Some within the Eve Online community believe that the mainstream gaming media has a bias for and against certain types of games. One of those types of games that supposedly receive favorable treatment are triple-A themepark MMOs. That view is being put to the test with the news surrounding yesterday's deployment of Star Wars: The Old Republic's patch 1.2.
Even though I still have 10 days on my SW:TOR subscription, I am more concerned with the programs designed to attract and retain players than with the game updates. The biggest news in this area is that EA/Bioware is giving all players with accounts containing a level 50 character 30 days of free game time. The unanswered question is: why?
I have two reasons. The first is that ranked war zones are not included in the patch. This disappointed a lot of players who were eager to see this feature implemented. The offer is designed to help mitigate the disappointment and keep players from leaving the game. The second is to make the subscription numbers look as good as possible before the upcoming conference call discussing EA's Q4 2011 results. The move to give all of those accounts with a level 50 on them ensures that they will not unsubscribe before the year-end results are announced. In February EA issued a financial forecast for the fourth quarter that came in lower than Wall Street estimates. Having stated that SW:TOR had 1.7 million subscribers on the February conference call EA needs to present the best numbers possible.
The success or failure of SW:TOR is probably the biggest MMORPG story of 2012. At this point indicators from a threadnaught on the official forums calling for server mergers to the number of hours played on Xfire declining by 71.7% from 1 January to 1 April indicate the game is facing problems. The efforts to keep the subscription numbers high for the upcoming investor conference call seem to be another indicator that the numbers are declining.
Will we see any major gaming web site cover the story? I looked at Google News and couldn't find any stories about a decline in SW:TOR's subscription numbers. In fact, the stories were about how SW:TOR is taking subscribers away from World of Warcraft. An article published on Massively.com Monday stated that SW:TOR has 2 million subscribers. That Massively article is the only place I can find a number higher than the initial report from EA. But everything I see states the numbers have really declined. Of course, I can say that because I don't have to worry about EA and Bioware shutting off access to their people for interviews. The MGM seem to tip-toe softly around the giants to avoid offending them. Or perhaps those Eve players who claim there is a bias are right after all.