EA blames Star Wars: The Old Republic subscribers fall on casuals leaving game

"Make no mistake, BioWare intends to grow subscribers."

EA has blamed its announced Star Wars: The Old Republic subscribers fall on casual gamers leaving the BioWare developed sci-fi MMO.

Star Wars: The Old Republic currently has 1.3 million active subscribers - a sizeable drop on the 1.7 million reported in February.

EA's games label boss Frank Gibeau told investors last night the 400,000 subscriber drop was the result of casual gamers declining to subscribe to the MMO after going through a "billing cycle".

"When we launched the product back in December, it was an event launch," he said. "We brought in a lot of users, and with a brand like Star Wars, it reaches out much past the hardcore MMO fan base into the broader market.

"And as the service evolves from here, what we're seeing is that some of the initial casual customers have gone through a billing cycle and decided not to subscribe to the game."

what we're seeing is that some of the initial casual customers have gone through a billing cycle and decided not to subscribe to the game - EA labels boss Frank Gibeau.

Countering this, though, was what Gibeau described as "very good retention" of "core MMO users", resulting in a "solid" base of around 1.3 million subscribers.

"So the percentage of paying subscribers from our peak until now has actually gone up, and the folks that we have are as engaged as they were when they first bought the product."

Gibeau said planned expansion content, focused on "elder gameplay", will keep players engaged and will grow subscribers. BioWare's free-to-play weekends have been a success, as have "buddy key" promotions.

He added: "Make no mistake, BioWare intends to grow subscribers."

EA boss John Riccitiello weighed in on the Star Wars: The Old Republic success debate, saying the game was "very much in line with our original assumptions".

"It's... not as important as Medal of Honor or Battlefield or FIFA or Madden or The Sims or SimCity, but it's more important than Tiger Woods PGA Golf - EA boss John Riccitiello on Star Wars: The Old Republic.

The Old Republic is in EA's top 10 franchises in terms of profitability, "but it's not in our top five". "So it's a business contributor, while important, is not as important as Medal of Honor or Battlefield or FIFA or Madden or The Sims or SimCity, but it's more important than Tiger Woods PGA Golf."

"So while I understand there's an enormous amount of interest, I don't know that it warrants as much as what we're seeing right now. But we love the franchise, we're going to grow the franchise and just like we want to see Tiger Woods Golf grow or SSX grow, or Madden for that matter, we're going to drive this one for growth."

Of course, Star Wars: The Old Republic is set to face off against a number of high-profile competitors this year, including Guild Wars 2 and, potentially, World of Warcraft expansion Mists of Pandaria.

Gibeau said EA was unfazed by the competition, and was confident in The Old Republic's chances of fending off rivals.

"We are cognizant of competitors coming, but none of them quite fit in the same competitive category as Star Wars," he said. "They're just different fantasies. They're not the Star Wars fantasy. It's not the big expansive universe that appeals to so many people worldwide. And as you know with MMOs, every day you're in operation to get better and better and better. You continually perfect the experience. You continually improve the acquisition component.

"And so building from a base that we're at right now, we feel very confident that this business is going to continue to stay competitive throughout the remainder of the year."

Star Wars: The Old Republic Jedi Consular footage

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