"Subscriber numbers are funny things. How you count them -- the maths you use -- really matters and there are lots of variables to consider." I've heard my fair share of PR deflections in my day -- heck, in a former life I conjured a few -- but this pearler, from Emmanuel Lusinchi, the lead designer on Star Wars: The Old Republic, is a doozy.
Lusinchi gave the answer during an interview with Sponge during London's Comic Con. That's not the whole of it though -- the designer did attempt to elaborate:
"All games of this nature, have a set of variables that are constantly changing. You will have a certain number of people that buy the box and never install it. I know it sounds strange, but it happens. There are people that play it, and then decide after ten minutes that it’s not for them -– that's a small percentage, but every game has them. Finally you have people who play for a couple of months, finish the story, and then be done with it."
To be fair, there's a decent point in there -- how do you count subscribers? We know Blizzard touts figures like 10 and 11 million when talking about World of Warcraft, but it has never really expanded on what this count includes. The most obvious would be active subscribers, but someone with an active subscription might only play an hour a day. Average players per server could be a better metric, but this would need to take into account the total number of servers to be accurate.
What we do know is that SW:TOR could be doing better -- just last month, EA announced a drop of 400,000 subscribers in its latest earnings report. It also gave a number of BioWare employees their marching orders, though this could have just been natural staff contraction.
Lusinchi didn't comment on reports that the SW:TOR's servers are averaging a measly 350 players, though the methods used to calculate this number are hardly solid.
Regardless, the designer's answer does not reflect confidence. It feels more like an excuse -- if the game is doing well, the numbers should speak for themselves.