SOE Community Relations director Linda Carlson took the stage during the SOE Fan Faire 2011 event dressed as an EverQuest dwarf holding a lightsaber. She told a captive audience that it broke everyone's heart at SOE that Star Wars Galaxies had to come to an end. It hurt, she said as she pounded on her chest, you could feel the reverberations through the company.
"Jedi, bounty hunters, entertainers, the whole lot of you, I salute you," Carlson said. "But you know what? We're not done yet. We still have seven months to get together, we can celebrate the game, we can share our memories, we can still have a hell of a good time. I hope you join us all as we follow the last few months of Star Wars Galaxies."
SOE will officially pull the plug on the MMORPG on December 15, 2011 thanks to two specific factors: the end of SOE's licensing deal with LucasArts and the upcoming launch of BioWare's own MMORPG, Star Wars: The Old Republic. SOE could have renegotiated with LucasArts to extend the license, but chose not to.
"It was time to turn it off," CEO John Smedley told The Escapist during the event. "We have a contractual relationship that's ending in 2012, The Old Republic launching, a bunch of other business things with LucasArts. And then you look at the odds of a pretty large portion of the audience moving to TOR, which looks like a terrific game. I think that's going to be really well-received by the population. But it hurts. We knew, with the checkered past [of Galaxies], that this would not be a popular decision, but it was just one that we had to make."
Going forward, SOE plans to stick with its own original intellectual properties (IPs) rather than license IPs from other companies. "That's the problem with licenses: they end," Smedley said. "We're going to continue to do some licensed work, but we're largely going to stick to original IP [going forward] because then we won't have this issue. We'll never have this problem with EverQuest."
Had SOE owned the content in Star Wars Galaxies, the MMORPG might have lived on for a few more years, if not longer. But the termination date is creeping ever so slowly closer, seemingly marking an end to an era when MMORPGs first began to blossom and spread like wildflowers. Now the market is saturated with subscription-based, free-to-play and hybrid models that appear only to draw inspiration from each other rather than offer anything completely original.
Star Wars Galaxies launched back in 2003, but initially didn't satisfy the core Star Wars fans. As a result, it saw a decline in its subscription-base shortly thereafter. SOE tried to correct the list of complaints by releasing major updates called the "Combat Upgrade" and the "New Game Enhancements" in 2005, but that made the situation even worse. Thus, even more subscriptions began to drop off. Twelve servers were eventually shut down in 2009, followed by a steady decline in server population in 2010 and 2011.
But Star Wars Galaxies won't go down without one last epic showdown between the forces of good and evil. "The team is working on all of the details [on the game's epic ending]," Smedley said. "I don't know about [blowing up the Death Star], but they've got something else in mind with the Galactic Civil War. I think [Star Wars Galaxies] is going to go out in a memorable way. With a bang, not a whimper, that's for sure."