My Twitter avatar comes from the game Star Wars: The Old Republic, an online MMORPG that recently released the most successful expansion they’ve ever produced, Knights of the Fallen Empire.
The producer of the game, BioWare, has always had a talent for storytelling. While they do not have the command of aesthetics that a competitor Square Enix does, they make up for it by giving you the choices in how your character interacts with the world, who they value as friends or lovers, and to face threats on your own terms.
In SWTOR, this identity was strong at the launch of the game with a Guinness Book of World Records level of voice acted content, eight class stories, and a series of flashpoints that told a faction storyline.
Unfortunately, SWTOR was doomed to have a limited audience from the very beginning because of a lack of understanding of video game demographics by BioWare.
As you can see here, 67% of players do not play MMORPGs and only 28% play games for the story. This is information from 2015, which is surely not much different than 4.5 years ago when SWTOR was launched in late 2011.
SWTOR being built by excellent storytellers and trying to be a traditional MMORPG only catered to not only one minority in gaming, but two! That’s virtually guaranteed, regardless of having the Star Wars brand, to create a limiting user base.
So, understandably, interest in the game exploded right away, but fell off quickly due to how those two priorities filter out such a large number of gamers.
This is a Google Trends chart that shows search information about both SWTOR and World of Warcraft, the most popular and strongest MMORPG in the world. As you can see, WoW maintains a high level of interest over time while SWTOR had a massive initial burst that tapered off quickly.
Why is that?
World of Warcraft is built by one of the most successful gameplay designer studios in the world in Blizzard Entertainment. They are not storytellers. They really couldn’t care less about trying to write a masterpiece. They just want to make fun games.
That’s what most gamers want and because Blizzard has a great history of building gameplay, that’s the MMO of choice.
So when SWTOR decided to focus on those two minorities, that initial hysteria became a small level of interest and has stayed that way for most of its nearly 5 year history.
SWTOR’s development studio decided to shift gears and to move more in the MMO gameplay direction than the storytelling direction after launch. They made several group gameplay content updates from launch until the end of their first expansion, Rise of the Hutt Cartel. It was a frenzy of traditional MMO content, far more than at any point in the history of the game.
And as you can see on the graph, the game simply did not gain any additional attention, despite World of Warcraft making the same type of content and being much more successful.
This is simply because Blizzard is better at it and BioWare is both not known for it, and also not as good at it.
It should be pointed out that during this time, the community team at BioWare listened very intently and worked very hard with the developers to address these concerns by the more traditional MMO contingent in the community.
They built a whole slew of reputation grinds, flashpoints, operations, and seasonal events. They built large, explorable worlds with Makeb, Rishi, and Yavin 4. They put datacrons on those planets for jumping puzzle people to play with.
It all barely even got anyone’s attention over time. The google search trends have been literally flat for that entire period of the game’s history.
Furthermore, the revenue YoY for both of those expansions decreased every year. This excellent analysis by a financial consultant goes into significant detail:
One thing I want to point out about this analysis is a meme that still persists among a vocal minority of traditional MMO players who think that SWTOR has “fallen apart.”
The primary takeaway for me is that the next quarterly report, which should be available in February, is going to be very interesting to read. If the game is not cited for significant revenue improvement I will become very concerned. BioWare has made their move with this expansion and if revenues cannot increase relative to the same time period last year it will be an indictment of their decision to release an expansion like Knights of the Fallen Empire instead of one more similar to Shadow of Revan unless the production cost of the former was significantly lower than the latter.
Which brings us to Knights of the Fallen Empire.
As you can see on the graph, there are only two period of the game’s history that have big bursts of interest. The launch of the game, and the period of late October 2015 and the holiday season of 2015.
The first 3 months of the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion.
As you can see, the above author expresses concern about the success of the expansion and whether or not it will continue the trend. The main reason he is concerned is because of the emphasis on the storytelling in the KotFE expansion, which greatly superceded the emphasis on the MMORPG elements.
This meme of “SWTOR is dead” is something I argued repeatedly against for months. On the official SWTOR forums, and the r/swtor reddit. I didn’t really show them much mercy or made much effort to speak diplomatically to them because this is the type of responses I got from them:
This is a moderator. Someone who is supposed to enforce a rule that says, “Please Do Not Rant or Rave.” Who banned me repeatedly from the forum because I was disruptive.
Part of it is my fault. I would curse. I would marginalize people. I did it on purpose to be honest. I like provoking people who I know are wrong and who are stupid enough to believe their own lies or refuse to look at facts.
That’s part of how the First Amendment works in a classical liberal society. You don’t just get to say things people agree with. You can say things that people disagree with.
But for a moderator of a forum to act like this about someone who they disagree with and admits that they have a Nero complex…
I’m glad I don’t participate in that forum anymore. It’s full of anti-SWTOR and anti-KotFE vitriol and MSM style propaganda. Part of me wonders if they are paid trolls from World of Warcraft trying to suppress interest in a competitor.
He’s also a “Progressive” Bernie Sanders supporter for those interested. It might explain a few things about how he handles someone who disagrees with him and provides circumstantial evidence that he is wrong. I will write a post describing the Authoritarian, albeit incomplete, identity of “Progressives” later on.
Back on subject, the limited information I have presented brings up an important point – that there is only a limited amount of information we have to analyze about the state of the game. We only have revenue and google search information, as well as what other game studios say and quote as how their userbase is composed.
So while it can be said that nobody really knows for sure what the state of the game is, when trends emerge that show a certain pattern, it is my right and the right of anyone with a brain to point them out.
Which is that KotFE has been the only successful addition to the game, both on financial reports and google search trends. They did it by making the storytelling the priority, like all BioWare games have been until this failed experiment to be more of an MMO than a BioWare game.
It is unfortunate that I was suppressed and forced to leave internet forums for simply pointing out what I consider to be an accurate interpretation of the game’s history and current expansion’s success.
But then again..
Who fucking cares what moronic pseudo-Authoritarians think about what I have to say?
I will be writing about the story and what I appreciate about the game itself later on. But I wanted to get this off my chest first. It’s perfectly synchronous with my political beliefs as well as an indication of the type of Weak Authoritarian idiocy that is being dismantled throughout this political election.
To Falor42 I say this:
“Those who cannot argue, ban.”
Now I will end it on something I have said on Ootinicast in the past – which is that we should all come together to come up with constructive criticism and feasible ideas to help BioWare effectively bring our ideas to life.
That’s the whole point of iteration for game development – to make something incredible that players will love, which is a subjective process.
But I will say this as well – I take back my apology to those who were offended by what I had said before. I never should have apologized.
My thanks for apology was being banned from speaking. So I will not apologize to you if I offend you ever again. You don’t deserve that kind of recognition or moral equivalency.
Until the critics of the game and of my opinions actually present arguments based on facts and trends which are clearly representative of reality, they are not arguments.
I greatly respect BioWare, SWTOR, KotFE, and will not apologize to people who actively piss on any of them, their hard work, and a source of genuine entertainment for me ever again.