Archive for August 22, 2011

“Lambasting the SW:TOR Launch Strategy” or “Losing to the Hype”

August 22, 2011 13 comments

Syp’s rundown earlier of the inevitable juxtapositions between the two MMOs prompted this post, as well as a GameInformer story from a few days ago about how EA plans on limiting the number of copies at launch to save on server load.

Let is first start with the GameInformer story from the 18th of August, reported from GamesCom: “…EA revealed that they will be purposely limiting the number of copies available at launch, both for retail and digital.” lolwut? This makes little to no sense to me. When World of Warcraft launched, I remember going to Pyramid Mall in the town of Ithaca, upstate New York on launch day to pick up a copy from BestBuy. The store was sold out, so I left dejected, thinking I will revert to City of Heroes until I can score a copy. Before I took the bus back up to campus, I realized that there was a Target in the same mall, and I decided to go check it out. Lo and behold, some 20 odd copies of WoW were still sitting, completely untouched, on the store shelves. I bought a copy, went home, installed, updated, and loaded into the world as a Tauren Hunter named Xanthus.

Launch day was hell for WoW. The problem wasn’t server crashes (at least not in my case). The problem were the server queues and the fact that newbie starter areas were so overwhelmed with new players that it would take 10 times the amount of time to complete a normal kill quest, even in a full five-man-party. Blizzard responded astutely and rapidly by deploying and doubling the servers in record time, and within the first few days, the situation normalized.

The problem I have with this setup from EA is the same thing that happened to the starting areas in WoW. I fear that at launch, with copies limited and rabid fans clambering over one another to get into the severs (to reserve names, if nothing else), will result in a fairly terrible launch day experience for the players. The smarter thing would be to a) not limit copies, and appropriately respond with servers ready to be deployed at the last minute if the incoming horde clogs all of the intergalactic internet tubes, and b) limit the number of players that an log into a server to the optimal server load. Limiting copies at the start seems like a poor business and strategic decision. Oddly enough, the developers believe that limiting copies will actually ensure the best launch experience. It makes some sense I suppose, but the larger strategy still seems suspect.

Syp says, “I can’t imagine the fever pitch that it’s going to reach by the end of the year”. End of the year? Try now! It would be a challenge to spend an hour in my reader without some blog, news website or hype machine blowing up with the latest and greatest from the BioWare camp regarding Star Wars: The Old Republic. I didn’t think I would invest in it. I didn’t think cared enough to because early adoption sucks 9 times out of 10, and it turns out to be a lot better if you go in a few months down the line when things are more streamlined and the major bugs have been squashed. But maybe I am not strong enough. Maybe I am just not strong enough…