BigPoint CEO Doubts SW: The Old Republic “will be profitable. Ever.”
During the London Games Conference keynote as reported by industry news site GamesIndustry.biz, Heiko Hubertz, CEO of casual game maker BigPoint offered his opinions on why the traditional MMO subscription model–and particularly EA/Bioware’s anticipated Star Wars: The Old Republic–aren’t going to be profitable.
Hubertz core argument is that games with large development budgets, like the assumed $100 million plus EA has spent on Star Wars: The Old Republic, can’t make a profit using the traditional MMO subscription model.
“If you look at a game like Star Wars from EA and BioWare, they estimated a development budget of more than $100 million. This is an online game for many million of subscribers, so a big publisher does not understand that a subscription model is not the future.
“With micro-transactions and longer lifetime maybe I see a chance for this game but I don’t think that EA or BioWare will be profitable with this game. Ever.”
Hubertz claims that the traditional development model aimed at one platform or approach is not broad enough to return the company’s investment in development. He declares that the future of profitable online games is in diverse platforms and markets.
This isn’t the first time someone has come forward claiming doom and gloom for Star Wars: The Old Republic, but Hubertz is at least not spreading gossip as a bad sport. While the full text of GI.biz’s interview with Hubertz is not yet available, it is not clear what the developer sees as the right path other than diversification of format or device.
It is also not clear he is comparing apples to apples in his statement about the traditional subscription model or even supporting the micro transaction based free-to-play approach as an alternative.
This comment appears premature in any case as EA/Bioware has not revealed its funding plans for the upcoming Star Wars MMO. Retail games also include the up-front returns due to sales that traditional free-to-play web games don’t get. Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online are seeing assumed renewed profitability, despite no platform expansions, though both games use a hybrid subscription and micro transaction approach.
Without understanding the exact impact of either business model on new or existing games it is hard to accept Hubertz’s assertions. BigPoint itself is focused on free-to-play flash/browser-based casual games, and uses micro transactions to make money for developers it hosts in its network. Is the move away from subscriptions really the solution for online games, or is Hubertz making a generalized statement without all the facts, and picking on EA/Bioware to grab attention?