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Star Wars Galaxies: Anatomy of a PR Disaster

Developers of the niche field of Massively Multiplayer Online Games would kill for the kind of press access that LucasArts/Sony Online Entertainment's Star Wars Galaxies is currently getting. The New York Times? Christian Science Monitor? Wired? All in one week? Blizzard Entertainment's mega-hit World of Warcraft aside, the media still barely knows MMOGs exist. So this massive exposure is great, right? Well, let's look at the headlines:

This is beyond bad press -- this is a disaster for a struggling product in a marketing niche that depends on positive word of mouth to generate subscribers willing to pony up $15 a month. Star Wars Galaxies isn't at the end of its road yet, but it doesn't seem too early to slow down past the wreckage and take a look at how two massive corporations with one of the world's most popular intellectual properties managed to run through the guardrails.

I started playing SWG in January 2004, sticking with it for more than a year before time constraints, other distractions and frustration with the game's ongoing bugs had me seeking greener pastures. But I can't help following the continuing drama surrounding the game. In addition to nostalgia -- I still have an attachment to the online friends and experiences I had playing the game -- there's also fascination with the wrong turns that continue to be taken. In that sense, I almost understand peoples' fascination with the Jerry Springer show. Almost.

Swarthmore College professor Timothy Burke and a kajillion commenters at the academic group blog Terra Nova provide an analysis reflected in the mass media coverage. Essentially, SWG was doing decent business for a massively multiplayer online game -- at one time it was among the top of the field, and was estimated to have about 200,000 subscribers. Before the launch of World of Warcraft, this made them a gorilla. Compared to WoW's worldwide subscriber base of millions, this made them just another monkey. A big monkey, but a monkey nonetheless -- this despite the fact that, Jar Jar Binks notwithstanding, Star Wars isn't just any popular intellectual property, it's a worldwide phenomenon. This was supposed to be the game that broke MMOGs into the mainstream, not a competing property that was unknown outside of computer gaming circles. And, thanks to a lack of content and persistently unaddressed bugs, SWG was shedding players.

LucasArts apparently pushed for, and Sony Online Entertainment implemented, a massive overhaul to the very structure of the game in order to attract newer, younger, more casual players. SWG had been a complex virtual-world game, where different players interdependently fought Rebels/Imperials; crafted and sold munitions and starships for the combatants; and built virtual homes, businesses and cities. A new action-game combat system removed the value in player-crafted goods, removing the value of the crafters' economic game. 32 mix-and-match professions that players could combine to customize their play experiences were reduced to nine isolated "iconic" character classes. SOE had long fielded complaints from fans about how many players had managed to acquire "Jedi" characters in a game set between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. At a time when Jedi were supposed to be rare, there were an awful lot of them running around. Now Jedi were one of the nine starting professions -- anyone and everyone could be one.

Their existing customers were not amused.

The changes themselves were questionable, although it's hard to argue that something drastic was needed to keep the game viable. (While SWG on its own merits could be considered a success, its revenue had to be split between two companies that maintained a large development team. It needed to be bigger.) Where the companies shot themselves in the foot, however, was in the public rollout of the changes. MMOGs aren't just computer games; they're managed communities. MMOG developers aren't just game publishers; they're service providers.

So here's what Sony and LucasArts did to make themselves a case study for the industry, and to direct the media coverage toward the bad reaction to the game rather than the game itself:

  • Never Write Off Your Existing Customers: The so-called New Game Experience was announced on November 2 with no warning, and was scheduled to go live two weeks later. Although SWG had an extensive "correspondent program" that attempted to streamline communication about game development and player opinions between Sony Online Entertainment and the customers, the changes came as a complete surprise. (The story was first broken at the gamer site f13.net.)

    What this suggests to me was that folks at LucasArts and Sony were concerned enough about player reaction to the changes to try to postpone a negative reaction, but not concerned enough to try to sell the changes. SWG senior director Nancy MacIntyre of LucasArts in the NYT: "We knew we were taking a significant risk with our existing player base, but we felt so strongly that we needed to make these changes for the sake of the game's long-term future that we all held hands, LucasArts and Sony, and went forward." There was no real attempt to hold the customers' hands.

