This should not come as much of a surprise to anyone who has been keeping up with the Star Wars MMO, but BioWare has managed to convince well over a million users to sign up for The Old Republic beta. The game is currently in closed beta, and EA would not give any hints as to when the beta would open up to the 1.5 million users who are waiting patiently for an email.
The game is still scheduled to be released this year, and EA CFO Eric Brown stated at the Lazard Capital Markets Technology & Media Day that there was very little chance of the game seeing the light of day between April and June, the company's first fiscal quarter. Brown also discussed the importance of early interest in the game, as well as how this interest could factor into EA's long-term plans for The Old Republic.
EA's current focus is to expand the market of an MMO to a much larger and broader audience:
"We're not that concerned about generating initial demand. For us it's about creating the right experience for expanding from tier 1 and the tier 2 users to getting people who have never played an MMO before, but are interested in Star Wars, to engage and give it a try."
The mission walkthrough video from PAX East demonstrates a game that might be able to draw a crowd, and with the Star Wars universe as a backdrop, its hard to imagine this game failing. Despite that, EA understands just how difficult it can be to please the current audience while attempting to excite newcomers. If they can manage to find a way to do both:
"[...]our addressable market is well beyond 12 million people...into more of a general gamer population, pretty much anyone that has a minimum spec personal computer."
The 12 million people figure, of course, refers to World of Warcraft's current population, one that EA and BioWare apparently believe they can surpass. The Game Rant Coalition remains anxious to see if EA's prediction comes true later this year.
Are you one of the 1.5 million that have signed up for The Old Republic open beta? If so, does the recent news make BioWare's new MMO even more appealing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Star Wars: The Old Republic will release in 2011 for the PC, with the open beta sometime beforehand.