EA BioWare Cancels Christmas, New Year…

… for its employees working on Star Wars: The Old Republic anyway.

Scrooge, but not of the McDuck Clan

"Thanks to all SWTOR developers for making it to this meeting. We're now going to turn over to our social coordinator Ebeneezer who will tell you about our exciting holiday plans for you all."

With the announcement that SWOR is launching December 20 (US) / December 22 (EU), EA BioWare have basically put the SWOR team (and related infrastructure teams) on the crunch to launch on pretty much the last possible date of this year. But MMOs only really start on launch day, so the entire team will be working feverishly to keep the servers up and running, as well as dealing with other player issues, right through Xmas Day and the New Year period.

SWOR is too big to fail, so it will be all hands on deck. Those grunt-level devs with families can always tell their kids “Merry Xmas!” via Skype, and it’s a good thing the Irish don’t celebrate Xmas that much.

Why So Late?

It’s all supposition, but its likely the interplay of a number of factors that sees SWOR launched just days before Xmas:

  • It means that SWOR launches in 2011, which EA BioWare has stated before as their preference.
  • Xmas to New Year is typically a very socially focused time for most people, leaving less time to play SWOR and thus overload the servers. Yes, people are on holiday, but they are on holiday to spend time with family, not play video games. Mostly.
  • People have their wallets out for Xmas already. (An obvious one, but best to put it in.)
  • Diablo 3’s launch has been pushed back to early 2012, opening up the end of 2011 as a space for SWOR to launch.
  • The timing of this launch makes SWOR review-proof. Video game sites will pack their pages with pre-launch stories – all glowing and positive so that they’ll get invited back to EA’s next important launch – but there’s no time to play SWOR at launch AND write a credible, critical review of it. If players want the game at launch, they will decide to purchase or not based on game hype because those reviews won’t come out until it may be too late to buy the game.
  • Speaking of purchasing… the launch date works to push people to buy SWOR through EA’s Origin download service over brick-and-mortar stores. With word of pre-order sellouts and restricted copy numbers, if you want to be able to play SWOR at launch  then it is better to order from the online store that will be up 24/7 (theoretically) over that time period than from the store that will sell out of physical copies and then close for a couple of days.
  • It’ll be a very nice bump for the end of EA’s 2011 revenue stream, which will then flow into the start of 2012.

As an interesting post-script: it was less than a week before this launch announcement that Eric Brown, EA’s Chief Financial Officer, was making the comment that “we haven’t given a street date [for SWOR’s launch] yet [and] we won’t do so for some time, possibly at our next upcoming earnings call towards the end of October”. Was Brown completely left out of the loop about SWOR’s launch date? Was it only decided that week? Because if he knew, it would have been easy to say “we haven’t given a street date yet and are still considering the optimal launch window” or something as vague as that, not “we’ll talk about it again in October”.

SWOR is EA’s biggest, most important project right now. It would be an interesting insight into EA’s politics if their CFO isn’t being kept aware of what is happening with this title.

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