In the span of its life, Star Wars: The Old Republic has gone through the sort of rollercoaster ride that game publisher investment boards have nightmares about–it was hyped to hell, naysayed by a louse, launched, bombed, went free-to-play and rose up from the smoking crater, ignoring the beating drums of doom and failure catcalls. Hell, it’s even been granted life to the tune of a decade.
How is this all possible? Because Electronic Arts.
We have been taught pretty much since we were able to grasp fiction that large corporations are to be mistrusted and feared. We have been hardwired to immediately assume the worst of the biggest. A lot of the time, this concern can be founded, and supporting smaller firms are always a good check to maintain balance. But I’m also not so conceited that I feel every large mega-glomerate is a shadow organization, as much as we would all apparently love to live in the Shadowrun universe.
Perhaps my viewpoint is skewed here. I work for large casinos. Have been for most of my working life. I worked in a location which saw Hurricane Irene as an opportunity to have a sale on overnight stays and I didn’t bat an eye or lose a second of sleep over it. The truth is, the large companies exist because they continue to be fed regardless of cynicism.
So it is with Electronic Arts and SWTOR. The fact that the game fell far below expectations but still remained under the company umbrella speaks precisely to how a large company can be beneficial. They allowed the developers time to dust off and recover. That’s something no small firm could hope to do, and illustrates the axiom of how size matters.
While TOR continues to have one of the most predatory subscription models in MMO existence, it still can manage to make it worthwhile. Everyone raised hell about having to pay for extra hotbars, and rightfully so. Nobody right now is raising hell about the fact that the Knights of the Fallen Empire content is sub-only. In fact, people are so enamored with the expansion’s content and its story that the sub cost doesn’t even enter the conversation. That’s in spite of the Evil Empire idea. It directly speaks to what I’ve said several times: people will pay for fun.
Even though TOR is the only Star Wars MMO in the sea, it’s by no means the only fish. Comparably, EA and TOR are minnows when put against the giants of the industry like ActiBlizz. These large companies are still fighting for market share regardless of their size. They still have to compete, and competition–even among large companies–is still going to be of benefit to consumers.
They also are learning that complacency will kill you no matter how big you are. Blizzard has been more than content to release major new stuff on a pretty much annual basis, if that. It could be argued that Final Fantasy XIV’s content cadence and quality level, all while running a subscription model, has pinged on WoW’s radar. As their own numbers fall, they have been made to understand that people will maintain subs for content. With the coming of Legion and its hard charge, it’s very obvious that they knew they had to do something. They were not able to rest on their laurels. TOR is doing the same sort of thing, with Fallen Empire content arriving in chapters. Regular content for regular players equals regular cash flow. A lesson that any MMO company can learn no matter its size.
Ultimately, I think people simply wanna see the big guys go down because of that intrinsic fear I mentioned above. The assumption that the high-rise of their building has gotten so insurmountable that they forgot their foundation. Thing is, though, that can’t be the case. They got where they got because they did the right things while at the ground level of everybody else. Electronic Arts wasn’t always a monolith. It started life at around the same time as Interplay Interactive did. It just made smarter business decisions. Of the two, one rose up to become what it is now, while another had to go through bankruptcy matters and Kickstarter for its next release. It’s just the nature of the beast.
As ever, I’m not advocating that people simply roll over and take whatever is handed to them, nor am I being an apologist for large companies. As consumers, we still hold sway over how these big boys operate, no matter how many high-LAR-ious comparisons are made between EA and the Dark Side. My point here is that there are some times where the big company knows what it is doing. You offer rooms at discount after a hurricane because the need is there. You offer a Star Wars story experience because that’s what people bought in for in the first place. You announce a huge new expansion with gobs of content because other games nearby are beating you to the punch, both literally and perceptually.
Besides, who cares who released what or published what if you’re having fun? TOR is a game that a great many find enjoyment in. Who the hell cares if it was published by EA? Why should it matter to your gaming existence? Because guess what–it doesn’t. There are other options out there if TOR or EA isn’t your thing…and nobody’s righteous rage is going to burn down that tower, no matter how desperately some people want that.