Up to 1.5 million gamers are already playing Star Wars: The Old Republic ahead of the game's official launch tomorrow, according to rough estimates from Cowen & Company analyst Doug Creutz.
Pre-order customers have been gaining access to the BioWare MMO in 'waves' for almost a week in order to spread out login queues and hopefully avoid digital gridlock on launch day.
As of Saturday, December 17, both the number of servers in operation and the average player densities on those servers "had increased meaningfully" since Creutz's first measurement on Wednesday 14, the analyst said in a research note distributed this morning.
EA had 140 servers operational on Saturday, 77 in the US and 63 in Europe. That's up from 106 total servers on Wednesday, and compares to World of Warcraft's 491 servers.
Creutz wrote: "Based on the number of servers now in operation, and the relatively high densities thereon, we feel fairly comfortable estimating that the game already has in excess of 1 million players, and potentially could have as many as 1.5 million, with the official launch date of the game yet to come.
"We note that EA gives players the first month free, so 'players' does not yet signify paying subscribers; however, our estimate does at least signify the number of people who have bought the game (and thus far, includes only a subset of those who pre-ordered the title).
"Our (very rough) estimate is based on (1) Star Wars now has 29% as many servers in operation as World of Warcraft in North America and Europe; (2) the average player density (relative to server capacity) on the Star Wars servers appears higher than it is on World of Warcraft; and (3) we estimate that World of Warcraft has around 4.0-4.5 million subs in North America/Europe.
"The missing pieces of our analysis are that we do not know the relative capacity of Star Wars vs. World of Warcraft servers, and we do not know exactly what the 'full'/'very heavy'/etc. labels signify.
"Based on the progress of the launch so far, we continue to feel very comfortable with our FY13 2 million subscriber estimate for Star Wars."
Some Star Wars: The Old Republic owners are reporting queues of up to 2 hours to log in to game servers and start playing, after what initially appeared to be a smooth early access period.