Star Wars, in all its geeky glory, is a mainstream icon in our culture. All six movies are in the pantheon of the Top 100 Highest Grossing films (adjusted for inflation, of course), and virtually every media outlet is up to its ears in Star Wars-related merchandise and content. Whether they like to admit it or not, a massive amount of people out there have seen at least one of the Star Wars movies, making it one of the most influential and significant media franchises of our generation. Why is this information important, or even related, to Star Wars: The Old Republic? Well, it is influential to the recruitment of new players to the game. Allow me to elaborate after the jump.
As avid online gamers, we are all aware of the influence of the intellectual properties behind our favorite games. By now, the MMO industry is saturated with tales of Elves and Orcs or Outer Space. Fantasy and Science Fiction themes have become industry standby’s, used more often for their reliability rather than their distinctiveness. The unfortunate truth is that new and unique concepts find only mild success in such a voracious, competitive market, which leaves developers bottlenecked into using recycled themes that most gamers are familiar and comfortable with. This conundrum is what makes a game’s IP its primary asset, and thusly becomes one of its most important resources for drawing players in, and more significantly, keeping them around.
And thus begins my story of how I was able to take advantage of the Star Wars IP to draw some of my closest friends into the SWTOR universe, and convert them to true blue MMORPG fans. It is not a dramatic tale; there is no treachery, no manipulation, and no intrigue whatsoever. It is a basic example of how the appeal of wielding a virtual lightsaber can make any Star Wars fan think twice about giving an MMORPG a shot. The idea of the stigma behind being an MMORPG player was strong in my friends, regardless of how keenly they were able to observe that I fit no industry stereotype. I think I metaphorically always somewhat represented this pimply, basement-dwelling super nerd, someone who valued killing some dragon or capturing some mythical beast over fresh air and human contact. Any and all attempts at recruiting them in to other online worlds I frequented were miserable failures.
That is, until I showed them SWTOR. It is an elusive thing, that so-called line in the sand that people draw concerning just how “nerdy” they are willing to let themselves be. Fortunately, being a fan of Jedi and TIE fighters was not beyond the realm of reason for my peers. No matter how contradictory that seemed to me, it was an opportunity that I decided to try to capitalize on. I wasn’t over-eager, and I didn’t cram anything down anyone’s’ throats. I simply showed them what the game consisted of, and let the allure of wielding one’s own virtual lightsaber work its magic; lo and behold, within thirty days the game had a handful of freshly loyal subscribers.
Please do not misconstrue why I am relaying this experience on to our readers. I don’t bring this up to brag, I don’t expect a reward from BioWare, and I hold no personal pride in this achievement, for it is not even truly mine to own. I am satisfied enough with knowing that there are more people who get to enjoy this game as I have, and that the population of the game is still capable of expanding. I see this as an important plateau through which a larger, more dedicated player base can be achieved.
The icing on the cake, of course, is that BioWare is making it even easier for this form of recruitment to flourish. Free to play, beyond of all its caveats and potential pitfalls, is going to put many potential players in a position to seriously consider diving into a living, breathing Star Wars universe. Just as already established fans and players, I even go so far as to say that it is our responsibility to give them that nudge.
I would love to get our readers’ feedback on any similar experiences or thoughts about this very exciting and potentially booming era of Star Wars: The Old Republic.