If anything can challenge World of Warcraft, it’s this. The Old Republic represents EA’s biggest foray into the market for massively multiplayer online games.
And the signs look very positive indeed. Not only does the game come with the colossal Star Wars name, it’s been developed by RPG stalwarts BioWare.
The PC title has hundreds of thousands of lines of spoken dialogue, huge worlds and hundreds of quests. Players can become a Jedi, wield a lightsaber and play with thousands of other players online.
As the last big release of the year, The Old Republic also comes at a perfect time for EA. Players will have more free time over the Christmas holidays to try it out, and Blizzard’s market-leading World of Warcraft has seen its userbase fall from 12m to 10.3m in the space of a year, so more players are ready and waiting for something new.
But EA isn’t resting on its laurels. The publisher has pumped millions into the game and BioWare, developer of Dragon Age and Mass Effect, has made the in-game content gleam brighter than Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber.
Players can join The Old Republic or the Sith Empire and choose from eight classes including Jedi, Sith, bounty hunter and smuggler.
Gamers can wield the light or dark side of the force, or take part in massive multiplayer lightsaber duels and cantina shootouts. As they level up they can acquire their own ship and fly across the galaxy. Like World of Warcraft, the game boasts guilds, auction houses, mounts and crafting abilities.
While most other MMOs have adopted the free-to-play model over the past 12 months, with some even set to close, EA is taking a risk by asking users to buy a game and pay a monthly fee to play it. But it’s a risk that could see The Old Republic become one of the top-grossing games of 2012.
The ultimate SKU for fans includes a Darth Malgus statue, the journal of Jedi Master Gnost Dural, a soundtrack CD, map of the in-game world and a security key. It’s priced at £129.99.
It goes without saying that Star Wars is one of the biggest brands of all time. The six films have generated around $4.4bn at the cinema Box Office, not to mention the DVDs and merchandise.
The Old Republic as a download is exclusive to EA’s Origin platform. Those who pre-order will gain early access to the game. There’s also a £59.99 Digital Deluxe Edition with extra in-game items.
Customers who pre-order the £44.99 standard edition will also receive a virtual stone item which allows them to change the colour of their lightsaber or blaster fire.