that situation by artificially limiting capacity, then using it as first-come-first-served bait for pre order.

It doesn't seem like a sound business decision. It's much easier to rent server capacity now days as service, compared to buying servers physically some years ago.

Beltom:
I find it incredibly amusing that I read this just after watching Jim Sterling's episode about the 3DS, and how "The success' of the past do not guarantee those of the future".
As he said, basing your expectations on a game (or console) that was released in a completely different market, is being rather naive about the matter.

They're not saying, "WoW went huge so this will too," they're saying, "we know we have a large initial demand, how can we make things go smoothly? Let's look to see how others handled things".

PingoBlack:

Hagi:

Since when did studying became copying?

No, I did not say that man, really. :) You may be to used to "camps", haters or fans?

I saw Blizzard 20 anniversary documentary and they were describing the fact they had to limit sales due to underestimated capacity as a failure. But I also see EA trying to emulate that situation by artificially limiting capacity, then using it as first-come-first-served bait for pre order.

It doesn't seem like a sound business decision. It's much easier to rent server capacity now days as service, compared to buying servers physically some years ago.

I think they're spot on with this decision.

Don't limit capacity and buy enough servers to handle all traffic? You'll have to close servers 3 months after release and get a LOT of bad media attention.
Don't limit capacity and buy only enough servers for long-term? You'll have huge queues and get a LOT of bad media attention.
Limit capacity and buy exactly enough servers? You'll promote pre-orders and get a BIT of bad media attention.

It's the smartest thing to do, imho.

The launch of this game will dictate it's success or failure. The game could be wonderful, innovative, and take MMO's to the next level. But if they don't handle this launch well, it'll easily get swept under the rug and be doomed to fail. So this is a very wise approach they are taking.

Hagi:
It's the smartest thing to do, imho.

We will see about that, won't we?

I'm not saying I'm right, mind you, I'm just thinking out loud. But I also saw EA PR in the last year or so.

Don't you think the gist of it is "Make sure you don't over hype and manage customer expectations."?

I'm sorry but limiting people at launch is STILL not a good idea no matter how you justify it.

PingoBlack:

Hagi:
It's the smartest thing to do, imho.

We will see about that, won't we?

I'm not saying I'm right, mind you, I'm just thinking out loud. But I also saw EA PR in the last year or so.

Don't you think the gist of it is "Make sure you don't over hype and manage customer expectations."?

Time will tell.

But isn't this exactly the opposite of over-hyping?

I mean over-hyping relies on as many people buying the game at release before a lot of reviews come out.

They're limiting the profit they get from hype. Because by the time more people will be able to get the game there'll be reviews, fan reactions and real information all over the web. Yahtzee will have bashed the game, Metacritic will have scored it etc.

If they were trying to over-hype it they'd give unlimited pre-orders, more money to them without actually having to deliver a good product.

My main point was though that this isn't really a clear cut situation. There's no clear "this is what they should do". Past MMO launches haven't really been extremely successful, and whatever happens at least Bioware and EA seem aware of that issue and are doing something for it.

But as you say, we'll see what happens.

i really hope that EA is doing the right thing and getting all there logistics right cuz I whant this game to succeed so bad... :P

Hagi:
Time will tell.

But isn't this exactly the opposite of over-hyping?

Well ... This coincides with them sending out mails today, urging people subscribed to their mailing list to pre order now, before they loose a spot.

So I'm watching all this now with one eyebrow raised. :)

Was this before or after they scratched Beta testing?

You can't really blame EA for looking at the most successful MMO of all time for a few pointers.

I don't know about anyone else, but if I spent this long waiting for a game (which I'm not, I'm not really a Star Wars kind of guy) and when it launched I couldn't log on because the service at launch was purposefully limited so as to not accommodate the number of launch-day subscribers, I'd actually be annoyed enough to call it a day and ask for my damn money back.

Does that make me sound entitled? Sure it does.

But! does paying money for a product make me entitled to the service it provides? Yes it does.

