Dec 6, 2011

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Electronic Arts CFO Claims 2 Million Beta Testers – 725,000 Over Thanksgiving

In an article over at Gamespot, Electronic Arts CFO Eric Brown is quoted during the annual Global Media and Communications Conference in New York as saying that TOR attracted 2 million unique Beta testers, and that the Beta testers themselves have logged over 9 million hours of testing time.

“The game itself has a huge pre-existing fan base. We had about 2.4 million people register for the Star Wars fan site, over 2 million of which volunteered to do [beta] testing for free,” said Brown. “In terms of peak concurrent users, we had just over a quarter of a million people playing the game simultaneously.”

He also added that 725,000 unique players logged time over the Thanksgiving weekend, with each player averaging 12 hours of playtime.

Brown also took the time to comment about how advertising for the launch of TOR differs from other titles, aiming squarely at attracting new customers:

Brown told the conference that this high “preregistered and built-in” demand for the product would mean a launch advertising campaign considerably different from those for other high-profile EA titles, with the focus instead on attracting new customers for the long term (“two to four years”) and the critical percentage of players who renew their subscription from month to month.

For those that were on during the weekend, they can easily answer questions about the stability and playability of the game during that, but I know I personally ran into no issues in those regards. And of course, this comes as great news to EA, who has claimed it only needs 500,000 monthly subscribers to have TOR stay profitable.

Check out Gamespot for more.

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Jul 26, 2011

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Electronic Arts Q1 2012 Earnings Conference – Record Pre-Orders For TOR

[UPDATE] Reuters posted highlights from an interview with Electronic Arts CFO Eric Brown where he confirmed the number of pre-orders taken in the opening days of the pre-order program:

“We’re well over 200,000 pre-orders in the first five or six days. From an EA perspective, that is significantly greater than any other EA title we’ve ever had in the first week” – Eric Brown, Electronic Arts CFO

Thanks for Daelda for the tip!

In the “nothing much to see here” department, EA today held their Q1 2012 earnings call for investors.

The die-hard TOR faithful (like us!) always look to these events hoping for some type of little gold-nugget of information about the game, or maybe more specifically hints of a release date. Fans aren’t totally off-base with this as there have been certain things in the past on these calls that may have dropped a hint or two.

The biggest direct news from today’s release revealed record-breaking pre-orders for Star Wars: The Old Republic, although no backup was provided as to what that mean it terms of sheer numbers.

As usual, TOR was excluded from not only revenue guidance but also the release date schedule, indicating only that it is targeted for a “holiday 2011″ launch, the same stance that recently emerged during Comic-Con. Although they did leave some wiggle room in the financial guidance for the release to occur “anywhere in the fiscal year,” which ends in March, 2012.

“We started the year with Star Wars in development, and we will close the year with Star Wars in operation” – Eric Brown, Electronic Arts CFO

“We will launch Star Wars: The Old Republic and look to take a big slice of the MMO market” – John Riccitiello, Electronic Arts CEO

“Most MMOs announce ship dates 4-8 weeks ahead of launch” – John Riccitiello, Electronic Arts CEO

You can download supporting documents for this earnings report here, as well as be able to listen to a recording of the call soon.

Q&A Session (Only select TOR-related, paraphrased)

Q: How will you handle demand for capacity of TOR?
A: We feel pretty good about where we’re at with that. We’re capable of scaling to several million users.

Q: What is the size of the MMORPG market as a whole? How many pre-orders were there?
A: MMO category extremely large… double-digit millions in the Western market. It’s not only about World of Warcraft. We feel bullish to come into this category.

Q: Can you wrap context around pre-orders? (Mike Hickey) Also curious on beta testers converting to pre-0rder buys.
A: Pre-order numbers are ahead of our expectations. It’s the largest number we’ve done at EA, up significantly from Battlefield 3. 1000 testers currently, ramping up in summer leading into September and we’ll be more in a position to give a hard date.

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Mar 1, 2011

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Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference: John Riccitiello Speaks

Today in San Francisco, Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello is participated in a Q&A session at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference.

Although the presentation was financial in nature, many of the TOR faithful tuned in to investor.ea.com to see if there might be even the smallest bit of information revealed, or maybe even a “slip-up,” which Riccitiello has been known to provide fans with in the past.

While there were no real “slip-ups” this time around, there was some chatter about an un-named release in May of this year. Some speculate it might be a social game, or Dragon Age Legends. The discussion surrounded competitor Zynga, so it probably doesn’t hold any significance to TOR.

Although, May the 4th be with you has a nice ring to it :)

Riccitiello reaffirmed that they can “make money” with 500,000 subscribers, whereas 1.5 million plus would be considered substantially profitable.

EA’s CEO also continued to praise World of Warcraft at the same time as he locked the crosshairs on Blizzard. “We can probably get a million without affecting them at all… after that it will probably be trading…”

Electronic Arts will post the full audio of these events at investor.ea.com, so stay tuned there if you’d like to hear what John Riccitiello said first-hand and see if we missed anything.

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Feb 15, 2011

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Riccitiello Talks TOR At Goldman Sachs Technology And Internet Conference

Gamasutra has a small writeup on EA CEO John Riccitiello’s presentation during Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference currently underway in San Francisco.

