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EA investors "betting against" SWTOR

Analyst claims city unrest over MMO.

EA's investors are "betting against" the publisher's forthcoming MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic, a top analyst has claimed.

Speaking to Gamasutra, Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey suggested shareholders are pessimistic that the BioWare-developed epic will 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.

"We believe many investors are betting against SWTOR achieving market success, provided the company's and industry's track record at releasing successful new MMOs," Hickey said.

He went on to add that investors were also concerned about the decision to go with subscription fees rather than the increasingly popular free-to-play model, not to mention lukewarm press response to preview builds and the impact that LucasArts' slice of the pie might have on their bottom line.

According to Hickey, investors' list of concerns includes "a suspected subscription pricing model versus a market that is quickly transitioning to free to play, generally modest previews of the game and elevated development expense and suspected aggressive royalty to LucasArts."

Hickey's comments are 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, "It's a big bet, but it's the right kind of bet to make for EA."

The game, which has been in development since 2008, is due for release sometime between now and April 2011. EA CFO Eric Brown recently claimed that the publisher sees the project as "a 10 year opportunity."