Star Wars: The Old Republic may have been one of the most ambitious MMOs in history, but it might turn out to be one of the biggest financial disasters as well.
EA Vice President Greg Zeschuk has posted a news item which reveals a group of lay-offs at the development office of Star Wars: The Old Republic. His post is vague and for the most part plays the PR trumpet, but an insider at Massively.com posted the following, which is far more revealing, on his blog:
most people I’ve talked to put the total bloodletting at somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 people… 40% of the studio.
40% of a development studio is significant and doesn't just point to the game not bringing enough revenue, but has a tremendous impact on how quickly the team can product future content and fix issues. With content coming more slowly, the subscriber totals may dip even farther.
It was evident that SWTOR ran into a wall the moment that EA stopped posting numbers. For the first month following launch you couldn't go to a SWTOR site without seeing the success of having a strong commercial launch with over one-million units in sales blared like it was a parade. However, since the holiday season ended EA and BioWare have been tight-lipped and the last announcement showed a drop-off of several hundred thousand subscribers.
Out of the seven people I personally know who purchased SWTOR at launch—including me who purchased the Digital Deluxe Edition—not a single one of us is still playing. Quite frankly, SWTOR is beginning to look a lot like Warhammer Online which was similarly purposeful but suffered a grizzly fate.
This trend of unsuccessful MMOs has less to do with game quality and a lot more to do with the MMO subscription model being on the way out. You should expect to see SWTOR go free-to-play in the not too distant future as games like World of Warcraft find crafty ways to bring in revenue without a monthly fee.