Electronic Arts' (EA) fourth quarter fiscal year results were released yesterday, and they contained some disappointing news for EA's Star Wars: The Old Republic. The massively multiplayer online (MMO) game now has 1.3 million subscribers, a significant drop. During EA's last investor conference call, it was stated that the game had 1.7 million subscribers, meaning a loss of 400,000 subscribers over the past three months.
During EA's fiscal results conference presentation EA Chief Executive Officer John Riccitiello tried to put the best spin possible on the declining subscription numbers. Riccitiello stated that the loss was due to EA counting players who had not yet used their 30-day free trial, which comes with the purchase of the game. He framed the drop as an opportunity to build subscriptions in the future. From the transcript of Riccitiello's conference address:
So where we are right now with Star Wars: The Old Republic is this. We've captured a great business. It's the most successful MMO through this period in the history of our industry. But we are nowhere relative to sort of what the opportunity in front of us is. What happens from here are content releases every quarter, systems, and tutorials, and feature upgrades quarter to quarter and a future of expansion of content. What we tailored the game for was the core user. We tailored the game for people that have played more than one MMO and were existing MMO players.
Riccitiello mentioned some features coming to the game that he feels will help build subscriptions. In the future, downloads of the game will be "a lot" smaller, meaning it will be easier for new players to obtain the game. Also, "buddy keys" will allow subscribers to invite friends into the game for a short trial period. This is in addition to planned quarterly content releases.
1.3 million subscribers means The Old Republic, as Riccitiello emphasized in his address, has the second highest subscriber number for a western MMO. Also, that number of subscribers works out to around 19.5 million dollars per month that EA and Bioware, the game's developer, are receiving from subscription payments. That amount might not be what EA investors were hoping for when news came that the had game sold over 2.4 million copies , but it should be enough to continue development of the game, whether or not subscription numbers can be increased in the future as Riccitiello hopes.
What do you think? Was the Old Republic subscriber dip simply casuals dropping the game after their trials, or is the impending competition from Guild Wars 2 and Diablo III beginning to hit the game? Leave a comment below and let us know.