Five years in the making, Biowares massive MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic finally sports an official release date. With SWTOR game peripherals revealed at E3 2011 and beta testing going (almost) global, the official December 20th release date and pending launch for Star Wars: The Old Republic has been set by Bioware and EA Games.

Updated release date and Early Access schedule
Star Wars: The Old Republic braces for the official release date on the 20th of December later this year. Players who have opted to pre-order Star Wars: The Old Republic are given a seven day head start when Early Access becomes available on December 13th.

Original post from July 7th appended below:
Star Wars: The Old Republic is currently in closed Beta. Originally scheduled to be released in spring of 2011, the game was officially delayed in February. Neither Bioware nor EA have ever publicly announced a specific release date for Star Wars The Old Republic. However, in a recent statement on the official community boards, SWTOR is mentioned to be targeted for a Fall 2011 release.

Launch date gossip at E3 2011

Another E3, another game trailer, but still no official release date. However, in an interview with at E3 2011, Frank Gibeau from EA Games confirmed “It’s coming out this year.” The EA Games president seemed at bit confused as to the number of classes in Star Wars The Old Republic and only appeared to have a “general” grasp on the number of players who have signed up for the SWTOR Beta testing, but this is another confirmation that Star Wars The Old Republic will go live come this fall.

Previous statements on release date

In January of 2010 Sean Dahlberg mentioned in a post on the community boards that Bioware was targeting a spring 2011 release for The Old Republic.
Sean Dahlberg SWTOR Forums

The launch window for spring 2011 was echoed by Bioware Lead Writer Daniel Erickson at EA Showcase in London later the same year.
Daniel Erickson at EA Showcase

In January of 2011 game business site MCV reported that Bioware might have been a bit overambitious in targeting a spring 2011 release. According to an unnamed Bioware insider, MCV claimed the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic has been pushed back to September 2011.
MCV on Star Wars.The Old Republic

MVC drew heavy criticism at first. However, at EA 2011 Q3 Earnings Call, Eric Brown stated that SWTOR would be shipped after fiscal year 2011 which ends 31st of March 2011. SWTOR would therefore miss the target window of spring 2011.

In April Stephen Reid at Bioware announced on the official community forums that SWTOR had been postponed and is expected to launch in the second half of 2011.
Stephen Reid on the official SWTOR Forum

Target release window

The third installment of the Mass Effect trilogy is slated for a March 2012 release date. Bioware is unlikely to pic a launch date for Star wars The Old Republic too close to the launch of ME3. You don’t want your target player base to have to pic one or the other game.
Biowares rival Blizzard is very much a creature of habit. The company launches an expansion to their signature genre leader every other year. We are bound to see a fourth expansion to World of Warcraft hit the store shelves at some time in 2012. With Cataclysm dropping major updates to the core game in the beta and offering surprisingly little new content at release, the next installment of WoW could very well coincide with the release of Mass Effect 3.
A computer game is in essence a work of art. As such it is never “finished”. Bioware could spend another 5 years on the game. However, with these two major games bound for release in 2012, EA will push the game for release in 2011.

Launch date speculation

“It will be out when it’s ready” you say? No, it won’t. Don’t confuse your intent with Star Wars: The Old Republic with the goals of Bioware/EA. For all its good intentions of producing a captivating game, the primary goal of Bioware/EA is to SELL the game, not play it. It may be unconfirmed but SWTOR is likely to be the most expensive game ever developed. SWTOR will have to post record retail sales followed by a massive sustained subscription base to yield a profit. Marketing will play a major role in setting a release date for Star Wars The Old Republic. After all, Warhammer Online proved poor marketing may be as fatal to a MMO as poor coding (Age of Conan).