Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

Limited Digital Sales for SW:ToR

Imagine you are CEO of a big company with a very good name in a certain line of products. Now you expand into a related, but different and challenging market. You know your good name will produce a very high interest in your product and you also know that many other companies have had issues launching in the same market due to not being able to saturate demands and making the experience worse for the paying customers. You now have the choice between artificially limiting access to your new product so that you can always provide the best experience to your customers and simply running the product out there and pray for the best, risking your good name. If you have any brains you’ll do the latter, which is exactly what EA/Bioware are doing with Star Wars: The Old Republic.

MMORPG launches are notorious for being awful due to a very high demand at the beginning. MMO demand also tends to drop quite a bit after the initial rush, though that drop varies depending on the quality of the MMO. If Bioware isn’t sure whether their servers can stand the load of an unrestricted launch, I’m absolutely behind their decision to limit sales until they do know. Yes, it feels odd to limit sales of a digital product, but it is really no different from selling limited amounts of physical copies – and that practice has been in place for quite a while now. Does no one remember the shortage of World of Warcraft copies at launch? I’m pretty sure that wasn’t due to a lack of CD pressing capabilities either, but a business decision to limit the subscriber base to an amount the servers can handle.

People will be quick to point at games like Rift which didn’t limit their digital sales (or at least didn’t tell us about it) but it is easy to forget that none of those recent games have been facing a rush like the one that is likely to hit SW:ToR. I like that they are being humble enough to accept the fact that their server capabilities might just not be able to handle the numbers they are expecting.

Gordon thinks (and Syp agrees) that this is simply a clever marketing ploy. It might just be, but if it is, it seems ill advised. The hype is already huge. Sure, the limit made me pre-order immediately instead of waiting a few days, but what does that actually mean for Bioware? I doubt they’ll sell more units this way and a few people like me might have taken the rush as a reason to decide for the normal version instead of the collector’s edition. Add to that that their “cock-and-bull story” (Gordon’s words, not mine) actually makes a damn lot of sense and I doubt that this is just marketing.

Furthermore, there’s been some controversy about the game not launching in Asia and Australia just yet. Yeah, it sucks but that is also nothing new. Europe had to wait half a year for World of Warcraft and Germany generally has to wait forever for movies and TV-series to be released. Aion was launched in Korea a year before the western world (and Australasia) got it and Australian DDO players have to play on US servers.  The world simply isn’t as unified as we might like to think and there are a myriad of reasons as to why EA/Bioware will not be able to set up regional servers for Australia and Asia just yet.

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