The Old Republic to Fill The MMO Void

Is this yet another Battlefield 3 vs. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 article?  No – only partially.  EA’s  Battlefield 3 developers did say that BF3 would challenge the latest Call of Duty installment this fall.  Now that the sales numbers are out, they can see in dollars that their statement was wrong.  MW3 broke worldwide records for sales in gaming, movies, and literature.

When it comes to economic growth, though, Activision owning Blizzard brings in quite a bit of capital as well.  World of Warcraft has been out for six years already, and last year it still made hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.  Granted, World of Warcraft is the most successful MMO of all time.  Even a seemingly invincible giant like WoW has to decline eventually, though.  In the last few months, WoW lost revenue from 800,000 lost subscribers.

As the title suggests, is Star Wars: The Old Republic going to fill this MMO void forming from the declining of WoW?  I’ve always hated the term “WoW Killer,” but more importantly, I don’t feel that this is the case.  SWTOR is not going is destroy WoW, but I foresee it picking up those who quit and are looking for the next big MMO.  I’m forced to wonder how many of those 800,000 WoW deserters participated in this past SWTOR beta weekend?

Few things have been as big as Star Wars in popularity and geekdom.  Star Wars has infinite potential.  A modern MMO focusing on the success of Star Wars could quite easily be ‘the next big thing.’  Gamers have been loyally following Star Wars for decades.  Star Wars Galaxies had its quirks and issues, but it still had a solid run and was said to be a game before its time.  A new Star Wars MMO, built on the shoulders of giants, has the formula for success.  From the beta alone, it was apparent that EA had integrated aspects of other successful MMOs into The Old Republic.  At the time, SWTOR removed many of the tedious aspects of MMOs and made it simpler through crew skills.

I suspect that World of Warcraft still has a few solid years left.  The MMO is a monster with a strong fan base.  With the Mists of Pandaria on the horizon, some WoW subscribers will return, and the hardcore players will have new content to dominate.  A game that has had over 12 million subscribers is not one that is going to disappear overnight.  At the same time, rumors have speculated that WoW will lose another 500 thousand to 1 million subscribers to Star Wars: The Old Republic. 

So while SWTOR will not replace WoW, it will siphon some of its subscribers and pick up some of the retirees.  Also contributing to this is mere timing.  As previously stated, WoW is 6 years old; that is an amazing run for any game.  While WoW may still be producing new content, some players are ready to move on.  SWOTR is emerging both at a declining period for WoW and during the holiday season.  BioWare’s successful beta test weekends have already hooked hundreds of thousands of players.  So while Star Wars: The Old Republic may not get to World of Warcraft or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 sort of sales, EA has potential here to compete with Activision in MMO dominance.