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Star Wars: The Old Republic rankles fans with odd pre-order campaign

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Star Wars: The Old Republic

No one has doubted that Bioware's upcoming massively multiplayer game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, was going to be, well, massive. But the unusual -- and baffling -- pre-order experience for the game is causing a disturbance in the Force.

Typically, pre-orders are pretty simple: You put down a deposit, you wait for the game to come out and you're guaranteed a copy on day one. But with The Old Republic, it's a bit more complicated.

Electronic Arts is limiting the number of pre-orders for the game -- even digital ones - in hopes of avoiding the launch day server crash that so often accompanies a highly-anticipated online game. To achieve that, people attempting to pre-order the game from EA's Origin download service are being required to fill out an order form, then wait.

And wait.

They may, in fact, wait for up to 48 hours before learning if they have successfully pre-ordered the game.

Their order acknowledgement gives them a hint about their potential fate, reading "Based on our estimates, you ARE/ARE NOT likely to receive your pre-order." Until a confirmation note arrives, though, they're in the dark.

Waiting in a digital line to have just a *chance* at pre-ordering a digital product seems insane. Since the game is transmitted to the computer as a series of bits and bytes, any sort of sellout is, of course, artificial. And given that anticipation for the game has been building for nearly three years, that has some fans a bit perturbed.

"Dear EA: the entire point of digital distribution is no scarcity," said user 'Schnapple' on Shacknews. "If you're afraid too many people will buy your game and overload your servers, you should probably rethink your MMO strategy. Most games are not designed to deter players."

Typically, pre-orders help a publisher figure out how thoroughly to build out their networks. EA seemingly doesn't want to take a lot of chances with a title this important, though. It might make sense on a pure numbers basis, but for fans, it feels like a move pulled right out of the Dark Side playbook.

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