Having released about a week ago, Star Wars: The Old Republic is flying pretty high right now. Reports are that player numbers are through the roof, it’s all the buzz on blogs and forums, and SWTOR seems like it’s only going to keep growing.
But how will that luster shine in another six months?
A good question. Most MMOs have a 3-6 month cycle where they gain a lot of popularity during open beta and release, then continue that popularity for a short amount of time while the media talk and social buzz keep them relevant, and then begin to drop off as players move on to the next great thing or just get tired of the game after having seen most of its content. Then the game will make a major release (update) and the cycle will begin again, albeit usually in smaller numbers.
Ultimately, the game’s longevity is determined by its ability to keep the hype cycle going and by keeping a large contingent of core players happy so they’ll perpetuate the subscription base (or at least the paying players base).
So how does all of this apply to SWTOR? Well, the game is literally brand new, but it has two major things going for it: the Star Wars name and a starting player base that’s much bigger than most.
Let’s face it: anything with Star Wars on it will sell well, at least in the beginning. With SWTOR being the only current Star Wars gaming fix available to MMO players, it’s going to ride high. At least initially. The hype around the game’s release didn’t hurt in maximizing that starting player base either.
A lot of those players are going to tire of the game, however – eventually. In six months’ time, most games lose a sizeable chunk of their initial player base. With its appeal and great content, however, SWTOR has the potential to have more staying power with players than many past MMOs have done. So the dropoff might not be as bad. Any MMO that can hold on to at least 75% of its starting player base is doing awesome at the 6 month mark. I think SWTOR can do that, at least.
So far, BioWare has not released a plan for an update schedule, but if it’s at least done twice a year, they should have good player retention.
Will all of this pan out in the actual? I’ll let you know in six months. For now, I think the game (which I admittedly haven’t personally found enjoyable) will be one of the major MMOs of 2012 and will stay that way through the year. It’s franchise tie-in, name recognition, and excellent content make it far better than 80% of the MMOs that have released in the past 12 months.