08 December 2011

It may be their first rodeo...

... but Bioware sure isn't acting like an MMO "noob."  Just a quick post today about some more SW:TOR launch goodness.  Bioware put out a FAQ yesterday about early game access.  The link is in my Twitter if you haven't already found it for yourself.  Overall, the early access period has been extended by two full days.  Now this would be good enough news all by itself, but more important to me is what it says about Bioware's launch preparations and what they understand is at stake for them.

For an MMO, nothing is bigger than launch day.  Now I know that may seem like a given, but as the old saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."  Launch day is your one and only shot to "make an impression," and what your players see on that day will go a long way to deciding whether they stick with your game or not.  Have a great launch, and the goodwill can last you a long time.  Have a bad launch, and you may never recover.  RIFT had probably the smoothest launch in MMO history.  No launch is perfect, but in terms of sheer overall stability, I can't think of a better one than RIFT.  Almost nine months later RIFT is sitting comfortably in the top two or three subscription based MMO's in the American market (not sure if EVE beats them or not). 

On the other hand, games like Age of Conan and Warhammer Online had atrocious launches and neither game ever truly recovered.  Yeah they had other problems as well, but the bad publicity and word of mouth that their poor launches generated certainly didn't help them.  Bioware gets this.  They know they have to knock this launch out of the ballpark.  That's why they crammed in one last beta test last weekend.  That's why they extended the early access by two days.  They understand they are about to have the biggest launch in MMO history in terms of the sheer number of players.  Estimates for pre-orders run anywhere from one million to three million, depending on who you ask.  Those numbers dwarf WoW at launch, or RIFT, or any other major MMO.  So with that much at stake, Bioware knows what they are up against.

Will all the preparation matter?  Will SW:TOR have the smoothest launch as well as the biggest?  As another old saying goes, "No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy."  We'll see how adaptable Bioware is when the first major wrench gets tossed into the works.

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