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Old Jedi Mind Tricks? LucasArts, BioWare Hint at 'Star Wars' MMORPG

By Walaika Haskins
Oct 31, 2007 3:36 PM PT

"Star Wars" fans got a lot to think about following the announcement Tuesday from LucasArts and BioWare that the two companies have teamed up on what they call an "interactive entertainment" product.

Old Jedi Mind Tricks? LucasArts, BioWare Hint at 'Star Wars' MMORPG

"LucasArts has a deep commitment to developing compelling stories and characters for the unique medium of interactive entertainment, and we have been searching for a developer that shares this value. We found this in BioWare," said Jim Ward, president of LucasArts.

The project, few details of which where divulged, will be the second collaboration between the two. In 2003, a BioWare and LucasArts partnership resulted in the release of "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" ("KOTOR"). BioWare's Odyssey Engine, developed for "KOTOR" was also used for the second version, "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords," released in 2004.

"Through our previous collaborations, we know that BioWare has an impressive ability to blend gripping stories with technological advancements, and we believe that our upcoming product will deliver an experience that will span the traditional boundaries of video game entertainment," Ward continued.

'KOTOR' MMORPG?

Details in the release were kept to a minimum, but the game collaborators did say the product "will push the boundaries of the gaming market by utilizing the strengths of both companies to deliver an innovative, high-quality experience."

The release promises more information "at a later date," but that has only served to fuel the rumor mill in the gaming blogosphere. General consensus from gaming pundits is that the deal strongly points to the creation of a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that takes gamers into the "Star Wars" universe.

LucasArts brings its overall focus on reality and creating very beautiful games with its visual expertise, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. BioWare, meanwhile, tells great stories and can take a good idea and weave it into something that is compelling and powerful.

"In the combination of the two, you get beauty and the power of the story," he noted. "[LucasArts has 'Star Wars'], and clearly this is tied to that."

"BioWare made the "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" games; both were RPGs," Michael Pachter, a Wedbush Morgan analyst, told TechNewsWorld. "BioWare is working on an MMORPG -- not yet announced -- according to Electronic Arts (EA)," said Michael Pachter.

As BioWare will soon join Pandemic under the EA umbrella, a move that cost EA US$860 million, bets are fairly good that the software publisher knows of what it speaks.

"Putting two and two together, it's likely that BioWare is working on 'SWKOTOR' as an MMORPG," Pachter said.

Strong Competitor

LucasArts could barely be blamed for thinking a Star Wars MMORPG might be a good idea, judging the massive success of "World of Warcraft" (WoW) and its sequel "The Burning Crusade," not to mention the legions of "Star Wars" fans worldwide.

"The idea that they might do a massively multiplayer online game is probably a good one," Enderle continued. "With 'World of Warcraft' remaining dominant even in the face of properties using 'Lord of the Rings' and others, there is an opportunity to at least create something that is as compelling using the capabilities of both firms a combination of stories, visual effects and the 'Star Wars' franchise."

Since its debut in 2004, WoW has attracted more than 9 million gamers to its online universe, according to Blizzard Entertainment. A "Star Wars" MMO will not come close to those numbers, Pachter told TechNewsWorld, but it will still do well.

"No MMORPG will rival WoW in terms of popularity," he stated. "Two million subscribers would be a humongous win, or less than 25 percent of WoW's number."


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