Whatever benchmarks Bioware’s upcoming launch of MMOG Star Wars: The Old Republic (SW:TOR) looks like setting in gameplay, it’s already beaten the pack in legalistic control of third-party websites wanting to cover the game.
Any fansites that want Bioware’s support – including promos on Twitter, Facebook and the SW:TOR website – must take no money from anywhere. SW:TOR licensee Bioware sent an email to fansites (including the blog operated by this author) demanding they sign an agreement preventing them from running advertising or accepting donations.
More conventional media are left alone. Senior community coordinator for Bioware David Bass, when asked by TOROZ why large sites such as IGN and Wired can run advertising and still be likely to receive promotion by Bioware in some form, whereas ‘fansites’ can’t, stated:
“There’s a big difference between press and fansites. Fansites are those who cover SW:TOR exclusively. IGN and Wired are press, and therefore they have a completely different process (and have to go through EA and Lucas in order to get anything). The benefit of being a fansite is that you get a direct line to BioWare (ie: Me)”.
Bioware’s strategy seems to be simple: use the passion for the Star Wars franchise to handcuff fansite operators.
Any group wanting to do more with their site – for example, better-resourced game coverage – needs either to forgo the option of any income to support the analysis, or skip the agreement and go to the back of the queue for information from Bioware.
The true test will come when the game launches and the level of commentary increases. It’s hard to foresee any significant amount of well-researched criticism of SW:TOR outside of whichever large media sites bother, and perhaps a handful of dedicated individuals willing to absorb all costs and report the issues for the love of the game. ®