Electronic Arts chief downplays loss; Publisher previously denied loss

Old Republic loses 23% of subscribers

The active player base for Star Wars The Old Republic has contracted by nearly a quarter, down from 1.7 million to 1.3 million users, publisher EA has revealed.

Last month a company spokesperson claimed that the total subscriber numbers were not in decline, following analyst data which suggested the game’s player base had peaked in February.

But yesterday the company’s chief executive admitted that about 400,000 users have quit the MMO since EA’s last public count. It said the decrease was due to ‘casual and trial players’ departing. New content updates for the game have been promised.

Company CEO John Riccitiello downplayed the significance of the loss. At an investor call he said the Old Republic was not as important as EA’s so-called “top five” franchises such as Battlefield, FIFA and Mass Effect.

Star Wars The Old Republic is regarded as one of the most expensive projects in EA’s thirty-year history. Predictions of the game’s initial operating expenses, including marketing and licensing, vary wildly and upwards to $500 million.

Activision Blizzard’s rival MMO, World of Warcraft, still retains about 10 million unique users despite being released in 2004. That game’s unique user numbers peaked at about 13 million, currently ten times the popularity of The Old Republic.

Daniel Erickson, a writer at the EA-owned studio, last month suggested that concurrent player activity during peak hours had declined – which, he believes, explains the noticeable ‘light’ server populations – but paid subscription numbers were not falling.

That comment came a week after Cowen and Company analyst Doug Creutz claimed that the MMO’s subscription numbers “peaked” in February at about 1.7 million members.

Creutz projected that the number will fall to about 1.25 million subscribers by the end of the current financial year, March 2013.

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