Diablo III delay leaves the holiday season wide open for The Old Republic

How Blizzard’s disappointment can lead to BioWare’s success

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Earlier this week, EA CFO Eric Brown discussed The Old Republic’s release date during an investor call, confirming that there will be a slight chance that the game could slip into the March quarter. This, obviously, set the internet ablaze, with some assuming that Brown’s words were a preamble to an inevitable delay.

But today, that all changed. Blizzard announced that it will delay Diablo III until 2012 in order to polish its PC-exclusive hack-and-slash. While this is bad news for Blizzard and hardcore Diablo fans, it’s absolutely stellar news for BioWare and The Old Republic – the highly-anticipated MMO now has the holiday season to itself, and we’ve a feeling BioWare is going to take full advantage of this sudden lead.

Yes, there are still other games coming out in the holiday season, but no others flew so close to The Old Republic’s fanbase. Despite being different games in different genres, both definitely share a target audience. Diablo III’s biggest fans were those who dumped hundreds of hours into Diablo II, but many of those gamers became World of Warcraft players when Blizzard released its MMO. Similarities in the franchises and loyalty to the company brought them in and now, years later, those WoW players have become MMO players, constantly looking for the next big thing to jump onto (before, usually, returning to World of Warcraft). Considering The Old Republic is the absolute definition of “the next big thing” when it comes to MMORPGs, it definitely qualifies.

The games share more than a fanbase, though. Both games are PC-exclusive, online-focused RPGs that ask for a hefty commitment from players. While gamers might have been able to find an excuse to buy both games, finding time to play both would have been another matter entirely. Odds are, if they had gone toe-to-toe, Diablo III would likely come out on top. EA and BioWare know this – it’s possibly why they didn’t announce a release date at their last investor call.

BioWare understands the power of nostalgia and fandom – that’s why it’s making a Star Wars game. But in this case, the nostalgia would have worked in Diablo’s favor, not Star Wars’. This, mixed with the lack of a monthly fee, would have likely lead to lackluster post-launch numbers for The Old Republic. But if The Old Republic has time to hook players – and really hook them good – it has a better chance of competing when Diablo III finally does come out.

As long as Eric Brown was being honest in saying that there was a “slight chance” of a delay, it means that there was a “large chance” of the game coming out in 2011, and if there was every any chance that The Old Republic was going to be released in 2011, that release is probably secure now.

Well, at least we hope.

Sep 23, 2011

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