In 2003, LucasArts released a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMO) called Star Wars Galaxies ... and last night, the controversial MMO ended. Cleverly, Sony Online Entertainment let the players decide who would win the game. And the rulers of the galaxy are ...
The Rebellion. Take that, Imperial tyranny!
Eight years ago, the MMO started out with good reviews and a fan base eager to craft characters from more than 32 professions. But SWG's numbers dwindled when players balked at how difficult and time-consuming it would be to become a Jedi. And then, in 2005, Sony simplified gameplay by cutting the number of character professions to nine. In addition, in what seemed to be a move toward competing with World of Warcraft, the game shifted toward more intensive combat, which meant players lost the ability to interact and fight at the same time. SWG lost players and never recaptured them.
Still, some players held on to SWG because they loved its "sandbox" nature, that is, the ability to go anywhere in the world, not bound by the limits of storytelling. Fans also enjoyed its crafting customization, player-made cities and its economy.
But the lack of players was only one of the reasons SWG folded. December 15 also happens to be the end date of a licensing agreement between LucasArts and Sony Online Entertainment.
But more importantly, SGW shut its virtual doors to prevent competition from LucasArts' upcoming MMO from Electronic Arts and BioWare, Star Wars: The Old Republic. Based on the extremely successful (and absolutely fabulous) videogames, The Knights of the Old Republic and The Knights of the Old Republic 2, SW:TOR opens on Dec. 20. Early reviews say the videogame takes the best of Star Wars and mixes it with the best of World of Warcraft.
Best of all, anyone in SW:TOR who wants to be a Force user can be. SW:TOR is set in the days of the Old Republic, when Jedi and Sith were legion.
There's a lesson in SWG's ending here: if you're an MMO based on a property as awesome as Star Wars, just be yourself and don't try to compete with Warcraft.
Oh, wait ...
For an emotional description of the end of SWG, please read Chris Thursten's piece at PC Gamer.