The Business Case for BioWare’s Ops Announcement

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I’ve been very passionate and engaged in the reaction to Thursday’s announcements from BioWare regarding the future of Operations in Star Wars: The Old Republic. I was very unhappy with the announcement, mostly out of fear for the game’s health if people stop playing. I’m actually interested in the adjusted old Ops content because I’ve only raided in the current tier personally, but if my raid team dissolves who is going to run it with me? I’ve voiced a lot of these frustrations and fears on Twitter, but I’ve come to a more optimistic and rational mindset that I thought I’d share!

I came to this realization late Thursday night as I pondered why BioWare would make this decision to go over 12 months (again) without new Operations content. Of all things, an advertisement gave me the answer: Star Wars Battlefront. The game shares a parent company and intellectual property (IP) with Star Wars: The Old Republic. Based on the people I’ve talked to since E3, there seems to be a high percentage of SWTOR players that intend to play Star Wars Battlefront, so it makes sense for EA to implement a business plan to maximize revenues from the two games combined. The strengths and weaknesses of the games even seem to complement each other well. Star Wars Battlefront has minimal single-player appeal but offers beautiful, expansive multiplayer. Star Wars: The Old Republic on the other hand struggles most with satisfying players of group content, while offering the BioWare story that is touted so frequently as its best asset.

It does not make sense for EA to fund the development of two Star Wars games’ content that target the same type of player. The crossover rate just seems too high to ignore and EA would be able to quantify that even better based on player info required to subscribe or pre-order these games. The BioWare announcement makes sense if EA saw this coming and knew that a Star Wars Battlefront release would almost certainly pull away a meaningful amount of gaming hours from the raiding teams in Star Wars: The Old Republic, so it would be wasting development money to release a new Operation on October 27th with only 4-5 weeks before its other game cannibalizes play time from that content.

This is an integral part of EA’s business model, so it’s not a stretch to think they’d manage their Star Wars games this way. Their management team has decades of experience pacing sports game release dates, a great example is their timing of NCAA Football and Madden release dates each year. Both games feature American football and both college and professional seasons begin within a week of each other. But in 2014 the sports titles were released nearly two months apart. The business case is the same now. The crossover rate doesn’t have to be 100% to warrant this approach and it’s reasonable that this case also meets whatever that threshold is for EA.

This does not even take into account the level adjustment to make the existing Operations meaningful again by introducing a new gear progression based on revisiting content now scaled to level. As I said, this actually appeals to me because I have not completed most of these Operations, and definitely not at level. I know that many players have cleared them, but the response from my raiding team have been more positive than I expected, so my fears of mass exodus have lessened. If anything, the impetus is on us, the raiding community, to draw in more players. The best way to influence BioWare’s future decisions are to draw more players into Operations.

So where does that leave us? As someone who will probably play Star Wars Battlefront when it comes out, I’m look at new leveling content and refreshed old Operations in late October, followed by a new game full of multiplayer Star Wars battles in early December, then fresh progression content back in Star Wars: The Old Republic sometime in the first half of 2016 hopefully. That’s actually a content cycle that keeps me engaged in the Star Wars universe, just across two EA games. This was not what I wanted to see from BioWare for the expansion, but I can respect a rational business decision, even if I have to infer it rather than EA being open about it.

I’m less despondent than I was Thursday, but I’m still a little anxious. Until I see the new gear progression and the player retention success or failure I’ll still have lingering concerns on that level. At the end of the day, I’ve looked into the alternatives, but I love Star Wars and I don’t see better raiding options anywhere else right now for me. So I’ll be here playing and blogging for many months to come, but I’ll still push for “more” for this game I’m so passionate about because that’s important too.

It looks like I’ll be joining the guys on Ootinicast this week to discuss the announcement in that format, so tune in live on Wednesday at 4:30 PST or catch the podcast on iTunes or their website when it’s posted.

– Andrew | SWTOR Economics

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4 thoughts on “The Business Case for BioWare’s Ops Announcement

    • There are definitely, in fact it’s probably safe to say that most raiders will not play Battlefront. But from EA’s perspective it only needs to be a meaningful portion to matter. I’m also unsure how many raiders are left in SWTOR that will leave over this, because the more I think about it, I feel like that level of progression raider has already left. The old ops being brought up to level 65 is likely enough to keep the majority of current raiders involved for at least a few months. Even if progression raiders leave, there are a lot of more casual or semi-progression raid teams that will continue I’m sure.

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  1. I’m only 8/10 HardMode Rav/ToS, so I still have some progression left in the current tier. It’s taken me longer to get to this point than I like, primarily because it’s taken until the last 2 months to find 8 competent players to game with, the nights I want to raid (Mon-Thurs). Most of the harder core raiders are weekend players, and I don’t want to dedicate weekend nights to this game.

    That said, there is absolutely no appeal to me personally about this announcement of simply up-leveling all of the old Ops to lvl 65. I’ve done everything in the past at NiM level already. I’ve mostly done 3.0 at HM. I don’t need any more of the old stuff. From a progression stand point, it would also seem as though we could gear out all of our toons in far less time, if the old loot tables are simply updated with the new tier. Meaning that from a progression standpoint, there might be 1 more month of effort needed after 4.0 launches, and then not only is everything on farm, but every main and even an alt is 100% geared. So before Thanksgiving, I’ll be beyond bored, and being asked to wait until at least March before BioWare publishes anything new to do…and then what I’m currently being told I will get, is a couple of more hours of story.

    I believe BioWare has made a crucial business decision mistake, in their effort to cash in on The Force Awakens, by alienating some of their most hardcore player base. It may indeed pay off, if they cash in on new players that barely played, or never played the game prior to 4.0, or even 3.0. But for those of us that are Founders, this is a direction that makes little sense to support.

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    • I’m hard pressed to find fault in any of that. Founders that enjoy progression ops definitely seem to be the “odd man out” in the plan.

      On a lighter note, my short experience in progression ops has been similar. My availability is essentially identical and has been a major impediment.

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