You don’t need us to tell you that the value of the ‘Star Wars’ intellectual property is enormous. It would have been worth big money at any point in time, but the recent spate of brand new ‘Star Wars’ movies that have passed through the cinemas mean that it’s worth more money now than perhaps at any other point in history. That’s why Disney paid four billion dollars to buy Lucasfilm and the rights to ‘Star Wars’ along with it.
It wasn’t just the fans of the old films who were rubbing their hands together when that purchase deal went through, though. BioWare and Electronic Arts were just as excited as anybody else, and possibly even more so. They’d launched ‘Star Wars: The Old Republic’ in 2011, long before they had any inclination that Disney may want to get involved in the property. In the early days, things didn’t go well for them. Just one year after the game was launched, EA announced they were making the game free to play. There weren’t enough paying players to keep it going, and they were relying on microtransactions bought by ‘free’ players to fill the gap. It was a risky strategy, and it could easily have failed.
The move to making the game free to play brought more players in, but it would be foolish to suggest that the resurrection of the film franchise didn’t drive up player interest, too. It’s now been eight years since ‘The Old Republic’ was launched, and it continues to go from strength to strength. Content from the new films is even making its way into the games, extending the shelf life of the aging product even further. We have no idea how long it will ultimately go on for, but we suspect it will be a long time to come yet. There’s one very solid reason for that: EA has just confirmed that it’s passed the one billion dollar figure in terms of revenue.
Sit back and think about that for a moment. It’s an incredible amount for a game that years behind the times in terms of technology and design, and was close to being written off seven years ago. As a point of comparison, there was an official ‘Star Wars’ mobile game released last year. Mobile slots are released for one reason and one reason only: to make money. The ‘Star Wars’ game has made money for the mobile websites it’s been featured on, but it’s nowhere near reaching the one billion dollar mark. One billion dollars would be considered a good return on a new movie.
While EA and BioWare are proud of the game’s achievement, they’ll also be somewhat relieved. When the game appeared to be on the point of failure all those years ago, it risked more than being an embarrassing story for the companies – it would have represented a financial disaster. Although the figures have never been confirmed in detail, it’s generally thought that developing the game cost somewhere in the region of two hundred million dollars, with six years of work going into it before it was released. It’s not the most profitable MMO ever released – that honor still goes to ‘World of Warcraft’ and its astonishing one billion dollars per year in revenue during its heyday.
Given the consistently strong performance of the game, we can safely assume that there will be a further expansion back released next year. Players are still enjoying all of the new content that came with the most recent expansion pack, which is called ‘Onslaught,’ and went live in October last year. It does, however, make us wonder why it took EA and BioWare quite so long to come up with that expansion. Prior to its release, there hadn’t been any new material since the launch of ‘Knights of the Eternal Throne’ in 2015. Not everyone was happy with the prolonged wait for new things to get their teeth into, but the general reception to ‘Onslaught’ suggests that the majority feel that it was worth the wait.
The excellent financial returns from ‘The Old Republic’ also benefit Disney. Lucasfilm had a stake in the game when it was released, and that stake passed on to Disney when they bought the movie studio. Buoyed by the income from the movies, the merchandise, and the video games, the gigantic entertainment company has already recouped the enormous cost of their purchase. As we said earlier, it cost Disney $4bn to acquire Lucasfilm in 2015. By the end of 2018, they’d already made almost five billion dollars in return. With more films in the pipeline, they’ll likely have made a return of double their investment by 2025, if not before.
As for ‘Star Wars’ games, the next major release on the horizon will be ‘Jedi Fallen Order,’ which is a single-player game set five years after the events depicted in the film ‘Revenge of the Sith.’ As the game doesn’t contain any MMO elements, it may not be of great interest to the bulk of our website’s readers, but if you’re a ‘Star Wars’ fan, we imagine you’ll be eager to add it to your collection. You won’t have to wait long if so. The game is released on all platforms on November 15th. That means it will be out very close to the day you read this article. In fact, it may have been released already!
BioWare will also have something new to show us soon – although when that ‘soon’ might be depends on who you listen to. The company has released a trailer for the hotly-anticipated ‘Dragon Age 4,’ but fans are distrustful of release date rumors after a series of long delays. Optimists are hoping to see it within the first six months of next year. The naysayers are much less hopeful – they’ve been talking about the possibility that the game may not actually see the light of day until 2022! The game has officially been in development since 2015, and the company hasn’t been forthcoming with information. Given the length of time it took them to come up with ‘Star Wars: The Old Republic,’ that probably shouldn’t be considered a surprise.