Star Wars: The Old Republic sells more than 1 million copies

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The Force, it seems, was with Electronic Arts Inc. this week when the company launched its most ambitious game ever, Star Wars: The Old Republic.

The Redwood City, Calif., game publisher said Friday that more than 1 million players have bought the game and jumped online to play since its release to a small group of customers Dec. 13 and to the wider public last Tuesday. Each player spent an average of five hours a day playing the game, according to EA.


So many players piled into the online game that the company’s computers at times became overloaded, with people complaining about long waits to be able to play. The game’s Twitter feed has been a stream of apologies to players who had technical problems or delays.

But people still logged 28 million hours in total playing time in the last 10 days, exploring the far, far away galaxy and creating avatars, including Sith lords and Jedi knights. (Sith lords, in case you’re curious, are slightly more popular among players, outnumbering their goody-two-shoes counterparts 550,000 to 510,000.)

Although the early signs are good, EA knows that if its colossal investment in the game is to pay off, it needs to keep longer-term goals in focus. Buyers have spent $60 to $140 for each copy of the game, but they have 30 days of free online access before they must decide whether it’s worth the $15 monthly subscription fee to continue playing.

In other words, no one playing Star Wars has yet sprung for the monthly subscription that makes this type of game -- dubbed massively multiplayer online games, or MMOs -- massively profitable.

In addition, EA has been deliberately throttling the number of copies of the game it sells, gradually doling out more to retailers, in order to minimize an onslaught on its computer servers that could cause more epic technical problems.

It could be months before the game’s performance can be adequately measured.

Still, EA said in a statement that it managed to pull off ‘the fastest-growing subscription MMO in the history of our industry.’

To which we offer the same advice Luke Skywalker and his fellow Y-Wing pilots received as they sought to blow up the Death Star: Stay on target.


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-- Alex Pham