It would be an understatement to say that Electronic Arts would love to turn the massively multiplayer online role-playing genre on its head with Star Wars: The Old Republic. However, completely rewriting that landscape isn't a necessity for the BioWare Austin-developed sci-fi online game, as EA has said that the game could be "substantially profitable" with just 500,000 subscribers.
At the very least, EA has attracted that much interest from gamers wanting to try out SW:TOR for free. As part of the Lazard Capital Markets Technology & Media Day presentation yesterday, EA CFO Eric Brown said that nearly 1.5 million people have signed up to participate in SW:TOR's beta-testing phase.
"The next phase will be to expand the beta testing," Brown said. "Up until now, it's been the EA friends and family testing program. We need to expand the testing universe, make it more open. … The good news is that we have well over a million, closer to one and a half million people registered, opted-in, who are happy to step up and be beta testers. North of a million demand to do some free testing is a great indicator of the interest level in the franchise."
Brown did not indicate when BioWare would be opening up the next beta phase, sign-ups for which began in September 2009. However, he did offer a cursory look at the market as EA sees it, noting that the game has a potential audience of about 12 million.
"If you look at the Western world, so this is North America plus Europe only, we'd estimate there are about 12 million people or so playing one or more MMOs," he said. "Roughly half are playing World of Warcraft…so there's 12 million people to go after, 6 million of whom are playing one game and 6 million are playing a combination of other games. And then there's obviously an opportunity in Asia."
Brown went on to note that EA and BioWare would have more information on SW:TOR during the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo, which will take place June 7-9. Currently, EA expects to launch the PC MMORPG during the back half of 2011. For more information, check out GameSpot's previous coverage.