Six weeks before the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic, the game has jumped to the top of pre-order charts.
SWTOR is a massively multiplayer online role playing game that takes place a few thousand years before the Star Wars movies. The game lets players choose sides between the Galactic Republic and the Evil Sith Empire. SWTOR has topped the American pre-order charts, now more than 800,000 people have ordered the game before its Dec. 20 launch, according to VGChartz.
The fantasy RPG World of Warcraft is the current reigning MMO champion, which launched in 2004. However, the Blizzard-produced game is starting to show its age and players are beginning to exit its digital shores in droves. WoW hit its digital peak back in October of 2010 with a player base of more than 12 million subscribers. The game has shed about 2 million players since then, and 10.3 million people were playing the game in September. The loss of subscribers might mean the marketplace is ready for some new blood.
Though another Star Wars MMO launched a few years ago, Star Wars Galaxies hasn't found much success. That game will be closed down right before SWTOR servers go public. The newest Star Wars MMO needs to avoid the pitfalls of its predecessor, and could have the mojo to do so. The game comes from developer Bioware, who has won fans for space-themed single-player RPGs Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Also publisher, Electronic Arts, has put in a ton of resources into the new MMO-- some estimate more than $80 million.
We played the SWTOR beta for a little bit during its testing weekend. It definitely learned a few lessons from WoW, and players from that game should feel right at home in the new system. However, since players are leaving WoW in mass-exodus fashion, it might have to step up its game. Given it was developed a few years later it will surely have some tricks up its sleeve, and the beta is not a fair way to judge the game.
SWTOR does have a ton of cut scenes, with much of the dialogue spoken by voice actors. Players are given the chance of responding in these cut scenes with their own dialogue options. The game actually makes you feel like you're playing a character with a personality. The fully cinematic feel may give SWTOR a leg up on WoW.
Blizzard has already launched a preemptive strike against SWTOR. The developer has started bribing players with free copies of their upcoming game Diablo III, a highly-anticipated, hack-and-slash dungeon crawler. All players have to do is sign up for a full year of WoW with no way to break the agreement. But the offer was more of an attempt to stem the bleeding rather than attract new players; the deal was only offered to preexisting WoW players. We won't see if the new strategy works until a few months go by.
With WoW losing steam this could be the perfect time for SWTOR to pick up players looking for a new experience. The key will be making something familiar while giving players something new and interesting. Just copying the WoW formula won't be enough since it is already several years old and already boring some gamers. SWTOR will have to do a little bit of reinventing the wheel, making the genre feel fresh for players who are a little tired of the WoW grind. That is much easier said than done.
We'll see if SWTOR can pull it off amid the holiday gaming frenzy. Let the battle of the acronyms begin.