Updated 3:30a: the complete interview is now available after the jump.
Pre-orders seem to be going pretty well to the point that certain retailers are having problems keeping up with demand. Any advice or things that fans should take note of regarding receiving and redeeming their pre-order code?
Stephen Reid: Fans are not having a problem getting their pre-order code redeemed because when they redeem it, they redeem it on swtor.com and we haven't had any problems there so far that I'm aware of. Some retailers like Amazon.com sold out of the Collector's Edition but they are actually getting re-allocated with extra stock so they will have stock later on.
We had a few issues with retailers in a number of territories where they didn't necessarily understand the idea of giving out a pre-order code. The difficulty for us is... everyone was briefed at the regional or corporate level, but that doesn't necessarily make it down to every single store clerk in every single store. Unfortunately, if you went in and did a pre-order, and they didn't give you a code, you should basically ask them to give you a code. And if they won't give you a code, then feel free to pre-order somewhere else or take it up with a higher chain of command. We're certainly trying to reinforce that as much as we possibly can down the chain. In addition, some retailers are a little slow in terms of sending out their codes, especially via email. We're working with them to accelerate that process as well.
Something that people are concerned about is when they redeem their code, and if it will affect their Early Game Access. The truth is that right now -- even though we had a lot of codes redeemed -- we're not even at a point yet where people wouldn't be more than a day one or day two. It really is not that bad. The incentive for us to get people to redeem their codes is obviously so we can keep track of how many people are getting ready for pre-order. But at the same time, we're trying to prevent a situation where people pre-order and they actually redeem their code months later, and at that point they would be at the back of the line. That is the reason why we are pushing people to redeem their codes, but there really isn't any reason to panic.
We know that publishers have a variety of problems when trying to launch a game overseas that range from regional politics, ratings boards, server infrastructure, localization, distribution, and more. Why did you choose not to launch in certain regions?
The answer is "none of the above." We didn't make that decision because of ratings board issues, localization or whatever else. What it ultimately comes down to is simple, but it is kind of a difficult concept to grasp: it is about quality of service. We know the level of demand for Star Wars: The Old Republic is pretty much unprecedented in MMO history. We know realistically the number of players we can deal with on launch day and the launch period. We made the difficult decision to say the player experience is paramount. We don't want them to have a bad experience on launch day. And that led inevitably to certain decisions and one of them was reducing the number of territories we go into at launch.
The process of putting a boxed product in any territory is difficult. The process of deciding whether or not we want to put regional services into an area is also difficult. So it is a combination of a lot of different factors, but ultimately it comes down to the two competing factors: one is demand for the game, and two is what we can supply at that level of service we really want to give. And this is the result. We understand many people want to play the game from all around the world, and we're absolutely going to get to as many territories as we can over time, but we're not ready to commit to a specific time frame on that yet.
What is involved in the Early Game Access program for those who pre-order the game?
What happens is you redeem your pre-order code. Depending on when you redeem your pre-order code, you'll be put into Early Game Access. It is essentially a head start program that will happen a certain time period before the launch of the game. We're really not talking about that timeframe yet, although we did say it will be days or weeks but certainly not months. It will be in line with similar MMO launches. The idea there is to help us get people in and get them through the game to make sure we don't have an incredibly fraught launch day, and we don't try to put every single person in at the same time. It is pretty standard. From the consumer point of view, all they have to do is redeem their pre-order code.
Do you have any advice for fans that require customer service?
Try and be patient. We're dealing with extremely high levels of customer service calls. Basically, we split them into two: if you tried to pre-order through Origin.com and your issues are with Origin.com in terms of the purchase of your code or anything Origin-related, then you go to Origin.com support. If you have any other kind of issues in terms of redeeming your code or any other questions about your account or the process of pre-order, then you should direct them to the BioWare customer support team who are available at swtor.com/support. You can also email them directly at email@example.com.
What advice would you have for fans that are interested in taking part in the recently announced September beta testing weekends?
Weekends plural! It isn't just one weekend in September. It will be a program we will continue to roll out. I don't know how many we will do in September, but we certainly plan to continue them past September. There really isn't any advice, as all you have to do is sign up to be a game tester and you are eligible for them just like you can be selected for the present game testing program. We are going to invite a larger number of people than we ever have before during those weekends, so there is a greater chance we select you. Hopefully this can be something many can enjoy.