Friday, April 13, 2012

EA's Compliant Media

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 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.


  1. Best thing about that massively article? No indication of the source of that number. Might as well as pulled it out of their ass. :/

    Journalism everybody!

  2. I'm starting to trust these gaming "news" sites less and less.

  3. I can tell you in my Corporation we've had a bunch of 'old hats' return to EVE. They never unsubbed, but they weren't playing but to just update Queues etc. They were playing SWTOR and WOT and Skyrim instead. Now SWTOR I think has run its course for them, WOT has a 'play ceiling, and Skyrim is not a MMO and therefore even as great a game as it is its much like Red Dead Redemption in the fact that once its conquered it loses its appeal to most players.

    Now these guys are all back and active again in EVE which is great. I think SWTOR and WOW have a similar problem however and to explain it I need to go back to my uber geeky D&D days in Highschool. We started playing cooperative party campaigns like pretty much everyone does but then we had a DM who tossed out the books and asked us what we wanted to do instead and then supported and challenged our gameplay in an open world environment even goigng so far as to encourage killing each other.

    Needless to say after doing that, party basing and campaign running was no longer fun. EVE is about as unconstrained as you make it. Nothing else out there is as limitless. People tire of the gameplay, but they never tired of the game itself which is why you have folks who have been playing since beta now, 10yrs later.

    I've never played WOT, or SWTOR but how many Betas are still playing WOW? More germaine to this topic though, How many Betas will still be playign SWTOR in a year, two, three? That remains to be seen. My guess is, not very many.

  4. Still waiting for that graph of hours played . . . right ?

  5. D'oh! I should have posted a link to my spreadsheet because I don't have a graph made for SWTOR. Maybe Tuesday in the next Digital Dozen post.