EA: The Old Republic only needs 500,000 subscribers to turn a profit

Launching an MMO based on an insanely lucrative franchise doesn't come cheap, but according to EA's CEO John Riccitiello, Star Wars: The Old Republic will only need about 500,000 subscribers to keep its galactic online empire from crumbling.

Riccitiello's predictions were in response to claims that development costs for SW:TOR had exceeded $300 million, and that EA and its developers at BioWare were far, far away from the point of profitability. These rumors surfaced last year in a blog managed by an anonymous (and slightly jaded) BioWare Mythic employee known only as EA Louse who wrote:

“Don’t make me laugh. They’ve spent more money making the Old Republic than James Cameron spent on Avatar. Shit you not. More than $300 million! Can you believe that?...Old Republic will be one of the greatest failures in the history of MMOs from EA. Probably at the level of the Sims Online. We all know it too.”

Fast forward a few months and Riccitiello is still denying EA Louse's accusations, stating that the real cost is nowhere near that high. Moreover, EA is confident that it can attract and sustain a million subscribers, even though it only needs half of that to turn a profit.

"At half a million subscribers the game is substantially profitable, but it's not the kind of thing we would write home about," said EA's Chief financial officer, Eric Brown. "Anything north of one million subscribers is a very profitable business.”

Reflecting on the development cost rumors, Brown added, “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. Some of them, they 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 of the press.”

It's interesting that EA would stick to its subscription fee structure when the much of the MMO competition is turning to a free-to-play microtransaction model. After all, EA loves itself some microtransactions, but then it also loves itself some reliable income. We'll have to wait until March to see how many players it can lure over to the dark side, but our guess is that a Star Wars MMO developed by BioWare and supported by EA will scrape by somehow.

[Sources: IGN, Gamertell]

Feb 3, 2011

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  • Whit - February 4, 2011 1:41 p.m.

    One would think it would be easy for a Star Wars MMO to retain 500,000 subscribers. Does any MMO besides WoW currently have more than 500K subscribers? Plus there are the early reports that BioWare can't even get testers to play for more than a few weeks before they stop logging into the game.
  • JohnnyMaverik - February 4, 2011 10:16 a.m.

    Most MMO's need 500k to turn a profit and maintain it. Basically where I'm at now is that if it's FTP I'll try it, if it isn't I won't.
  • BazyLastard - February 4, 2011 3:12 a.m.

    They only need 499,999 more as I, for one, will be a subscriber.
  • FriendlyFire - February 4, 2011 3:06 a.m.

    When I saw that the space portions were just on-rails shoot-'em-ups, I lost all interest.
  • SumthingStupid - February 3, 2011 10:32 p.m.

    i want to play this game but have they said how much it will be a month?
  • Zepaw - February 3, 2011 10:32 p.m.

    Never really cared about Star Wars, but I plan to give this a try.
  • tuomotaivainen - February 3, 2011 9:23 p.m.

    I wonder how Battlefield Heroes is doing with no subs....
  • aliengmr - February 3, 2011 8:46 p.m.

    Initially I was excited about this game, but its now starting to look like a sub-based Kotor 3 rather than a full fledged MMO. What has me most worried class/profession system, which so far looks far too simple. It could be successful long term, once they have proven they can produce enough content worth paying monthly for. But its really going to come down to the first year.
  • JohnDagger - February 3, 2011 7:26 p.m.

    I'll subscribe for the first month if there is not free trial period, but I dunno if will be able to maintain 500000 people after a few months. It has to be very good, hopefully it doesn't pull an AoC.

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