    LucasArts and SOE may have thought that such an effort would be a lost cause; they knew they were taking the game in a direction unlikely to please many of their current customers. What they clearly did not plan for was a furor that would lead to account cancellations and, worse, rapidly spreading word of mouth, with disgruntled players only too happy to contribute to the toxic buzz in the media. By treating their existing customers as loose cannons rather than engaging them in the redesign process, LucasArts and SOE fueled the backlash they feared.

  • Never Assume That Your Customers Don't Read The Times: This one's a corollary to the previous lesson. Carolyn Hocke's complaint in Wired was typical of the player reaction to the changes: "It's now a shoot'em-up game for adolescents, not at all conducive to our play style." LucasArts' MacIntyre was surely aware of this likely reaction -- through attrition, the SWG customer base was now consolidated into a mass of subscribers who were comfortable in a complex virtual world. And yet MacIntyre said this to the Times: "We really just needed to make the game a lot more accessible to a much broader player base ... There was lots of reading, much too much, in the game ... We wanted more instant gratification: kill, get treasure, repeat. We needed to give people more of an opportunity to be a part of what they have seen in the movies rather than something they had created themselves."

    Let's leave aside for the moment the content of the quote, which Jeremy Dauber of the Christian Science Monitor called "as close to a direct definition of philistinism as anything I have ever read." For players of virtual world-style games, "something they had created themselves" was exactly the carrot that led them to renew their subscriptions. MacIntyre's statement announced LucasArts' intention to seek a new, younger demographic of players -- presumably a demographic unlikely to read the Times. The current players did, however. The already strong meme, "Sony's dumbing down our game," was confirmed. Thanks to the Times article, so was the implied follow-up message: "Sony and LucasArts don't want us."

    In addition to marginalizing her existing customers, MacIntyre told a newspaper with an educated readership that the new direction of the game was repetitive and passive, not creative. Somehow she didn't recognize that this would not likely be regarded as a "plus" among Times readers. Meanwhile her comments spread like wildfire on the official and unofficial Star Wars Galaxies forums, where a suspicious clientele was already upset.

  • The Morale Will Not Improve After A Public Beheading: About a week after the New Game Experience was announced, some players with connections to Sony Online Entertainment claimed that Diane "Tiggs" Migliaccio, director of community relations for Star Wars Galaxies, had been unexpectedly fired. Her separation from SOE was subsequently confirmed by Sony's director of global community relations. Bound by an nondisclosure agreement, Migliaccio shed little light on her separation on her blog other than to indicate that it was a surprise. Sony -- properly -- would not divulge any details either.

    The reasons for Migliaccio's separation are no one's business but hers and Sony's, of course. However, as director of community relations "Tiggs" was omnipresent on the Star Wars Galaxies online forums. Her job was frequently described as a communications facilitator, helping to bring customer concerns to SOE as well as sharing developer information with the players. Players variously regarded her as a shill for SOE or the one developer who listened to them. Her abrupt departure made her a martyr among a playerbase whose already high hostility had just been turned up to 11. Forum moderators from other SOE games had to be called in to help manage the message boards. Mass deletions of threads, both hostile to the New Game Experience and demanding explanations of "Tiggs"'s departure, and banning the most strident or obnoxious opponents, followed.

    The timing of this highly visible key personnel change could not have been worse. If there had been any way for Sony Online Entertainment to avoid or postpone it, they should have. Instead, SOE ratcheted up the anxiety and frustration of players in a way almost unrelated to, but feeding into, the crisis.

The New York Times would never have covered the Star Wars Galaxies revamp if they hadn't found a conflict brewing that was far more interesting than a feature list on a press release. Now LucasArts and Sony Online Entertainment must contend with not only a skeptical gamer press famiiar with its troubled history, but a very public airing of their dirty laundry and a steady stream of exiting (or staying and howling) customers warning everyone within earshot that the game is bad and its producers untrustworthy. If Star Wars Galaxies does indeed increase its subscriber base to sustainable levels, it will be the result of a massive effort to overcome the bad buzz. It'll require outstanding technical execution on the game developers' part to overcome expectations, but (more dauntingly) the creation of an entire new community. In the October 2005 issue of Game Studies, Swarthmore professor Burke wrote:

We have reached the odd point in the history of MMOGs where managers aggressively combat the spread of negative news as this is considered (accurately, I think) to influence the decision of other subscribers about whether to continue with a game. It is almost like the old idea of the “mandate of Heaven” in the political history of China: when a game is perceived (rightly or wrongly) to be bleeding subscribers, it starts to actually bleed subscribers, and a snowball effect gains speed rapidly. As one commentator at the website Terra Nova observed, this is part of the unresolved tension between subscription multiplayer games being both “a publishing industry and a service industry."

