Star Wars: The Old Republic has sold two million physical copies in four weeks, outselling all other MMOs and expansions. What amazes me is these are only physical copies. Which means people going down to Target or Best Buy or whatever and picking up the game. This is how I bought my game. It’s how I buy all my games. I’m old school. I always prefer physical copies.
This doesn’t take into account the number of digital copies that have been sold. That is to say, the number of copies downloaded over the Internet from clients like Steam or whatever. (I don’t know if SWTOR is on Steam, I’m using an example.)
It’s an impressive number and I have to think it has grabbed the attention of the people at WOW. When you look at the number of SWTOR copies sold week by week, you see a big drop off. That’s normal for any MMO, however. The first week is always the big week and it tails off fast after that. I think one reason the numbers are so good for Week 1 is because the game was launched right at Christmas. You can’t discount that kind of market timing.
What remains to be seen is the retention rate. That’s a big if. How many people will resubscribe and continue playing the game? Any MMO that has 150,000 active subscribers can be considered a success these days. SWTOR has sold almost two million physical copies in one month. I think we can say the odds are pretty good it will retain more than 150,000 active subscribers from that pool.
Of course, one thing SWTOR has to keep in mind is that while 150K player base is good for your average MMO, SWTOR is not your average MMO. Bioware put a lot of money up front into the game. Therefore they need a high retention rate to make their money back. How much did the game cost to make? Figures have been bandied about. There was a rumor the game cost $300 million to produce. This number is totally unfounded and has been traced to a person who was fired from Bioware. More reasonable estimates put the figure closer to around $100 million. That’s still a lot of money… and a hell of a lot of groundless speculation. The only people who know the exact number are the suits at Bioware and they aren’t talking.
Another aspect of MMOs isn’t only the production money, but the continued bills of paying for servers, technicians, updates, everything else that goes into a mammoth enterprise like this one. To break even SWTOR has to have a pretty big retention rate of subscribers, I would think. One way you do that is by providing patches and extra content for the game. Again, I have seen speculation about this on other forums, but that speculation is groundless. They don’t know what the game cost to produce, they don’t know how many subscribers are currently active, they are just pulling numbers out of thin air. The only people who know those numbers are the employees at Bioware and they aren’t going to tell us that proprietary information any more than WOW will.
MMOs are a cutthroat business these days. You don’t open yourself up to attack from other companies by revealing either your strengths or your weaknesses. Bioware knows this, as does Blizzard.
Of course, all this is mere speculation. We don’t know how much the game cost to produce, we don’t know their operating costs, we don’t know how many subscribers SWTOR has…no one outside Bioware has that information. And anyone outside of Bioware who thinks they have hard numbers simply don’t know what they’re talking about.
But there is one number we do have. Selling two million physical units in one month is an impressive feat for any MMO. We will have to watch if the numbers continue to sell, what the final drop off rate of sales will be, and the retention percentage of subscribers. MMOs are all about numbers. The one number we kn0w is almost two million hard copies sold in only four weeks.
That is amazing.