After more than eight years online, Sony has announced its intention to pull the plug on the Star Wars Galaxies massively multiplayer online role-playing game on December 15. Despite having a good run, declining subscriber numbers coupled with the looming launch of competing MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic and Sony’s own soon-to-end contract with LucasArts prompted the move. The decision isn’t sitting well with fans, 2,465 of whom (and counting) have gathered to sign a petition asking that the game be kept running. While that isn’t unusual on its own, Sony has yet to respond in any way. More than that, VentureBeat has received reports from fans that the company is passive aggressively working to undo the petition.
Forum topics relating to the petition on the game’s official website have been locked or moved elsewhere by the company. While Sony contends that posting on those topics requires permission, players report that no permission has been given despite “dozens of requests” having been made. No official statement on the petition has yet been issued, even though the players make a good point in suggesting the adoption of a free-to-play business model.
Sony told VentureBeat that “promoting an online petition causes disruption within the community and does not provide gameplay feedback that our development team can use.” That, frankly, doesn’t hold much water since the community is already disrupted by the news of the coming shutdown and any gameplay feedback isn’t going to be of much help to the soon-to-be-repurposed development team.
In related news, Sony dropped the monthly subscription price for Sony Online Entertainment‘s Station All Access Pass to $20. Members get free access to all of SOE’s PC-based subscription MMOs and premium status in the F2P ones, including games like DC Universe Online, the various flavors of EverQuest, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures and others. This coincides very neatly with a Fan Appreciation Offer that gives all Galaxies subscribers receiving a free two months of play in a handful of those All Access, presumably to encourage new customers to join, as part of
What’s truly baffling about this whole situation is the fact that Sony said at the outset that its contract with LucasArts comes to an end at the close of 2011. Perhaps the company’s press department just doesn’t want to make the same statement over and over, but given the player uproar it seems like it would be an easy thing to just remind people that there are larger legal issues to be weighed here. With another Star Wars MMO coming, it might simply be that neither party is interested in re-negotiating, since two massively multiplayer games set in the same fictional universe will only dilute the potential growth for both.
Or maybe, just maybe, Sony isn’t concerned simply because we’re talking about a minuscule number of people still subscribing to Galaxies. The petition’s almost 2,500 signatures isn’t a huge figure by Internet standards. That said, after the April/May hacking debacle that left PlayStation Network and SOE services offline for a month, the company ought to be trying to appease every person that it can.