For now, our live blog of the event follows the jump.
UPDATE: The direct quote/transcription of Eric Brown's comments at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference is now available. We apologize for the confusion we may have caused on Twitter and have made the correction available after the jump for our readers.
UPDATE 2: Stephen Reid posted on the official forums reminding fans to not read too much into investor calls. He reiterated that nothing has changed since other recent communications about release date and that BioWare is still targeting a Holiday 2011 time frame. The DevTracker post can be found after the jump.
- 1:10p: Conference started, introducing Eric Brown and framing growth.
- 1:12p: Eric Brown - Sees strong growth on all things digital.
- 1:30p: Eric Brown - "EA as a company we've talked about how we enter FY 12 with a certain earnings trajectory and op margin profile and we exit with a very different one. It has to do with Star Wars because we expense R&D first portion of the year, it's dilutive. We exit, it's accretive. FY 13 is the first full fiscal year we'll have that benefit."
- 1:39p: Question - Star Wars. Can you give any updates on how pre-orders and awareness level are tracking against your milestones and what are some of the factors that could push a launch into early next year rather than late this year on a calendar basis?
Eric Brown - "Without being specific about the number of pre-orders, but what I can tell you is that the first, I think, five days or so that we opened for pre-orders, we racked up more pre-orders on Star Wars than we had on any other title in that same period of time. So the demand is definitely there. A lot of people have been waiting for Star Wars. We have about a million and a half people who have dual registered, that is they provided email address contact information and they also volunteered to do free beta testing if they're able to get an invite. So there's a huge built in community. There's also a built in community of BioWare fans. BioWare is known for its high quality games, its great story telling, RPG. And obviously there's a great story arc that goes through Star Wars: The Old Republic. So there's built in demand and anticipation there just from the BioWare side of things, let alone from the Star Wars fan base.
In terms of timing, again, we haven't given a street date yet. We won't do so for some time, possibly at our next upcoming earnings call towards the end of October. We're in beta testing mode. We're expanding the scalability of the testing. It's not about working to complete content. We feel very good about the content. That's ready to go. It's about tuning the game to make sure, for example, we can get the level of concurrent users per server cluster that we want. That the response time is what people would expect. So the factor, just to reiterate what we said last earnings call about timing, we expect to ship Star Wars by the end of this calendar year.
But we did hold out a slight possibility that it could slip to our March quarter. And the factors that would cause a slip is, for example, us not being completely satisfied with the scalability testing, and wanting to tune it for several extra weeks. So what's important to us here is not Month One, Month Two, but this is going to be a multi-year, consider it a ten year journey, an investment in an MMO. And if we get it right in terms of scalability, the response time, the first people that enter the product will be key influencers. We want those key influencers to have a great experience because that will help in a viral fashion to spin up demand.
That will cause those people to transfer their guild from another MMO completely into Star Wars if they're confident they can all log onto the same world with predictable response times, etc. So we really want to get that part right in the product. We've come a long ways, and we're not going to stop short the last two weeks or so if that's what it comes down to."
- 1:55p: Conference talk over.
Let's try and get one thing very clear:
Investor calls and conferences are for investors. They are not meant for the general public.
While I understand the desire to get any piece of information possible about The Old Republic from whatever source you can, that does not mean that every time an investor call (or conference) happens, you should expect to glean meaningful information from that. The primary audience for these statements is people who are invested in, or are planning to invest in, EA as a company. While some of you may indeed be investors, if you are, you'd probably know not to panic when you hear said statements.
Let's break down a couple of those statements from Eric Brown, from the latest conference:
"In terms of timing, again, we haven't given a street date yet. We won't do so for some time, possibly at our next upcoming earnings call towards the end of October."
Indeed, we have not given a street date (AKA launch date) for The Old Republic. While some of you have suggested that we 'promised' a launch date announcement before that time, in fact what Eric Brown said was that a date could be announced in September or October.
It's important to also note the word 'possibly' was used in Eric's statement above. Just as he didn't promise that you would get a release date announcement in September, he isn't promising a release date before the next earnings call. It could happen, but it's not a promise.
Let's look at this second statement:
"we did hold out a slight possibility that it could slip to our March quarter. And the factors that would cause a slip is, for example, us not being completely satisfied with the scalability testing, and wanting to tune it for several extra weeks.
There is absolutely no change to our previous messaging with this statement. We are in active and extensive testing for The Old Republic. We're aiming to release the game in the holiday 2011 window (or, before the end of the year, to speak in non-American for a minute).
However, as with any large and complex game project, there's always the possibility of slippage. Always. That is why we have always said we're aiming for that window, because it's possible that unforeseen issues may push the date. Eric Brown is doing what he's paid to do - letting investors know that the possibility exists. A possibility doesn't mean a certainty.
Despite what doom-sayers may try and tell you, we are still very much aiming to ship in the holiday 2011 window (AKA, before the end of the year). We're pushing out a major new build, we're getting in our external testers to look at it soon, and then we'll re-start our Game Testing Weekends.
Are there risks? Yeah, that goes with game development. Do we think we're getting much, much closer? Yes we do. And when we feel confident about an exact date, you'll get one. Rest assured.
Until then, try not to assume the sky is falling every time an investor asks a question and our CFO does his job, which is to let them know about every possibility.