SWTOR official launch on December 20 (US) and December 22 (EU)

The MMO Force is coming just before Christmas.

Star Wars: the Old Republic, the much-hyped space game with a perennially shrouded release date, will officially launch stateside on December 20.

The announcement was made by BioWare co-founders Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Greg Zeschuk during the Eurogamer Expo over the weekend.

“In 1977, Lucasfilm created magic with the release of Star Wars. Our goal is to capture some of that magic when we go live with Star Wars: The Old Republic on December 20,” said Dr. Muzyka. “This is an incredible moment for everyone at BioWare and our partners at Lucas Arts who have dedicated so much of their lives to building this extraordinary game.”

“We appreciate the patience of the millions of fans who have been waiting for the game’s release. When we launch this groundbreaking MMO with world class storytelling this holiday season, we hope you will agree that it was worth the wait,” Dr. Zeschuk added.

Further details – like separate North American and European releases, and an early access perk for pre-order buyers – were included in a joint press release by Electronic Arts, BioWare and LucasArts.

US and Europe Release Dates

SWTOR will launch in North America on December 20, 2011; then two days after, the game will open in Europe, on December 22, 2011. The trifecta of developers and publishers did not give a reason for the separate releases, but this is fairly par for the course for MMOs launching in the West.

US releases tend to involve more players and servers, and SWTOR developers would understandably want to handle that insane rush first before taking on a second wave of entrants from across the Atlantic.

Early Access

SWTOR Pre-order subscribers can start redeeming their early access codes here, but the exact date when the servers will be opened is still up in the air.

If other MMOs are an indicator, early access will be a full week before the general release. So we’re probably looking at a December 13 (US) and December 15 (EU) date for when the first flood of character creation videos and SWTOR Credits grinding how-tos hit YouTube.

An early access week is one of the biggest draws for fans to purchase the more expensive pre-order box but it should also serve as a test run for the bigger worldwide launch. BioWare and EA will have to handle potentially millions of pre-order fans, if current brisk sales trend continues until December.

What do you think of December 20 as a release date ET fans? Is it too close to Christmas? Or are you simply relieved that it didn’t end up being pushed back to 2012?