SWTOR in Australia and NZ: delay rumours (updated)

As we’ve discussed quite a bit, the speculation on Star Wars: The Old Republic‘s release date continues to increase in intensity. In that respect it’s been a very interesting recent few days, all thanks to one tweet. It came from Good Game co-host Hex:

Within an hour or so of that the enquiries started coming in to TOROZ, asking if it was true. Hex did tweet two more pieces of info – the first in reponse to a thread on the SWTOR forums discussing her original tweet:

and then:

After the initial tweet, TOROZ contacted David Bass at Bioware to get some clarification, with David responding that Bioware don’t comment on rumours and that “launch regions” haven’t been announced yet. We’ve sought clarification on the launch regions aspect but haven’t received a response to that as yet (and given it’s the weekend it’s not fair to expect one either).

So what does this all mean? Not a lot that can be verified really. There’s really a number of combinations, and one of them will be likely be the reality:

Worst case: delayed oceanic release with lockdown on game purchases and server access

I just can’t see this happening as it would be an overt indication of contempt for oceanic players. It makes no business sense and would create a whole lot of bad feeling that’s not required. I’d be gobsmacked if this came to pass. The truly dedicated could potentially work around it by using a US credit card and a proxy service for playing, but it’d be a mighty pain on a day-to-day basis.

Next worst case: delayed oceanic release with ability to buy from the US

Although this to would garner (rightfully) some significant backlash, it would be partially offset by the ability to purchase online from the US. There’d be complaints around lag and it would still be seen as a bad start for the region, but at least there’d be some access.

Bearable case: short delay then full access

This would arise whereby Bioware, for infrastructure / load balancing issues announce a staggered release schedule with oceanic areas able to access the game a month or two after launch. There would still be plenty of frustration but it wouldn’t be the PR disaster the two worse options would create.

Rightful case: simultaneous worldwide launch

This is what most people have assumed would be the reality until it has been called into question over recent days. This approach provides a smoother start to proceedings and although the potential for lag issues / server queues are increased, even that can garner some good PR from the viewpoint that the game is popular. As much as I still hope this is the planned approach, the fact that launch regions are even being mentioned places some doubt on it.

Best case: Oceanic launches first

I had to put this in as an option even though I’d argue it’s as silly as the worst case option.

The Sum Up

I tend to take the view that the tweets that have caused the debate are at least partially misinformed. If an Electronic Arts PR rep from Australia is the source, then I tend to assume they’re not really in the know. If the information is correct and Bioware have been caught on the hop, it’s a fairly stark illumination of how the EA / Bioware relationship works.

I think a simultaneous release is still on the cards but I don’t think it’s guaranteed by any stretch. There’s been nothing to date to suggest Oceanic areas have been given a great deal of thought in context of the large European and US markets. It’s a flawed strategy though: World of Warcraft is partially where it is today through it’s support of a worldwide audience. Bioware is already behind the eight-ball in that with its PC-only approach. Geographic segregation would be a further retrograde step, but it’s not something set in stone. Three tweets do not a company policy make.

You can discuss it more in the comments here, on our forums or on the SWTOR forum thread (which has now been closed with no response from Bioware except to say there’s an Aussie Guild listing thread already – a furphy of a rationale IMO).

Over to you: are you angry, bemused or indifferent?

UPDATE: Jason Wood James Dominguez over at The Age has also made a mention of a potential delay:

The bad news is that the Australian release looks like it will be pushed back, but I’ll get more news from EA when they know more.

James also alludes to EA PR being the source of the information. It’s now just a matter of whether the EA PR contact is on the money. A big thanks to Cameron for the heads-up.