A few weeks ago, I made some predictions regarding EA’s Earnings call.
In particular, I suggested that it would make for an interesting temperature-gauge of the performance of SWTOR.
As I mentioned at the time, the health of an MMO is difficult to decipher in today’s era of mysterious subscriber numbers. Marketing departments seem less keen to reveal any figures after the initial launch, perhaps because the market for ‘themeparks’ has stagnated and there is nothing to boast about any more. Even market-leader Blizzard is now rounding numbers to the nearest million.
Taking a look at the official summary, SWTOR was referenced twice in total:
Extra content and free-to-play contributed $185 million, up 50% led by FIFA and Madden Ultimate Team and Star Wars: The Old Republic. These revenues relate to businesses on PC or consoles, where consumers pay for additional digital content — including virtual characters, map packs and micro-transactions associated with browser based games or MMO’s – like Star Wars. As a reminder, on November 15th we launched our free-to-play option for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Very early indications have been positive and we are pleased with the initial results but it is too early to know how successful this will be in the long term.
Subscriptions, advertising, and other digital revenue contributed $79 million, growing 18% over the same period last year. The current year includes a full quarter of Star Wars subscriptions, but it was offset by a decline in other licensing digital revenue.
The reception from the Reddit community was very positive. This is as you would expect – it is a group that has gathered around the game primarily due to their continuing interest and support for it.
However what concerned me was the statement “it is too early to know how successful this will be in the long term”. I believe it to be true, but it seems to not be the kind of statement you would make in an earnings call unless you attempting to manage expectations downwards. My interpretation is that F2P had a massive boost initially that declined in the latter months when players had unlocked all of their desired features or discovered that the random loot packs featured a lot of filler for every Revan’s Mask.
Indeed in my last post I suggested that ‘Abstract game data means that it has a year or so left to live’. A little pessimistic perhaps, but based on previous earnings calls, I had envisaged that EA would try and rally enthusiasm for the game by saying how many new account registrations there had been since F2P launch or by providing the frequency of transactions in the Cartel Market, a number that is meaningless when detached from the relevant revenues. In reality they didn’t even do this.
Contrast this hesitancy with the overwhelming endorsement of another F2P game, FIFA Ultimate Team:
The digital performance for this franchise is particularly impressive. The number of gamers that actually played FIFA Ultimate Team grew 61 percent over last year’s offering. Additionally, the average revenue per paying user increased by approximately 30%. Both of these increases contributed to FIFA Ultimate Team revenue being up 136 percent year-over-year and the holiday delivered the largest revenue day in the history of the service.
So Ultimate Team is doing ‘particularly impressive’, whilst SWTOR is ‘positive but too early to [call]’.
It looks to me that Rise of the Hutt Cartel mini-expansion will be the barometer we are looking for. Until then, the fate of the galaxy is looking decidedly lukewarm…