It looks like the force is with…aww, lets dispense with the cheesy Star Wars quotes and talk straight numbers — BioWare says massively multiplayer online game Star Wars: The Old Republic has sold over two million copies since it launched six weeks ago. And here’s the impressive part: Of that number, the game has at least 1.7 million active subscribers. BioWare says that makes it “the fastest growing subscription MMO ever.”
By comparison, World of Warcraft had more than 10 million subscribers last November, though that’s down sharply from 12 million in October 2010, and I’m sure the arrival of SWToR in December dropped the figure further still.
BioWare attributes its early success to “the quality and reliability of the game’s service,” claiming its servers have been available for “more than 99.5% of the time outside of scheduled maintenance.” The company also trotted out several less meaningful (but sort of interesting) statistics, like: players have logged over 239 million in-game hours (over 27,000 years of in-game time), they’ve killed over 20 billion NPCs (most of those being repeats, of course) and spent over 148 billion credits (the game’s currency).
Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter was bullish about the sales and subscription numbers, suggesting that of the 1.7 million active subscribers figure, between 900,000 and 1.2 million were paying subscribers as of Jan. 31, while the remainder were trial subscriptions. Pachter believes that, worst case, 900,000 of the 1.2 million purchasers (through Dec. 31) converted to paying subscriptions (about 75%), while best case, 1.2 million out of 1.5 million purchasers converted (about 80%). The changing purchasers figure (through Dec. 31) is based on differing estimates of when people actually picked up the game.
It’s anyone’s guess whether the early momentum — predictable for a franchise like Star Wars — has legs. While the game’s been well-received, everyone’s pretty much admitted (in the reviews) that it’s a World of Warcraft knockoff. Once players are through the solo content and the Star Wars luster fades, I can’t see them hanging around unless BioWare injects something wildly new or unexpected (a Wookiee tower defense game?). I’ve only played the opening bits myself, but already the relentless “we need you to kill X critters” vibe’s had me checking my watch and eyeballing other stuff in my play stack.