MMOG developers who are watching the SWG drama and wondering whether they can "fix" a game and retain their playerbase should take a note from Rich Vogel, former executive producer of Star Wars Galaxies, whose talk at the Montreal International Game Summit was reported by Gamasutra (emphasis added):

Vogel says MMOG owners do well to admit their mistakes. “Win over your community so that they are forgiving of you when you really screw up,” he said. He also gave some advice about distracting the players when making a change to the game, not answering controversies that arise, as it just feeds them, and not taking too seriously the forum rants of hardcore players, who don't represent the silent majority. You can get feedback from the quieter majority, however, by simply administering surveys. However, the hardcore, verbal players are the people who generate word of mouth marketing, Vogel admits, “so keep them happy, too.”

The key is to engage your customers, not avoid them.


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I appreciate you linking this on my site Chip Guy, but quite honestly, I'm way past being tired of talking about the handling of the rollout. So many places have countless comments of hate and metaphor that everything which can be said about it has been. Probably in a dozen languages.

I am writing my review on what the NGE *is*. How it was handled is done to me.

A long uphill struggle is ahead for the company that used to run the show. But make no mistake, 200k is not enough for a game about Star Wars. For an MMOG it's ok, but the royalty alone probably requires a heck of a lot more from the only persistent representative of the license in computer gaming.

Told my friends not to buy it at all. some really wanted to try but I stopped them.. SOE this is your word of mouth lol.

I told them all to play WoW and we all do and love it. hahaha sony sucks.

This is the most superbly written piece I have read on what has happened with Star Wars Galaxies. SOE has absolutely no one -- no one -- but themselves to blame for what has happened. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Only a limited segment of the MMORPG crowd is intersted in Star Wars and only a limited segment of Star Wars folks are interested in MMORPGs. Most online RPGer's want swords and sorcery, not space adventure. That's why so many of the games, and the most popular ones, are always medieval fantasy. The Star Wars crowd, on the other hand, gravitates toward the console-based, twitchy games like BF2 and KOTOR. There's only so many people who like a Star Wars MMORPG, and SOE has just fucked them over. Now, where the hell do they think they are going to get new customers from? The console teenyboppers, those that haven't heard all the negative stories, will quickly quit when they realize they can't instantly be a bad-ass Jedi and that there are loading screens, and still, despite Nancy MacIntyre's efforts, "much too much reading" for their taste. The article is spot on. This is a textbook example of how to shit in your own bed.

This is probably the best post on this whole SWG event.

They have alienated such a broad range of Star Wars fans that It will take a very long time, If ever that they can recover from this.

I dont think SOE ever expected people to be able to mass communicate thier displeasure wiht the things they have done in addition to the stealth changes.

My only disagreement with this post is that you imply SOE/LA was happy with 200,000 customers. In many recent interviews with John Smedley, he seems to clearly indicate that they always had 1 million customers as their target. So in that sense, they have always been falling short of their goals.

Considering they probably forecasted for a million users, all of their expenses were out of place, let alone no one knows the details of the licensing agreement with LucasArts. I am sure that its a hefty price to wield the Star Wars franchise.. one that 200,000 customers just didn't quite cover.

All in all, a great post.

I played for about 8 months at launch, then for another month when JTL came out.

I'm always suprised that these articles leave out one crucial piece: SOE's inept programming. They game has NEVER worked even 85% right. (2 of 3 master pistoleer skills dont do anything?!) Around the 4th month my character started twicthing like an epileptic. When I submited a ticket I got the standard "this is a known issue." I quit before they fixed it.

Patches would crash the game out for 24 hours. Cities were choked with speeders that couldn't be put away.

So, while the captial cities were exploding junkyards, somebody thought they could redesign the whole game?!

A great blog neatly summing up the facts in a realistic manner. Well done.

It's a shame that a lot of accounts are now expiring so therefore cannot post their views on the SOE forums. But seeing as how those views have consistently been ignored I guess there is no difference.

Kudos to the blogger.

The problem with the NGE isn't any of the issues you mentioned. It isn't a dumbing down. Crafters are not less important. The real issue is the bugs. The game was not playable after the NGE. It finally is getting that way.

The fact is, that there isn't a mass exedus as you think there is. There definately was a percentage that left, but like the CU, it was only a small faction. I can count on one hand the number of people I know that left the game.

The old professions while cool in your ability to mix and match was spelling doom for the game. It was a horribly unbalanced system. Notice that WoW, the MMO that you mentioned a few times in your "blog" only has a handful of professions too. It was a needed change. The original design of SWG was impressive, and I would have loved to see SOE pull it off, but they took a big risk bringing forth 30+ professions, and they finally realized this.

You also can't start as a Jedi. You start as a force sensitive, and it takes a long time to become a Jedi. I see more non-Jedi in the game now, then before the NGE (maybe because all the pre-NGE jedi were the ones that left).

Take it from a day one vet that this game is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. To quote Supreme Chancellor Palpating "Those that have power, fear to lost it." Most of those against the NGE were people that had something to lose (for the most part, Jedi).

Don't forget the evident deception surrounding the release and advertising of the Trials of Obi-Wan and the NGE. ToOW was advertised as containing items/specialties for professions that were announced two days later would cease to exist. Viewed in the context of SOE knowing full well the NGE would mean lost players, it's not difficult to see that this was an attempt to squeeze out the last bit of money from the previously-loyal playerbase that they have now discarded entirely.

Additionally, their public statements in interviews about some of the professions they removed are jarring. Take Dallas Dickinson's IGN interview statement of "I mean, what is a Pikeman, and why is it something in the game?" when in actuality, there are more characters fighting with polearms than there are smugglers in the movies. This statement along with the others about 'no one wants to be Owen Lars and work on a farm (this means you, crafters)' is just more horrid disrespect for the players. Disclosure: I played a Pikeman from the game's release until the NGE when I cancelled furiously. I was also permanently banned from the SWG forums for writing something similar.

They also stated that the Creature Handler and Bio Engineer professions were played by less than 1% of the players, when their own profession statistics released in just August 2005, lists CH as 15/37 in rank of most played, and another dev list ranks CH as 11/37 in most-mastered professions. Both ranks are above professions that made it through the NGE transition. I find it hard to believe that those ranks represent 1% or close enough to reach 1% a few months later. This is simply another example of SOE's low opinion of it's current customers.

Julio Torres gave another insight into SOE/LA's opinion of the SWG players in the weak G4 TV interview where he says: "we experienced that in the past when we make enhancements like these and in general whats really interesting about that a lot of them come back after they feel like ok they\x{2019}ve vented their, their concerns." They honestly seem to believe that players are just children throwing tantrums and are so hooked on this game that they won't be gone for long, no matter how poorly they treat their customers.

I think the reactions to the NGE, the real reactions, not SOE's PR, have shown that this time the customers are more resigned to leaving it all behind than they were for the Combat Upgrade where many people complained a lot, but not so many actually left. The NGE is attempting to shift the playerbase, shift genres and instead has shifted the already precarious PR position of the game into one of rapid freefall.

Thank you for the well-written article. (I have all links for the associated quotes in my post)

the servers lagged when swg had around 200k customers.

i wonder what would happen if they had 1 mill. the servers would explode or something.

Well 200k subscription still fgures to be about $36 million a year. It nay fall short but it has earned, at that rate, over 100 million when you include the purchase of the original game. I really don't see SOE matching or improving those numbers as the Starter Kit is now selling for $9.99 less than two months after it's release. As a Star Wars fan I would love to see this game match or even out do WOW. As a player who just cancled four accounts I don't think it will even compete with it's own numbers from the beginning of last year.
I'm not saying that the NGE is not for everyone, I'm sure that there are players that like it, but it is not for me or the other thousands that have recently cancled their accounts.
Good Luck Galaxies and May the Force be with you. Oh never mind about the force part they took out the force bar with the NGE.

It's a great shame that the NGE lovers have taken to flaming this blog while they have a cosy SOE forum to self-congratulate each other on the supposed success of the NGE that HAS resulted in mass-cancellations. By all accounts, even the most conservative, servers are empty compared to pre-NGE days.

A last ditch attempt to bloat numbers by offering a free 15 day pass to those that have already left the game will server the NGE supporters arguments for server populations in the short term. However the design of the game, rigid in the CL90 target and with no ability to switch skills will ultimately lead to more cancellations and a truer subscriber situation will be seen in February 06.

This can be viewed as a period when:
A) Trials run out
B) Existing sunscriptions run out
C) When Christmas sale trials have run out.

Everything else regarding server populations is just pure speculation on both the pro and neg NGE sides.

So save the flames until then. Then we'll all know what the result is.

For the Ostriches. :)

Absolutely great post. I beg to differ in one area. I think 200K accounts should have been sufficient:

200,000 accounts
x $15 per month
$3,000,000.00 per month

x 12 months in a year
$36,000,000.00 Per year

2 Expansions per year
x $30 a pop
$60 a year per account
x 200,000 accounts
$12,000,000.00 per year for expansions

Total: $48,000,000.00 per year

70 Developers
30 +/- managers and support staff
100 employees
x $100,000 per yrs salary, etc

$48,000,000.00 Income per yr
- $10,000,000.00 salaries, etc
$38,000,000.00 profit

Now I know not everyone that is working on this game is making $100,000 a yr. Some might be making more, so $100K is a round number to work with.

Let's say there are expenses that i haven't figured in. So let's double the expenses to $20,000,000.00. That is still a $28,000,000.00 profit per year.

By looking at these numbers I can only assume they thought they could do better. But, in my opinion, I don't think it will happen with children 10-15 yrs old. I don't think Mom and Dad would be willing to spend the $1,100.00 I spent since release so their kids can play a game.

It's funny smed mentions how he wants WoW's numbers , and expects atleast 1 million out of SWG .

First off , Wow had a development budget of around 75 million , and a marketing budget of 25 million . Blizzard spent money to make money . Those figures I've claimed here , I beleive to be fairly accurate as I've seen these numbers posted on the Vanguard forums , posted by Ex-soe employee Brad Mcqauid himself .

SWG would have seen probably atleast 600k subs if they had a game the worked/was fairly bug and exploit free .Everytime we turned around there was a credit dupe that wrecked the economy ,Iknow people who capped their bank role and never got banned on my server . By-passing cool down timers etc.. These were never fixed... Someone here mentioned the game only worked to about 85% capacity -meaning 85% of the game was bug free , but the truth is that number was alot lower . Probably closer to 40% .

The original CU which added a whole host of non-star warsy things like roots and snares didn't help retain any players either . People wanted the core classic system fixed and balanced . So that cm's couldn't kill you in 20 seconds and never be touched , or so 90% armour was capped atleast to 65% not 90. Ap on weapons and armor and weapon damage types needed to be fixed aswell . Some classes had AP 3 weapons , while others had AP 0 or AP 1 weapons and only one type of damage such as kinetic .

Doc buffs and foods were never a problem , everyone had access to them , and finding the proper pvp food mix was part of the complexity that was stripped away in the cu when you could see under everyones name exactly what food they were on ...

Every class had a counter to it . Ranged classes could kite melee-non jedi around and never be touched , but when one fought a jedi with 85% saber block , they cried nerf ! Melee brawlers countered jedi if you knew what you were doing and doctors countered CM's . Every thing had a counter to it and some classes had no point what-so-ever , such as commando , or other classes like Squad leader only had one role ; which was to group up and sit in a house running an auto macro to spam specials that benefited the pvp group .

I joined the game in june 04 , and the game was neglected all the way up to the CU hit . Nothing was done to improve upon the original game design , and we got the comment that the old code was a mess , "spahgetti code" I beleive one dev referred to it as .

I have to laugh at that comment now because they slapped the NGE over 2 game designs and the same spahgetti code , to make the NGE the third facelift to the core mechanics of the game .

If you guys watched the forums from october 29th to around novemeber 15th , you would of seen lots of old corrospondents posting about their utter disgust for the NGE , only to be banned! , and have their posts promptly deleted .

One such post by an ex-corro mentioned a CU that was referred to as CU1 (not the CU that went live ) , it apparently had all the fixes we wanted , dots , armor ,weapons etc were all fixed and foods and such were balanced .

That Cu 1 never went to TC . It was scrapped and the CU2 went live and was developed in around 6 weeks , only to be rushed to live servers for ROTW and the ep3 theatre release.

That was SOE's / LA's biggest mistake . People did leave in droves to WoW after that , and most did not return .

For the entire duration of the CU2 , loot and various items were repressed by SOE in an effort to drive up sales of ROTW . For 7-8 months premium perals were not in game at a time when alot of people unlocked fresh padawan's , and had to compete in a forced PVP situation with another class BH . BH was essentially turned into an Alpha class that could very well compete with jedi and be grinded out in a week or less. Near the end there , BH had the upper hand verse post CU full temp jedi due to Armor break immune item and lack of light saber damage ; which was the direct result of opressing much needed premium perals .

I'll be honest here , I hated the CU2 . I played it for a total of 3 months (not consecutive) , and only because double xp allowed me to unlock my last (6th) village tree in 3 hrs .

One village tree took me 3 hrs during double xp and in the old system , I was working on those previous 5 trees for 9 months .

In the end though , we were lied to and lead on under false pretences about many things (profession revamps and FRS) that SOE and LA damn well knew would never see the light of day .

We were lied to in an effort to keep us as paying customers . I beleive there is a law against that type of business practice.

Great piece of writing.

I can't even describe how horrible the game is now, thought it never really was all that fantastic to begin with. I did think that it was the best MMO in its hayday, but that was a long time ago.

I'm amazed that people still try to defend SOE for this piece of garbage they are trying to market. They MUST be people with something to lose from SWG's demise, aka, developers.

To the poor soul that can count on one hand how many people left, let me say this....my entire guild, all 40 active before nge left within 4 weeks. Even those that have accounts still active due to having bought 3/6/12 month subs are not bothering to log in.

Everyone has scattered to various other games. Eve Online is struggling with more and more sci-fi fans looking for a fix. 2 months ago they were happy when they broke 15000 connections (after 2 years of the game). In the past 4 weeks they have gone well over 20000 users. 5000 may not seem like much, but it is. Those are simultaneous users, not just the subscribers.

To the guy that says: "you can't start as a jedi".

Your wrong . All the players who had level 80 respeced right into a damn near full lvl jedi .

And what chapped my hide most about that was , they had exploited to level 90 by means of a repeatable mustafar quest . They maxed their jedi before me who was a full temp 8 months prior to them . Just because I didnt have the content pack.

Next , jedi should never of been changed from the long tedious grind it was to attain one , ever!

As I've said already once in this blog , the old professions had minor issues . There was never any one specific profession over powering any other . If you tried to pvp solo and got raped by 20 jedi , thats your own fault , get 20 pikemen/tkm/medics together and go rape them right back....

1 on 1 in pre cu , any melee double master could own jedi easily . I have no idea how it was in the CU as I was a jedi , and I never stood around dueling other players in MO.

The truth of the matter is , if soe/la want wow numbers , they better be prepared to spend what blizzard spent to get and retain those numbers.

Yes the game is dumbed down now , yes crafters are broken and have ZERO purpose in swg , and yes a large amount of players quit the game .

Next , SWG had less than 60k players after the CU . That 60k was down from 120k pre cu ,which was down from 250k at launch , and its hovering around 30k-40k now .

Thanks for your comments, everyone. Feel free to continue the discussion, but I've responded to some points about the PR problems here.

Funnily enough, these days I'm playing a far simpler game than the complex SWG that I enjoyed: City of Heroes. It's easier to jump into and out of, especially when you've got an inquisitive 4-year-old. SWG's developers would say that proves their point, on one level....

