SWTOR, Diablo 3, launch dates, and the pressure of the first wave

So the battle lines are drawn and SWTOR has a launch date announced just before Xmas. This smacks to me of a management imperative to get the thing out of the door in Q4 2011, in the same way that sales departments tend to get hyperactive at the end of a sales quarter with regard to targets.

So no,  in answer to Stabs comment yesterday, I don’t think this date was devised purely in response to Blizzard’s delay on Diablo 3. I also think that D3 probably won’t be released in January 2012 – if it was that close to the beginning of the year they’d have put more people in crunch mode to get it out before Xmas also.

Also props to Stephen Reid, the SWTOR community manager is, via reference to his twitter account just after the announcement:

Rockjaw Stephen Reid

If you don’t mind I’m just going to talk about the release date ‘thing’ for a couple of tweets…

Rockjaw Stephen Reid

It feels weird it’s out there, but great. Now it’s real for all of us in Austin. Working on MMOs pre-launch is cool but launch is amazing.

Rockjaw Stephen Reid

I just want to say thank you to everyone who kept the faith and have waited patiently… you’re all awesome fans.

Rockjaw Stephen Reid

And to those who lost faith and couldn’t be patient… well, I hope you’re happy with the date too. 🙂

Rockjaw Stephen Reid

Last: been an incredible ride for me personally so far. The best is yet to come though! G’night and dream of #SWTOR + #TOR2011

So, question is, will more people buy and play SWTOR because of this release date than if they had delayed? It’s a balance – I suspect yes because of the pre-holiday date. Everyone with a pre-order will get some manner of early access before the street date anyway so the game will effectively be in full swing by the time it is released.

As to whether it’s wise to play any MMO on release, the answer is that ‘it depends’. It depends if people are bothered about possibly bugs and teething troubles, it depends how badly people want to be in the first wave of players, or if they are desperate to raid/ endgame in a hardcore group, it depends if they have spare time at release and this is how they want to spend it.

I think one of the legacies of WoW and its hardcore raiding fixed size raid model is that players who do fancy themselves as hardcore are now obsessed by powering through the levelling game as fast as possible. This is because the more hardcore raids tend to form up from the first players to endgame. It’s not as rigid a rule as some players seem to think because raids form and disband all of the time, but yes, if you’re in a really competitive group these things can be important. I think though that players who want to appreciate SWTOR for its strengths (story) will not want to rush.

Diablo 3 is likely to be another kettle of fish. Anyone who wants to make bank on the AH in that game will want to level as quickly as possible (so that they can sell high level drops to lower level players), and the chances are that Blizzard has had enough experience with battle.net to keep the thing up through the initial rush.

But more casual players (eg. me) could easily delay playing D3 until they have a gap in their gaming schedule. As a single player(ish) game, there aren’t the social issues with being behind that you can get in an MMO.

12 thoughts on “SWTOR, Diablo 3, launch dates, and the pressure of the first wave

  1. “..whether it’s wise to play any MMO on release..”

    I say yes. Simply because all the things that go wrong at release (those bugs and teething troubles).. well, they’re ephemeral. Worst that can happen? You put the game aside until they’re sorted. But the experience of being in on the ground floor, day one, playing when the game is fresh and new to everyone, that’s an experience that you’ll never get a crack at if you don’t take a chance at release time.

    Having said that, I couldn’t be less interested in SW:TOR. But if I was, you bet I’d be in there on release day.

  2. I’m still non-committal on D3, while I loved its predecessor the fact I need a permament net connection on a single player game irks me. I didn’t buy SC2 because they cut the LAN option out. TOR however, I’ll be there day one, as long as we don’t have another AoC style launch I think it’ll all be fine though.

  3. Its also interesting to note that that “other star wars mmo” is shutting its servers down for good on December 15th, exactly a week ahead of TOR’s release. Coincidence? Probably, but an interesting one.

  4. I truly dislike the get-it-out-the-door-to-make-our-numbers mode that sales teams and management puts on software teams. I used to work for a software development company (not in the gaming industry), and I’ve seen way too many releases go gold before they were ready.

    Sometimes a software team can pull it off and keep the worst bugs at bay, and sometimes not. This, however, is a game of russian roulette I’d not want to play, so I’d rather wait for a few months after release before I’d want to try TOR.

  5. I think we have to assume that SWTOR will be ready. I mean they can’t spend $200m and then do a Conan, it’s simply too ludicrous.

    I think you’re right about D3 being a game that a lot of people will feel they can leave. It’s not a MMO, you only ever play with 3 other people, there will be unlimited lowbies for the foreseeable future so there’s no risk of being left so far behind you’ve got no one to play with. But that’s the rational outlook and people aren’t always rational. If people are excited about D3 they will get sucked in.

    So how much will D3 influence Tor’s numbers? I think a lot. People have argued that MMO fans aren’t looking for an ARPG. That misses the point. Most NA and EU MMO fans are or have been WoW players and they are very much Blizzard fans. I think also that Tor’s strength is in the level up game which people will have enough of quite quickly.

    I still think ToR will sell a ton of boxes, and probably a few one month subs but then when D3 comes out will be hit very hard. I think the numbers they have been quoted as “expecting” are not realistic unless the game is a lot better than it seems.

  6. I am still unsure of how much I will enjoy SWTOR, but I’ll be there for the early release and first week. (I happen to be blessed with 10 days off over the holidays and very little family to visit with, so it’s just about perfect for me!)

    Although I tend to shake out as a more hardcore player after a while, I like playing MMOs during their launch just for the ambiance. Everything is new, everyone is happy, everything is exciting and weird! I take my time leveling, but love the feel of the community in a brand new game.

  7. I will definitely get SWTOR and early on. I remember the European WoW launch, and the Rift launch. That level of excitement and activity you won’t find at any other time.

    I definitely want to take my time leveling though, and I am not sure I will ever commit to another MMO the way I used to commit to WoW.

  8. The thing is, historically? There’s always been a good reason to be in the initial rush. Because being behind that initial but before the first wave of alts is a pretty horrible experience on the whole. Just wandering around endless dead zones, any quest or dungeon or whatever that requires more than one person just out of your reach. It’s not so much a function of the hardcore as it is wanting to avoid a potentially fun game coming off as pretty crappy.

  9. I am still unsure of how much I will enjoy SWTOR, but I’ll be there for the early release and first week. (I happen to be blessed with 10 days off over the holidays and very little family to visit with, so it’s just about perfect for me!)

    Diablo 3 skills

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s