A long time (well, eight years) ago in galaxy well, right about here, SOE launched a Star Wars MMO. It was... odd. To say the least. It was also extremely beloved by a significant few, thanks to being something of a sandbox with complex and ambitious features such as player-made cities and pet Rancors. WoW and its many followers might be a whole lot slicker than Galaxies, but they just can't hold a candle to its crafting and virtual economy. Sadly, an attempted relaunch as something more action-centric in 2005 made the dwindling Galaxies faithful love it a little less, and subscriber counts have continued to drop since then.
It's amazing it's kept going for so long, quite frankly. But now, its Jedi will return no more - Galaxies will close for good on December 15, 2011. Many Bothans died to bring us this information.
Like all things Star Wars, it is course getting a sequel in prequel's clothes - Bioware/EA's Star Wars: The Old Republic is due to arrive sometime in the not-too-distant, although a concrete release date continues to elude us. Is that the reason Galaxies is closing down, or just strange timing? Hard to say - SOE aren't especially in the habit of closing down their olden MMOs, despite fairly low audiences - the likes of Vanguard, both Everquests and Planetside are still operating, for instance. Another possible smoking is Sony's other Star Wars MMO, the kiddie-orientated Clone Wars Adventures, but that's hardly likely to be attracting Galaxies devoutly hardcore players.
Here's the letter that went out to players a little earlier today - notice the reference to Lucasarts being involved in the decision to have the game go gentle into that good night, which could support wild theories that this is so as to not confuse matters come SWTOR.
We write to you today to inform you that on December 15, 2011, Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) and LucasArts will end all services (MMO and Trading Card Game) for Star Wars Galaxies (SWG). The shutdown of SWG is a very difficult decision, but SOE and LucasArts have mutually agreed that the end of 2011 is the appropriate time to end the game.
We are extremely grateful to all of the SWG fans. We have had the rare opportunity to host one of the most dedicated and passionate online gaming communities and we truly appreciate the support we've received from each and every one of you over the course of the past eight years.
In recognition of your incredible loyalty, we are extending special Fan Appreciation offers to the current SWG community. We also plan to go out with a bang with a galaxy-ending in-game event in December and hope to see you all there.
You can no longer buy a subscription for longer than a month at time, all billing ceases at the start of October, active subscribers come September 15 will be able to play the last months for free, and pro rata refunds will be given to any players whose paid-up sub time exceeds the remaining lifespan of the game. So hopefully it's going out all neat and tidy and doing right by those who loved it.
Oh, and subs will be given three months of free, fully-paid-up game time in any one of Free Realms, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, EverQuest, EverQuest II or DC Universe. More details here.
No word on what the game-ending event will be yet, but it's bound to be worth watching. Wonder if my account's still valid?
Farewell then, Galaxies. You were always a bit of a mess - but you were also one of the most fascinating and ambitious MMOs there's ever been.
Update: Massively's interview with SOE's John Smedley suggests the closure is down to their license from Lucasarts expiring in 2012 and both sides feeling it's not worth renewing - although the impending arrival of SWTOR is also referenced as being a factor.