Our friends over at TOR Wars have a great wrap on a recent earnings call by Electronic Arts’ CFO, Eric Brown, where he talked release dates for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Essentially Brown regurgitated the line taken for months by Bioware: a 2011 release. He also, as he should in an earnings call with an investor focus, canvassed the possibility of delays.
As expected, the reaction from the pre-launch SWTOR community has been varied and relatively lively, to the point that Bioware’s Stephen Reid posted a detailed response:
Let’s try and get one thing very clear:
Investor calls and conferences are for investors. They are not meant for the general public.
While I understand the desire to get any piece of information possible about The Old Republic from whatever source you can, that does not mean that every time an investor call (or conference) happens, you should expect to glean meaningful information from that. The primary audience for these statements is people who are invested in, or are planning to invest in, EA as a company. While some of you may indeed be investors, if you are, you’d probably know not to panic when you hear said statements.
Let’s break down a couple of those statements from Eric Brown, from the latest conference:
“In terms of timing, again, we haven’t given a street date yet. We won’t do so for some time, possibly at our next upcoming earnings call towards the end of October.”
Indeed, we have not given a street date (AKA launch date) for The Old Republic. While some of you have suggested that we ‘promised’ a launch date announcement before that time, in fact what Eric Brown said was that a date could be announced in September or October.
It’s important to also note the word ‘possibly’ was used in Eric’s statement above. Just as he didn’t promise that you would get a release date announcement in September, he isn’t promising a release date before the next earnings call. It could happen, but it’s not a promise.
Let’s look at this second statement:
“…we did hold out a slight possibility that it could slip to our March quarter. And the factors that would cause a slip is, for example, us not being completely satisfied with the scalability testing, and wanting to tune it for several extra weeks.”
There is absolutely no change to our previous messaging with this statement. We are in active and extensive testing for The Old Republic. We’re aiming to release the game in the holiday 2011 window (or, before the end of the year, to speak in non-American for a minute).
However, as with any large and complex game project, there’s always the possibility of slippage. Always. That is why we have always said we’re aiming for that window, because it’s possible that unforeseen issues may push the date. Eric Brown is doing what he’s paid to do – letting investors know that the possibility exists. A possibility doesn’t mean a certainty.
Despite what doom-sayers may try and tell you, we are still very much aiming to ship in the holiday 2011 window (AKA, before the end of the year). We’re pushing out a major new build, we’re getting in our external testers to look at it soon, and then we’ll re-start our Game Testing Weekends.
Are there risks? Yeah, that goes with game development. Do we think we’re getting much, much closer? Yes we do. And when we feel confident about an exact date, you’ll get one. Rest assured.
Until then, try not to assume the sky is falling every time an investor asks a question and our CFO does his job, which is to let them know about every possibility.
EDIT: Including entire transcript of the relevant statements. Emphasis mine:
“In terms of timing, again, we haven’t given a street date yet. We won’t do so for some time, possibly at our next upcoming earnings call towards the end of October. We’re in beta testing mode. We’re expanding the scalability of the testing. It’s not about working to complete content. We feel very good about the content. That’s ready to go. It’s about tuning the game to make sure, for example, we can get the level of concurrent users per server cluster that we want. That the response time is what people would expect. So the factor, just to reiterate what we said last earnings call about timing, we expect to ship Star Wars by the end of this calendar year.
But we did hold out a slight possibility that it could slip to our March quarter. And the factors that would cause a slip is, for example, us not being completely satisfied with the scalability testing, and wanting to tune it for several extra weeks. So what’s important to us here is not Month One, Month Two, but this is going to be a multi-year, consider it a ten year journey, an investment in an MMO. And if we get it right in terms of scalability, the response time, the first people that enter the product will be key influencers. We want those key influencers to have a great experience because that will help in a viral fashion to spin up demand. “
So the upshot of all this? It’s situation normal – nothing has changed. It’s probably why I’ll never be a community manager: I’d not be able to keep my calm on stuff like this. Everyone obviously wants the game sooner rather than later, but either way things are down to a small number of months either way.
For me, the urgency around release date totally dissipated when I saw that the game has turned into a well fleshed out beast. I’m happy to wait a little longer for that flesh to mature and develop some more muscle. Aren’t you?
Image courtesy of: The Daily Mail (Richard Austin)