Not even a top developer and a top license can cure lagging game sales.
The Old Republic was a sure bet. An MMO based on possibly the most profitable sci-fi or fantasy franchise in a galaxy far, far away made by proven game developer in BioWare? Sold. Sure, those crazy Canadian doctors hadn't made an MMO yet, but they had the story-telling chops, and millions of EA bucks to make it as successful as WoW without making it a clone. Seven months later, and Star Wars: The Old Republic isn't doing that great. Michael Pachter - everyone's favorite game industry financial analyst - said after sitting down to lunch with EA boss John Riccitello that if TOR couldn't make money, then no subscription MMO can.
"I thought Star Wars: The Old Republic would make it big, but it didn't," Pachter said. "It looks like subscription MMOs are as big as they're going to get - there are only 6-7 million people willing to spend $15 a month. If Star Wars couldn't do it, made by Bioware, then no one can do it."
Pachter also thinks he's figured out why game sales are lagging and the stock prices for big publishers like EA are falling. "I had lunch with John [Riccitiello] at EA. He asked why no one's buying stock. I told him: 'The reason your stock is in the toilet is because you're in the fifth year of a three year turn around,'" Pachter dished. "He said, 'I thought new consoles would be out around 2010-2011.'"
So the boss of EA thought there would be new gaming hardware two years ago and that's why there's been nothing but sequels these last few years. I'm not positive that's true - if anyone has a red phone at Sony or Microsoft telling them the hardware cycle, it's the CEO of EA - but it's hard to disregard the huge vacant hole of any significant news at this year's E3.
When you realize not enough people play MMOs, and not enough people buy console games, then it's easy to understand why EA and Activision have invested so heavily in so-called casual games to get "new" customers. That sounds like the wrong way to keep the most potentially profitable customers happy, however.
How about they just start making games we actually want to play?