Electronic Arts is not only gunning for the shooter category, but the publisher is also taking on its closest rival in the MMO space. EA CEO John Riccitiello has already made it quite clear that he believes BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO will take a “big chunk” away from World of Warcraft.Now EA Games boss Frank Gibeau explained to IndustryGamers why Old Republic can successfully challenge WoW‘s dominance.
One of Gibeau’s arguments is that WoW simply is old hat at this point and that the appeal of Star Wars is nigh universal. “It’s a big bet for my label and for EA. You couldn’t think of a better combination of elements.
The Star Wars IP, which is the largest IP in the world in terms of audience size – it’s very high – and the BioWare quality and their development, putting the two together in a massive multiplayer way.
It’s on a first statement to customers, off the charts in kind of appeal. World of Warcraft is the big competitor out there, but they launched six years ago, and they’ve built a tremendous service. I’ve spent a lot of time playing that game; I love it. I love Blizzard products, but they’re not the entire market. There is an opportunity to come in with a new IP,” he said.
Gibeau fully acknowledges that EA took “lessons” from WoW, but he also notes that the BioWare story and the lure of the Star Wars universe will be a big draw for many.
“It’s a sci-fi IP, it’s Jedis and Sith, you own your starship, you go to planets, you have the Force; it’s very different than orcs and humans and night elves and the rest. On the first level, the IPs are highly different, the gameplay highly differentiated, and the stories highly differentiated.
There are things that they do that are spectacular, and that we’ve taken lessons from. They will feel familiar to players. You’re going to come into a Star Wars environment in a Star Wars IP, a Star Warsadventure. You’re going to be coming into a BioWare story. It’s the first time an MMO has actually had a story,” he continued.
Perhaps the biggest differentiator, Gibeau said, is that WoW seems to be more about rote quests while BioWare’s title really aims to connect you to characters in the world.
“When I play World of Warcraft, you go and get your quests, and you go and do your quests, but it feels more like doing a shopping list at times,” Gibeau explained. “[Our game] is more about talking to characters, learning what’s going on, investing in it, getting emotionally attached to it. You can still go in accessible ways and grind out quests if you want, but at the same time there’s a higher-level story that’s carrying you through The Old Republic. It operates across multiple classes from Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitors, bounty hunters, spies, troopers, to Jedis… it’s a really fantastic world.
“On multiple levels we’re highly differentiated and different from World of Warcraft. We’re not being slavish or imitating them at all. We’re doing our own thing. We’re doing our own unique way. BioWare and Blizzard have been around for almost the same period of time. They’ve built incredible audiences. They have their own unique cultures, and they do things very differently. They’re both very successful RPG developers.”
Gibeau also added that the MMO approach really fits into EA’s larger strategy of becoming an online services company and focusing on digital and the relationship with the player. “One of the things that we’re doing at EA, specifically in my division, is we’re trying to become a fully digital, fully online organisation.
We will use retail to distribute product, but frankly we want to connect with people in an online way, because that’s the way they’re playing games. An MMO bet is a logical thing to do for us. Yes, it’s late, and it’s expensive, but these are tough games, and you’ve got to get them right. You don’t want to ship the game prematurely. It has to be BioWare quality; it will be,” he stated.
He concluded, “Alongside the MMO bet, we’re also doing big bets in free-to-play, we’re also building our HD console games, and we’re also looking into the mobile smartphones and tablets. When you look at the intellectual properties like Dead Space and Mass Effect, and Dragon Age,Battlefield, Medal of honour, Need For Speed, you’re seeing those IP universes getting built across all these different devices. It’s starting to feel more interconnected than ever. You as a user will be able to experience these across multiple platforms in unique ways.”
Read more from our Gibeau interview in the following stories: