In the interview, Smed gives the reasoning:
The decision to shut down SWG is first and foremost a business decision mutually agreed upon between SOE and LucasArts. LucasArts has a new game coming out, and the contract would be running out in 2012 anyway, so we feel like it’s the right time for the game to end.
And here we see an issue inherent in working with a popular intellectual property for an MMO.
Vanguard, which SOE own outright, may run for years yet, so long as it makes just enough money to justify its existence. But there is always overhead from the owner of an IP, like there was with The Matrix Online. And so that closed, no doubt in part because Warner Brothers was owed money every month for the use of the IP.
And Star Wars is a valuable IP owned by Lucas and guarded jealously. Any licensed Star Wars product that is not a sterling success reflects badly on the IP, and SWG has had its share of troubles. (Rooted mostly in requirements laid down by Lucas after the fact, or so goes the tale of the NGE.)
And so the contract with SOE is coming to an end conveniently at about the time EA and BioWare should be close to launching Star Wars: The Old Republic.
As I said in a past prediction:
We will find out in 2009 is that LucasArts is only willing to sanction a single Star Wars based MMO running at any given time. SOE has known this all along and this is part of why they did not bother going to LucasArts with their Station Cash idea.
Seeing that BioWare is set to launch a Star Wars: The Old Republic… well… some day… the sense that time is running out will grip Star Wars Galaxies. There will be a resurgence of subscriptions as a wave of nostalgia washes over the old hands while along with an equal surge of tourist who want to see the game before it goes away.
This enthusiasm will not last as long as SWG remains on the scene, thanks to BioWare’s creeping pace, and Galaxies will go quietly into the night a few months before SWTOR launches.
And while I was not right on all the details, including the date when we would find out, the central truth remains: Lucas will only sanction a single Star Wars MMO in the traditional EverQuest, 3D virtual world, monthly subscription sense. SWG is clearly out because SW:TOR is coming online.
(And no, Clone Wars Adventures does not count, it is clearly a different sort of gaming, lacking that whole virtual world aspect for a start.)
So let the rush to nostalgia begin!
You have less than 6 months to go before Star Wars Galaxies is no more.
See the sites. Take your screen shots. Get ready to say “Good-bye.”
Maybe I’ll hold an SWG “Farewell Screen Shot” contest rather than another such contest for EVE Online.
But what would I give as a prize? A SWTOR game card?
Raph Koster, who was on the team that created SWG, has his own thoughts on the end of SWG.