Eight years ago today, Star Wars Galaxies launched. The idea was to take this then-new(-ish) concept of a massively multiplayer online role-playing game apply it to George Lucas’ much-loved, highly detailed galaxy far, far away. The game never managed to achieve World of Warcraft numbers — if it had, we’d probably be singing a different tune today — but it was embraced by fans not just for the Star Wars appeal but also for offering something a little bit different. Between the non-combat classes, space combat, housing mechanics and any number of other features, this was by all accounts a very different sort of MMO. And it all comes to an end this December.
Sony Online Entertainment has confirmed that the Galaxies servers will be taken offline in December. SOE president John Smedley confirmed the news in an interview with Massively, saying that it came down to a mutual business decision with partner LucasArts. If you’re thinking that a certain other Star Wars MMO might have something to do with the decision, you’re probably right.
Smedley went on to admit that the much-complained about “New Game Enhancement” (NGE) update that launched in 2005 was a “mistake” on the company’s part. The update represented a major shift in how the game was played, with a heavy focus on simplifying the experience in the hopes of drawing in new subscribers. The reaction to NGE was so strong that many fans simply refused to participate, opting instead for privately operated servers — the sorts of avenues usually explored by people with pirated copies of an MMO — tweaked to run a pre-NGE version of the game.
The great shame is that while Galaxies tried to do things a little differently, Star Wars: The Old Republic sounds by all accounts to be a pretty standard MMO in some ways. BioWare is doing tremendous things with the story, but it’s a game that focuses on combat classes and mission-based role-playing. Make no mistake, it’s probably going to be great fun to play and plenty popular. Star Wars is so much more than lightsabers and blasters though, and Galaxies was always better off for recognizing that.
SOE is planning some big, universe-ending scenarios for the MMO’s final days, so it may be best to hang onto that account for a little while longer.