Star Wars: The Old Republic - The Story Behind a Galactic Gamble

There's a very interesting piece up on the Los Angeles Times that goes into great detail on just how challenging and risky of an endeavor it was for BioWare to create Star Wars: The Old Republic. The article features commentary from a few different sources, as well as some financial figures that we can only assume came straight from EA:
It may be the largest entertainment production in history. More than 800 people on four continents have spent six years and nearly $200 million creating it. The story runs 1,600 hours, with hundreds of additional hours still being written. Nearly 1,000 actors have recorded dialogue for 4,000 characters in three languages.

The narrative is so huge that writers created a 1,000-page (bible) to keep the details straight, and the director recently asked a colleague not to spoil moments he hadn't yet seen.

It's not a movie or a TV series. It's Star Wars: The Old Republic, the most expensive, ambitious and riskiest video game ever produced.


To recoup its massive investment, the Old Republic's publisher, Electronic Arts Inc., will have to snag more than 1 million customers willing to spend $60 to buy the game and an additional $15 a month to play for years on end. The game, released in late December, already has more than a million registered users, but many could leave after a free 30-day trial.

(The real test is whether they can retain subscribers in the long run,) said analyst Doug Creutz of Cowen & Co.

At the Austin home office of game developer BioWare, a subsidiary of Electronic Arts, more than 400 designers, programmers, writers and artists have immersed themselves in the imagined Star Wars universe, surrounded by maps of the ice planet Hoth, armor designs for bounty hunters and even a five-day weather forecast for Princess Leia's home world of Alderaan.

Art has been outsourced to Russia, Estonia and China. Motion capture filming is done in L.A. and Vancouver, Canada, with voices recorded in New York, London and Paris in English, French and German. Quality assurance testing takes place in Romania, Argentina and India, while technical operations are run out of Virginia and the customer service center operates in Ireland. A regular plane shuttles employees between Austin and Electronic Arts' headquarters in Redwood Shores, Calif.

(Coordinating it all is like teaching elephants to do ballet,) said Greg Zeschuk, who co-founded BioWare with Ray Muzyka.
Beyond the initial price tag, it has to be costing EA a staggering amount of money every single day to keep all these people on and the infrastructure up and running.