Star Wars: The Old Republic Delayed; Would Be 'Substantially Profitable' With 500,000 Subscribers

BioWare's Force-powered MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic has been delayed, publisher EA revealed yesterday while announcing its earnings for the financial quarter. The Old Republic was slated to launch this spring but is now due expected later this calendar year, at some point after EA's next fiscal year begins on April 1.

EA CEO John Riccitiello fielded a number of questions about the MMO during a Q&A session for investors, touching on where EA aims to position The Old Republic in the marketplace, the number of subscribers it hopes for, and those dastardly "gamer blogs."

"Half a million subscribers for the game is substantially profitable but it's not the kind of thing that we would write home about," Riccitiello revealed. "Anything north of a million subscribers is a very profitable business."

"It's our view that we can be very successful without fundamentally challenging the market leader because we think we'll probably hit the smaller competitors harder when we get out there," Riccitiello said, referring to Blizzard's World of Warcraft, which boasts 12 million 'subscribers.' "Of course, we have no particular ambition to be a distant number two. Our ambitions are higher than that, but we throttle back a little bit relative to our financial projections."

EA CFO Eric Brown noted in the presentation's prepared comments [PDF] that "EA is incurring significant development costs for the Star Wars MMO," but did not go into specifics.

Riccitiello also spoke on development costs, though only to dismiss reports from what he called "gamer blogs" about how much EA is rumoured to have spent on the MMO. He was doubtless referring to the widespread coverage received last year by 'EA Louse,' an anonymous blogger who claimed to have worked at BioWare's sister studio Mythic on Warhammer Online. According to EA Louse, Bioware had "spent more money making the Old Republic than James Cameron spent on Avatar ... More than $300 million!"

"One is there's been a fair amount of talk on various blogs, describing spends that are vastly higher than anything we've ever put in place," Riccitiello said. "So don't read gamer blogs as having any substance. Some of them bring a chuckle but they also bring a frustration for those that are being responsible in the management of EA's R&D dollars when they read sort of falsehoods out in the press."

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