So is allowing me only limited access to a products service that I've paid full price for a really stupid business plan? Yes.

Bliz had an excuse, they underestimated the popularity of their product and they worked hard to make sure they could accommodate their subscribers.

EA, Don't do the same thing at launch of a Star Wars MMO. You've clearly not thought about the massive overlap in audiences you're attempting to cater to.

Go big at launch or you'll suffer heavy loss from the more impatient part of your target audience.

PingoBlack:

Hagi:
Time will tell.

But isn't this exactly the opposite of over-hyping?

Well ... This coincides with them sending out mails today, urging people subscribed to their mailing list to pre order now, before they loose a spot.

So I'm watching all this now with one eyebrow raised. :)

Yeah me too. Since mmos rely more heavily on the amount of people playing than single player games.

Pick your favorite single player game. Chances are that if you were the only one who ever played it, the game would still be just as good. Now, take an mmo and do the same thought experiment. It comes out to the more people that play an mmo, the more desirable it is in general.

All of that was to say that reviews are less likely to sway people opinions about mmos than the number of subscribers and general gameplay. It is a social game after all. So, it would behoove Bioware to get as many people as possible at launch to want to play the game and play it at least a few months. Ramble, ramble, ramble.

uppitycracker:
The launch of this game will dictate it's success or failure. The game could be wonderful, innovative, and take MMO's to the next level. But if they don't handle this launch well, it'll easily get swept under the rug and be doomed to fail. So this is a very wise approach they are taking.

I agree 100%

While I know the MMO market has changed significantly in the last six years (has it really been six years that I've been playing that game???? Holy crap), EA is wise to try and learn the lessons blizz did.

In the business world, "copying" like this is generally thought highly of. They even teach it in business school - it is called the Harvard Case Study Method. You learn about an earlier companies success or failures and what went into their decisions so that you learn from them.

I think they should put more effort into mastering their own game rather than copying someone else.

The NDA prevents me from going into any details about the 11 levels I've played in TOR's beta, but I will say that I think EA/Bioware needs to pay more attention to the changes in the gamers themselves, rather than to the business strategy employed by other companies.

I think that EA/Bioware is repeting the mistakes of a lot of other developers to an extent, because really EVERYONE has been looking at Blizzard. What they tend to overlook is the lack of actual newbies, that is inexperienced gamers that are "just learning", within this genere of gaming. The audience is growing, but very slowly, it's more or less a finite pool of people. Those people, even the so called "casuals" are now quite jaded to MMO mechanics and know exactly what they are doing. It's not a few people that are going "blaze through" the content, but the majority of the player base. This is why games like "DC Heroes Online" and others experienced a huge reduction in the player base after the first couple of months, those slow, stumbling, newbies they expected to make up the majority of the game population just do not exist in any real numbers. The major differance today between a "hardcore" MMO player and a "casual" n00b is that the hardcore player will stick around to play the endgame, the casual n00b will typically finish the content up until the endgame, figure "that's it? I don't want to do all this complicated group-oriented stuff" and leave even quicker.

Really EA/Bioware seems to be heading to the same place as "DC" on a lot of levels, as SOE also tried to copy Blizzard's model by providing new content every month (or so they attempted)... we kind of see where that went.

I actually expect TOR to be a success, but that's largely because I'm hoping that there is actually more going on than we're seeing so far (due to them being so tight with info) as opposed to them cribbing from Blizzard.

Only time will tell what's going to happen, but truthfully them going their own way would inspire more confience than them pretty much admitting to playing "follow the leader".

Logan Westbrook:
"We've actually studied WoW pretty carefully," said Eric Brown, EA's chief financial officer.

Perhaps if they studied what happened to other MMO's that focused on comparing themselves with WoW pre-release they would have gotten some other great ideas... like not mentioning WoW all the time while you're promoting your game.

Just a thought...

As a tester. I can tell you EA, you have NOTHING to worry about. NOTHING!

The game is virtual gold. If you screw this up...

 

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