Expectations are high for Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Electronic Arts is well aware of that. Hoping that the MMO will be a significant hit, EA is sparing no expense in its development.

“It is the largest R&D project EA has ever undertaken in terms of total dollars that we expect to spend bringing the title to market,” said EA chief financial officer Eric Brown at Janney Capital Markets’ 2010 Consumer Conference.

EA also isn’t rushing Star Wars: The Old Republic out the door, and aren’t expecting it before March 2011. “We’re not expecting it to ship in fiscal 2010, nor have we given a specific ship date thereafter,” said Brown. “We’re intentionally being nonspecific on the ship date.”

The goal is for Star Wars: The Old Republic to achieve a level of market penetration worthy of the brand, something SOE’s Star Wars: Galaxies never did. “In the past, for MMOs, the type of fiction that has resonated most broadly is fiction based on swords and knights and sorcery, et cetera,” Brown explained. “Star Wars is analogous to that — instead of the swords, you have the lightsabers; instead of the knights you have the Jedi — we think it’s a fiction that does very well, we think it’s a fiction that spans the decades. We think it has very broad appeal.”

With development in the hands of BioWare, EA is very confident in the final product. “BioWare is one of the highest-rated studios in terms of quality overall,” said Brown noting that Mass Effect 2 has a Metacritic score of 96, making it “the highest-quality title EA ever released.”

While EA’s first offering in the MMO space, Warhammer Online, only has about “a couple hundred thousand subscribers to date,” according to Brown, he thinks that Star Wars: The Old Republic is the right combination of IP, production values and studio to represent EA’s “principal investment and commitment vis a vis the MMO space.”

Source: Gamasutra