After years of work, nearly all the finishing touches have been applied to Star Wars: The Old Republic, and long waiting players will finally get to go hands on with the game come December 20.

By Electronic Arts’ own estimation, the game will need 500 thousand players to be profitable, which should be a snap — some analysts believe The Old Republic could sell three million copies in its first year. So why doesn’t Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick believe that Electronic Arts can make money on Star Wars: The Old Republic?

To be sure, The Old Republic has been, and will continue to be, a massive undertaking for both developer BioWare and publisher Electronic Arts. BioWare has already opened a 400-employee customer service center to provide support for players, while Electronic Arts is banking on a ten year lifespan for the game. Ambitious rollout plans for The Old Republic are already in place, so what could be stopping the game from becoming the next great MMO success story? According to Kotick, it all comes down to licensing.

“Lucas is going to be the principal beneficiary of the success of Star Wars. We’ve been in business with Lucas for a long time and the economics will always accrue to the benefit of Lucas, so I don’t really understand how the economics work for Electronic Arts.”

It should be pointed out that Mr. Kotick claims no specific knowledge of the agreement between LucasArts and Electronic Arts.

Despite the ire his comments may sometimes raise in gamers, Kotick knows a thing or two about massively multiplayer online games. As the publisher behind World of Warcraft, Kotick’s Activision Blizzard has all but had the market to itself for years, though that dominance is waning as subscriber numbers decline. No doubt Kotick hopes the forthcoming Mists of Panderia expansion will help WoW remain vital as it faces potentially its toughest competitor ever in The Old Republic.

But is Kotick just trash talking to make headlines (again), or are his stated concerns actually valid? After all, he is hardly the first person to question The Old Republic’s chances — it has been suggested that EA investors doubt the game will find “market success.” Add potentially unfavorable licensing terms to the current boom in free-to-play MMOs (DC Universe Online picked up 120k players after going FTP), and maybe the subscription-based The Old Republic really will have trouble turning a profit.

Ranters, what do you think: are Kotick’s comments on the mark, or is the outspoken CEO just trying to downplay the competition? Let us know in the comments below.

Star Wars: The Old Republic releases December 20, 2011, for the PC.

Follow me on Twitter @HakenGaken

Source: Reuters

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