SW:TOR release may be impossible to predict.

22 03 2011

It’s easy to get swept up in the anticipation of a new game, especially for something so mind-bending as BioWare plus Star Wars. When is this going to come out? It seems like everybody’s got a guess with any number of articles or ideas to submit as evidence. Well, here is my guess: it’s impossible to guess with any confidence at all. Moreover, we want it to be impossible to guess. (Stay with me here.)

Most of the recent theories put release in June at the earliest, citing some stockholders meeting notes (to which I can’t find a link right now) and E3 happening the second week. One forum poster I saw very eloquently asserted that a summer release makes the most economic sense given that it’s school vacation and they can’t afford to miss those account sign-ups. Because kids will be significantly less likely to sign up for a new account when school’s on. You know, because they love school or their parents actually take an active role in their education or…or something. (If that’s what he’s thinking, I hope he’s right.)

It’s easy to make a (weak) case for virtually any release period. Here, allow me:

  • June or July – kids are out of school and have more time to burn on video games.
  • September through November – holiday sales!
  • January through March – they need something to pick up post-holiday sales.
  • April, May – May starts Q1 for EA/BioWare, so that means something, right?
  • Anytime they freaking want to – this game is going to bring in mega-bank and they know it, regardless of release date.

Now, none of these have any citations or any real evidence (isn’t that the problem with release date prediction?) but that last theory is what I can’t stop thinking about. People love Star Wars. Surely, the Star Wars IP took a pretty harsh beating when it’s creator released three movies that should never have been released, but BioWare really breathed life into the millennia preceeding Episodes IV through VI, making Jedi real people who are formidable but not invincible; real people who grapple with emotions no matter their tenure in the Order; real people who can love and not become psychotic for it. It made the characters feel real.

So that’s the aficionado’s perspective. How about the investor’s perspective? Well, the Star Wars IP has made an inconceivable amount of money; so much so that I don’t need to post a citation here. Movies, cartoons, books, toys, shirts: it’s ubiquitous. Now consider BioWare and the amount of money and awards it’s raked in, especially concerning Mass Effect.

EA execs are probably having daily parties to celebrate how awesome this is.

I’m not very knowledgeable about economics or big business. Maybe there’s some way to show that the excitement from the release itself combined with the excitement of school vacation/impending holiday/lunar cycles will maximize/minimize sales, but really, it’s Star Wars and it’s BioWare: I bet they’re confident that it will – at the very least – recoup its expenses.

I’m not saying they won’t announce a release date: that kind of thing is a boon to anticipation and excitement (and allows for pre-orders which bring in cash early). I am saying however that it’s not going to be constrained by any other event. It is its own event. And EA knows it.

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