Blizzard "wouldn't bet against" BioWare

But Sams warns of pitfalls for Old Republic.

Blizzard executive Paul Sams has said that he expects BioWare have a good chance of finding MMO success with the recently-announced Star Wars: The Old Republic.

"They have as good a chance as anybody. I wouldn't bet against them, that's for sure," Sams said, speaking to Eurogamer on the eve of the launch of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King.

"They are an excellent company and they're utilising a well-known franchise as the backbone for that game. I think the combination of those two things bodes well for them, just because not everybody can say [that]," he added.

But Sams warns that a strong licence and a good development team are just the beginning when it comes to making a successful MMO.

"Running this type of game, building this type of game, maintaining this type of game is exceptionally difficult," he said.

"And so while we know they have some excellent developers and some excellent leaders, time will tell as to how they can react, and how they can prepare themselves to do all the other things... There are a lot more back-office things to running a game like this than you can ever imagine."

In particular, he pointed out that the level of success that World of Warcraft has - and that The Old Republic is tipped to reach - brings some problems of its own.

"It's a bit more tricky than it might seem, and I think that that is also why we haven't seen any other games that really have blown up from a huge subscribership perspective," he said. "Because how you react when it scales is very challenging, to say the least."

He also admitted that Blizzard hadn't done everything right itself.

"We've gotten a lot of bumps and bruises along the way - we're not perfect, we're far from it, right? We've had to learn a lot of things the hard way," Sams said.

"So it's a hard road, and it's also a very expensive road. [BioWare] have the benefit now of being with EA as relates to money, and EA has a pocketbook that is fat," he pointed out.

Sams said the Blizzard team was looking forward to tonight's launch of Wrath of the Lich King. "We're exceptionally excited about the content. We genuinely believe it's the best content we've created for World of Warcraft thus far," he said.

Blizzard recently claimed 11 million subscribers for WOW - some time after reaching the 10 million mark. We asked if this meant the game's growth was finally slowing down; Sams, normally one of Blizzard's most bullish spokesmen, came over uncharacteristically restrained and humble.

"We do anticipate that the number of subscribers will probably go up a bit, just because of the number of people returning to check it out," he said.

"Before we launched, there was nobody in the company that thought we were going to get anywhere near this," he added. "Each day that we continue to grow blows our minds."

Look out for more launch coverage and a review of Wrath of the Lich King in the coming days. And see you at HMV on Oxford Street for tonight's midnight launch.

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