The Star Wars MMO, The Old Republic, launched in 2011 behind much anticipation. The game couldn’t sustain its paying player population, however, and EA dropped the mandatory subscription in favor of a free-to-play model just 11 months after release. Developer BioWare continues to support the game years after release with its new hybrid business model spread between subscriptions and a microtransaction-supported free-to-play option, and it seems that’s working out.
Publisher Elctronic Arts announced on an earnings call that The Old Republic is now closing in on $1 billion in lifetime revenue. “Believe it or not, we are close to $1 billion on Star Wars: The Old Republic revenue from the start of its history,” EA CFO Blake Jorgensen said. “So it’s a business that just keeps on going. We like those types of businesses.”
$1 billion is a lot of money, but the game itself was a massive, expensive production. According to a 2012 report, EA spent $200 million to produce the game. The report claims 800 staffers on four continents worked for six years to bring game to market.
For further context, Blizzard’s genre-defining MMO, World of Warcraft, reportedly brought in $1 billion per year during its heyday. Unlike many other MMOs, World of Warcraft continues to be a subscription-based MMO with no true free-to-play option.
The Old Republic’s latest expansion, Onslaught, arrived on October 22. It is the game’s seventh expansion, following Rise of the Hutt Cartel (2013), Galactic Starfighter (2014), Galactic Strongholds (2014), Shadow Revan (2014), Knights of the Fallen Empire (2015), and Knights of the Eternal Throne (2016).
The next Star Wars game is Jedi Fallen Order, which was developed by Apex Legends studio Respawn. As for BioWare, the studio is working on Dragon Age 4 and other unannounced projects.