The Old Republic cost EA $500 million, MMO a risky bet, claims analyst

“Risky” investment may define Riccitiello's time at the top, suggest market soothsayers

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Speaking to Market Watch, analyst Doug Creutz estimates that Electronic Arts likely invested around $500 million dollars on Star Wars: The Old Republic, factoring in development costs and EA CEO John Riccitiello’s push to acquire the game’s developer, BioWare/Pandemic. “EA has minimized its risks as much as it can on this bet, but it’s still a risky bet,” says Creutz, suggesting that “the total all-in investment in Star Wars is probably approaching half a billion dollars.”

While EA has said that it only needed 500,000 subscribers to begin turning a profit on The Old Republic (a milestone it surpassed in record time), Bigpoint CEO and MMO expert Heiko Hubertz argues that the game's subscription-driven model is unlikely to ever make it into the black (that's economy-talk for “stop losing money”). Impartial bystander Bobby Kotick's speculation is that regardless of the game's profit potential, “the economics [of any Star Wars property] will always accrue to the benefit of Lucas.”

However, Riccitiello's efforts to bring together EA and BioWare may pay off beyond the gamble of The Old Republic. BioWare co-founder Ray Muzyka called the CEO's involvement “a tremendous plus,” to the game's development, saying the Riccitiello-led company worked “every step along the way” to honor BioWare's core values. Muzyka says The Old Republic's subscriber base is the fastest-growing in MMO history, which is a good start for Riccitiello's risky gambit – but for players already awaiting BioWare's next big title, the partnership's legacy is unlikely to boil down to just one game.

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