Riccitiello spoke about Star Wars: The Old Republic, and EA’s interest in taking share from market leader World of Warcraft:

We’re going right at it. We want share, we want leadership position here. I’m not expecting to sort of knock them over, but … we’re gonna get a big chunk of [their market]

Riccitiello goes on to elaborate on the differences between the two competitors:

In a way, theirs is a silent movie and ours is the first talkie. By and large, theirs is not a voiced MMO. Ours is a fully voiced MMO in multiple languages.

These are interesting comments from the Electronic Arts chief, and it should make for an interesting home stretch toward the release of Star Wars™: The Old Republic.

Head on over to Gamasutra for the entire read!

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Jan 31, 2011

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[UPDATE] EA Earnings Call: Release Window For TOR?

[UPDATE] Live blog beginning soon, scroll to bottom of page.

We just wanted to issue a quick reminder for AAJ readers that the Electronic Arts Q3 2011 Earnings Conference Call will be held tomorrow, February 1, 2011 at 2:00pm PST.

So why is this important to fans of Star Wars™: The Old Republic™?

Well, as part of the agenda for the call, EA typically provides a information regarding their scheduled releases for the upcoming fiscal year. In this case, that fiscal year is 2012 and we’ve known for some time the plans for The Old Republic were squarely in this timeframe.

With all of the hoopla about a potential change in the release window, this call should be able to shed some light on exactly what might be happening with TOR. While we don’t expect an actual release date, we think the picture will become much clearer, one way or another, on the call.

You can listen to the investor call yourself simply be registering here.

Of course if you don’t want to sit through all of the boring non-TOR info, keep your browser locked right here on Ask A Jedi, and we’ll be posting all of the highlights that matter!

Live Blog for TOR Highlights:

[5:01pm] – John Riccitiello – continue to concentrate on fewer, bigger, better games
[5:04pm] – Focus on digital – growth 39% year over year
[5:05pm] – Announce a $600 million share buyback
Note: there is no mention of TOR or FY12 in any of the released documentation.
[5:19pm] – TOR will ship in Calendar 2011, after Fisccal 2011 – in Fiscal 2012
[5:20pm] – Will not share more detail until next quarter. They
Note: So basically, nothing has changed but we’ve got no new information. The release is still on track for FY12, CY 11. The window is a little bigger than most TOR fans may want to hear though :)
[5:22pm] – Just ran through a list of releases, which didn’t include TOR
Note: They seem to be keeping specific TOR info close to the vest for competitive reasons.
Note: So, look for TOR release info when they talk about Q4 earnings, sometime in May.
[5:28pm] – Q&A Starting, we are queued up for one.
[5:34pm] – Question About TOR business model
[5:35pm] – “Another north of a million is a substantially profitable business”
[5:36pm] – “Don’t refer to gamer blogs for guidance” (re: EALouse $300 millon budget crap.)
[5:38pm] – “Game is looking very good – beta scale testing over the coming months”
[5:49pm] –  Mike Hickey from Janco just asked a question… non TOR-related.
[5:52pm] – Piper Jaffray – Asked “How big is the opportunity for Star Wars, in terms of # of users?”
[5:53pm] – EA Comments on their “chief competitor” having 12 million subscriptions, but doesn’t have to challenge the market leader. But also have no intention to remain a “distant” #2
[5:56pm] – “The market will be receptive to light sabers vs. swords.”
[6:00pm] – Q&A and Call is wrapping up.

There is no TOR info in these documents, but here is what was released:

Q3 FY11 Slides

Q3 FY11 Results

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Jan 24, 2011

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Analyst: EA Investors "Betting Against" The Old Republic

While virtually everyone reading Ask A Jedi probably agrees that Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ is going to be the game that finally walks on water, it seems that some analysts are not as rosy with their outlook on the prospects for the title.

Gamasutra’s Leigh Alexander provided some perspective on Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey, and the rationale behind his cautionary tone:

We believe many investors are betting against SWTOR achieving market success, provided the company’s (Warhammer Online from Mythic) and industry’s track record at releasing successful new MMOs.

Essentially, Hickey is factoring in things about EA’s history of releasing massively-multiplayer games, citing both Warhammer and All Points Bulletin (each development studio owned by EA,) in rendering his analysis. Given just those factors, it would be easy to agree with him. But there’s more to it than that – BioWare is involved, for instance.

So what’s our take?

Although contrary to the unbiased position they should be projecting, analysts usually have an agenda. And that agenda usually revolves around making money or gaining notoriety. Everything that’s mentioned in the writeup is merely an opinion and not a fact, nor a rendition of the future. Heck, he’s not even talking about the game itself… just using data, some precedent and speculation to form an opinion of the potential fiscal performance.

That said, it’s no secret that a gargantuan effort (and pocketbook) is required to develop, produce, launch and support a triple-A MMO such as The Old Republic™. It’s a risk that only a very finite number of publishers or studios can undertake. There’s no doubt that BioWare faces challenges.

Even with Star Wars™ as the intellectual property license, there’s no guarantee of blockbuster success. See Lord of The Rings Online™ and the recent shift to a free-to-play model for a recent similar example.

But luckily, we’re not investors. We’re gamers. We’re seeing all of the right things that BioWare and LucasArts are doing with The Old Republic™, and I think as gamers, that’s all we should be focused on. Let the business take care of itself, one way or another.

The bottom line is there’s no reason to let one analyst’s opinion of the potential success or failure of the game dampen your enthusiasm for it.

via Gamasutra

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