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500k subs will make SW:TOR profitable

$300 million cost rumour a "falsehood".

Upcoming MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic needs just half a million subscribers to be profitable, EA has said.

Speaking in a conference call to investors, CEO John Riccitiello said 500,000 subscribers would make the game "substantially profitable, but it's not the sort of thing we would write home about".

"Anything north of one million subscribers is a very profitable business," he said. "Essentially it turns on a dime from being quite sharply negative in terms of its EPS [Earnings Per Share] impact to positive the day the product ships.

"So it's our view that we can be very successful without fundamentally challenging the market leader [World of Warcraft] because we think we'll probably hit the smaller competitors harder when we get out there. Of course, we have no particular ambition to be a distant number two. Our ambitions are higher than that, but we throttle back a little bit relative to our financial projections."

EA is rumoured to have spent more than $300 million on The Old Republic. During the call Riccitiello admitted EA was "incurring significant development costs" on the game, but he criticised press speculation on the matter.

"There's been a fair amount of talk on various blogs, describing spends that are vastly higher than anything we've ever put in place," he insisted.

"Some of them, they bring a chuckle but they also bring a frustration for those that are being responsible in the management of EA's R&D dollars when they read sort of falsehoods out of the press."

Last month EA's investors were said to be "betting against" the BioWare developed MMO. Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey suggested shareholders were pessimistic that the epic would do the business, citing EA's questionable MMO track record as a chief area of concern.

The publisher's last attempt to launch an MMO was Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning in 2008. Subscription numbers for the Mythic-developed titled got off to a strong start but quickly dwindled causing the publisher to shut down 63 servers a year later.

Hickey's comments were the latest in a barrage of negative press the title has been forced to weather. In October, a disgruntled EA insider branded the forthcoming MMO "a joke", insisting, "Old Republic will be one of the greatest failures in the history of MMOs from EA."

BioWare boss Ray Muzyka responded, telling Eurogamer: "It's a big bet, but it's the right kind of bet to make for EA."