It seems there is a rampant wave of doom-calling in the blogosphere about the failure of Star Wars: The Old Republic. It is probably obvious by the lack of posts on Epic Slant about the game that I wasn’t that interested in it. I’m still not but sometimes it is just nice to fit in with the crowd, especially when you get to say (in some ways) “I told you so.” Let me be clear, I’m not saying that I accurately predicted that this game would fail and am now taking joy in it. What I’m saying is that all the complaints now are things I saw in beta that led me to not buy the game. The things that I pointed out and that people told me “I was missing the point” on. For all of those things, I told you so!
The Pedestal Effect
The MMORPG community, when tired of something, seeks to find “the next something” that will fix their woes. I may be a jaded bastard but I’ve watched players do this since EverQuest. As we’ve added more people to our genre it has gotten worse. I just can’t do it anymore and often look down on those that do. I’m simply accustomed to disappointment. I’m going to pick on Chris a little here and go back to something he said to me on the podcast. He told me that Star Wars was the most polished MMORPG in beta in forever. That was not my experience. It wasn’t even close and I continually see posts from others about lack of polish. The most polished MMORPG in beta, to date, was Rift. It was so polished it completely disarmed my jaded, callous, and skeptical demeanor. SWTOR was not as polished as Rift. People will disagree but that is the pedestal effect. We will look past faults because we don’t want to see them. I wanted to see faults in Rift and was proven wrong.
This is the same reason why 38 Studio’s Copernicus is in so much danger. Based on the early information that was released, the general ideas behind the design, and the all-star team they have working there, players (including my guild mates) have set their expectations so high the game can’t possibly live up to them. Everyone is literally expecting this to be a Renascence of MMORPGs. A return to what made EverQuest great. This is both an unfair and unrealistic expectation. Players did the same thing with Star Wars because “It is Bioware man! Everything they make is the best.” Well folks, I’m sorry. SWTOR didn’t turn out to be “the best MMORPG ever made.” It was just the most expensive and it is literally just on par with everything else out there.
It IS a single player game
Yes, people continue to tell me that it isn’t and that anyone who thinks it is “doesn’t get it.” That is fine. Raw data available to me says you’re incorrect. When Star Wars released I knew my Rift guild would take a hit. I bolstered our ranks because I knew we’d dip. At the same time I told my officers that we just had to last 30 to 60 days and we’d be fine. Everyone took that on faith that I would be right. If Star Wars is such a compelling group and raid game why is that literally all but one of my guild mates are now back in Rift? Why is that each and every one says they came back because when they reached the cap the game was not compelling enough to pay? That is the failing of “the story as the forth pillar.” Eventually that pillar ends and, if the other three aren’t strong enough to support the weight that is dis-proportionally focused towards the story, the load on top collapses.
Still not a failure
All of this said, the game is still not a failure in the scheme of things no matter how many people want to claim it is. If your goal was to reach and convert two million subscribers it is probably a failure. If it was to reach and convert one million subscribers I’d guess that it was probably a failure. EA and Bioware got too much ego with this one and opened their mouths (a failure that 38 Studios does not have). They started throwing around numbers, acting like they were the masters of the genre, and now they’re suffering the consequences. Don’t write checks to shareholders that you can’t cash. Being profitable doesn’t always means being a success when it comes to publicly traded stock.
Par the course
This is, once again, why I’m viewed as a “pessimist” when it comes to MMORPGs. It seems if you don’t get into the fanboyisms and/or love “the next big thing” you’re the bad guy. I’m an optimist in life but when it comes to repeated experiences I become a realist. If I get my hand bit twice when I try to pet a specific dog I’m going to assume that he’ll bite it a third time. I just chose not to allow myself to be bit by Star Wars: The Old Republic.