bioware, electronic arts, star wars: the old republic, EA Louse, mythic, john riccitello, giant bomb, gary whitta, jeff gerstmann, E3 2011

We’ve known for some time that Electronic Arts has been dumping a massive amount of capital into the behemoth that is Star Wars: The Old Republic. The Bioware Mythic artist whistleblower “EA Louse” announced back in October that the game had tipped the scales at $300 million dollars in development costs.  Here we are nine months later following E3, and rumors are circulating that it’s about ready to cross over the half billion dollar mark. Whether that’s development money on top of what will most likely be the most aggressive advertising campaign known to man is unsure, but one thing you can bet on; if you’ve got stock in EA, you may want to consider cashing it out before they release The Old Republic.

The main piece of new evidence comes from none other than Giant Bomb’s audio coverage of E3 this year.  During their podcast “Giant Bombcast E3 2011 Day Zero Podcast”, game designer and journalist Gary Whitta makes the following pronouncement at the 2:26:16 mark (it’s a long show) about the funding for The Old Republic:

“I have so much faith in Bioware, they really are the best, I love Mass Effect, I love everything that they do, umm…but yeah, I’m a little bit cynical, and they’ve got a lot on the line…someone told me recently, I was talking to I was talking to someone who’s in a position to know how much money they’ve spent making that game so far, and it is a staggering number.  I mean, crazy times.”

The follow-up comes a few minutes later at the 2:32:32 mark:

“EA could be in a very difficult position six months after launch if the game isn’t doing the kind of numbers that it’s needing it to do, they say, “Well, do we just write off half a billion dollars or do we keep throwing money at this thing and hope that we can turn it around?”

Between these two pieces of evidence, you can bracket a guess in between 300 million and 500 million dollars and probably get a pretty safe estimate on how much has been thrown at this game.  Seeing as the game is similar in nature to a World of Warcraft clone, and even Jeff Gerstmann says his hands-on feeling was that it was “…any other modern MMO, just another one of those games…”, how is it even physically possible at this point for Electronic Arts to come close to breaking even on their investment?  I get the feeling that this time next year, EA stands to be staring down what could be the largest financial trainwreck in video game development history.

I hope John Riccitello (EA CEO) is updating his resume…