Like many, myself and a few close friends had played SWG since the begining. And throughout the life time of SWG we saw the game grow, expand, bugs occour, bugs fixed, bulding our own virtual city, ect. We never complained because the postives of the game in our opinion outweighed the negetitives. Everything was customizable and unique. The Scatter pistol and Composite armor you have wouldnt be the same at the Scatter and Comp armor someone else had (due to the extensive crafting professions). There were points to spread amongst the profession trees that let you Be a Master bounty hunter and have points left over to get One or two other professions. And in one fall swoop, everything that the players loved about the game, the customization of just about everything, and the fact theat the NGE was anounced two weeks after thousands of players bought a $30 expansion promising 'enhancements' to many professions that were scheduled for deletion. And the way that SOE had treated the customers that had somehow remained loyal to SWG throughout all we had endured through the months and years and the smear campagine that followed (calling us Uber dorks and the vocal minority) Is the virtuial equivelent of what the Nazi's did to the jews and then claimed it never happened. THey ruined a game that many many people spent hours and hours on each day and amassed money, items, resourses, weapons, armor, skills, and a few unlocked the ability to become a Jedi. Then SOE reduced this vas (albeit buggy at times) game and dumbed it down, removed everything that made it unique and fun, and reduced it to a game-boy type game in comparison to what it was before. Then SOE goes wild on its fourms and boards deleating any thing negetaive that the players have to say about the NGE, and banning players from thier fourms that were voicing thier opinion because they didn't want to look bad. (NGE? Everyone loves it! check out our fourms there isnt anything bad to say!) BUt in the end this move will be a double bladed sword. Although we lost our game, and the good times the 200,000+ players all had. The NGE will be the cancer that kills SWG and ultmately in the end SOE will suffer finanacly because of it. Will SWG ever become a Phoenix and rise again? Sadly, it dosent seem so.

This is one of those moments where I see where Darniaq (first comment above) is coming from. Holocaust comparisons are way, way, WAY over the top.

As a veteran since launch...I could spend many paragraphs illustrating my anger and frustration over spending 2 years mastering professions, dealing with saber TEF, no mounts...etc to get my jedi -- Only to have SOE hand everyone a jedi...

But my real problem (as it is among many other players) is the way this happened and SOE's blatant disregard of the community. Nothing on TC to get feedback on, 'sneaking' this behind the ToOB expansion...etc.

This is by far the best summary of the situation...and my feelings I have seen.

Kudos to you for a great article.

While we're talking about PR problems, let me point you all to the latest article from the Jan issue of PCGamer. The Times article and the rest were damaging, no doubt. This review, though, is a complete blow-out, well worth the cost of the magazine.

"Star Wars MMO is radically changed for the worse"
"With a diminishing number of players, you may never group with others on a regular basis"
"However dodgy a condition SWG was in before this, nobody could have expected such a total massacre of a two-and-a-half year old game in two weeks...Wel come to a game that has lost its identity."
"Gives SWG more problems than ever
It's > Buggy > Desolate > Back to the drawing board
It's not > Got any depth > Fun > The way forward
Disastrous: 27%"



i hope SOE burns in hell for what they've done, ruined such a unique "virtual world" fuck them all, i agree with the "virtual Holocaust" metaphor, maybe not THAT bad but still horrible, their costumer service sucks my balls more then a dog would if i put peanut butter on them. I was thinking bout getting back into SWG...thank god i read about the NGE before i did...my recommendation...give SWG to a development that can actually handle a MMO such as NCsoft they've handled city of heroes like gold. They fix bugs when reported, they have great costumer serivce, they are the complete opposite to SOE. SWG is a great idea for a MMO they just fucked themselves from the start by giving the game to a shit-faced development team in SOE

SWG was the best mmo i played until the made the cu. when they should had just fix what they had which so many people love now look at them... Although i would not mind starting from the beging if they started over

two years of jedi acc...
two years played outside...
Returns my original game!

I have great memories of a game that I bought and played endless hours mastering professions, including Jedi. I would have loved the chance to be involved in the Force Rank System (FRS), but now the Dark and Light Jedi Enclaves are just rotting away and reminders to the old gamers of a time long gone. I laugh when I imagine a new gamer coming across one of these enclaves and ask.... "What is this place for? Doesn't seem to do anything." I can still remember when cantina's in places like Theed, Naboo or Coronet, Corellia were full of gamers hanging out with thier friends, like a cantina should be, only to result in a place for nothing more than NPC's to gives quests. What my point in this is, I don't need the interesting blogs to inform me of how the game is dying, I can see it from the inside in comparison with my own memories of how it once was. I am a hardcore Star Wars fan that now plays Final Fantasy XI. FFXI is a great game that I have a lot of fun with.


