The video game "Star Wars: The Old Republic" is estimated to have cost Electronic Arts somewhere between $100 and $300 million to make. To put it into perspective Avatar, released in 2009 and one of Hollywood's most expensive movies, cost $237 million to make. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, released in 1977, had a budget of $11 million.
So as "Star Wars: The Old Republic" went on sale today, there's been lots of buzz about what's at stake for EA. Reuters reports that the game is something different for the video game company:
"'Star Wars: The Old Republic' is different from other recent high-profile releases by EA such as 'Battlefield 3' in that it is a massive multiplayer player online game, or MMO, that allows thousands of people to play simultaneously for a monthly subscription fee as opposed to a one-time purchase.
"Gamers will pay $60 up front and then about $15 a month for 'Star Wars: The Old Republic,' reflecting a move by the video game industry to evolve into a cable television business model. Companies like EA are trying to create a steady and predictable revenue stream from subscribers as opposed to a current Hollywood-like business model where games can be one-time blockbuster events.
"Despite the film franchise's commercial pedigree, however, the game is no slam dunk. The success of MMO games is hard to predict and early reviews by critics may not gauge its success since it can take months to test the hundreds of hours of playing time."
That said, there is also lot of talk that the Star Wars game could be the heir to the "World of Warcraft" (WoW) throne. But, Daniel Kaszor of Canada's Finacial Post warns that it could be years before we find out if the game was worth the investment.
But looking beyond the financial part of it, EA insists that The Old Republic is breaking new ground. The BBC spoke to John Walker, a video game expert:
"Mr Walker said visually the game resembled a smartened up WoW and borrowed many of the well-known mechanics from that and other online role-playing games.
"'However, and crucially, there is this huge amount of story in there, with every line of dialogue recorded, and genuine moral choices to be made, with long-reaching consequences on how you experience the world,' he told the BBC.
"'WoW has never offered anything close to that,' he said. 'And playing dark side, you can do some horrible things, which is fantastic.'"
The AP ran a story today that focuses on the voice recordings. "With more than 320 actors portraying more than 4,000 characters with 260,000 lines of dialogue, BioWare's "The Old Republic" is poised to feature more voice acting than any other massively multiplayer online game in the galaxy," the AP reports.
Oh, and if you're wondering, The Old Republic is based 3,500 years before the time period depicted in the Star Wars films. We'll leave you with a trailer for the video game that the Financial Post says was made by "Blur Studio that has a going rate rumored to be around $1-million per-minute of completed footage."