One thing I haven't seen mentioned yet is how those of us who used to play swg had to pay for the expansions such as jump to light speed and rage of wookies, etc.. and now with the new swg those expansions are free and they never ever even tried to repay us in any way for having bought those. That really stinks. Not one free day, not one free item. Not even a thank you. How do you think people felt who bought JTL a week before that new crap came out? They felt cheated, ripped off and lied to. Way to go Sony. No wonder everyone has bad things to say about you'll. I hope you're proud, you'll got my 40 bucks per game and expansion but you'll didn't get too many months of subscription out of me. Thank god I came into swg late. I would've hated to build an online world of friendships, characters, buildings, etc... only to have them raped by Sony.

I can some this all up in one sentance... SWG is dying, it was dying before the NGE, in fact, it was dying before the CU, and there is only one reason for this slow, but steady, death: the game was never than good in the first place, and the devs -never- fixed what underlying bugs exsisted, in the first place. End of story...

If you can imagine living on an island for 2 years. Meeting its people, learning its customs and experiencing a wonderful and entertaining stay? .... would you be shocked to hear only a few months after you're leaving that the island had been completely blown away like so much of Alderaan's dust?
I was.
I left SWG a few months before the Death Star poised itself directly over So many people's 'connection'.
For me the real 'end' was when I sat down and started figuring up how much exp it would take me to become a Jedi after the 'glitched' old man finally visited me.
[-***content censored***-]
And before anyone says a SINGLE word to me about 'whining'....dont even. From Day One [Day Two to be more accurate...actually Day Two and 3/4 for me since I didnt know the damn thing was actually up and running again]...I was there.
Every single day. [Not sure if I should be proud or ashamed of that.]
I put in my time. The way *I* think was right. I didnt comb the forums for tweaks, cheats, macro, blah etc.
I searched. I asked others [in character] and exchanged information.
So finally getting ON the FS path came late for me.
Yes it was much slower, but I prefer to not be told the next chapter of a book before I read it.
Id mastered almost every Two Letter Profession available. CH, BH, SL etc.
And then my goal finally came one day. The first step to why Id started playing in the first place.
[anyone who says they didnt want to be Jedi is, well..odd to me. Did you wanna be the Flower girl in FF7? Noooo. ...you wanted to be Sephiroth :) ]
So here was my shot to achieve this thing Id put sooooo many hours into.
And then after finding out if I quit my job, and did enough Meth to stay up continuously? I could be Jedi in....oh...6 months.
I was done. I stopped in my tracks right there.
I would not chase SoE's Carrot any longer.
And now, as I have sat here for the last few hours basically getting an odd kind of 'closure' from reading all of this...
Well. What is left to say?
Its dead.
SWG was like a bar we all met at. We made friends, cussed out the stupid people [read as: All of us at one time or another], ...and watched the owner's of the bar try to serve us lamb's piss and expect us to 'shut up and just drink it."
I am proud that the Last Stand of My Rebel Comrades was to stay to there oath... An Alliance doesnt JUST fight together... if needed, they LEAVE together.
May the Force Be With You.

this is 100% the best article on the SWG tragedy!!!! i have sent this link to everyone i kno that played SWG. i was in a guild of 75 active players and 4 inactive... only 4 players were under cl 70... we loved the game, until the demise and we even tryed to play thru the demise... i had 4 accounts on 2 different servers and its all gone because SOE was too immature to man up to a HUGE mistake, humility is the best way to fix a huge screw up...

we all play WoW now and still miss SWG but WoW is good to its fanbase, the Blizzard CSR's are much more friendly and a lot more helpful than any SWG CSR ever was... i will always miss the freedom i had in SWG to be what ever class i felt... when ever i felt it... instead...they turned it into a kids game that pre-teens get bored with and teens cant stand the simplicity and stagnant pace of the game, quite sad...

My lover and I both played. We had three accounts between us. I was a female Twi'lick (misspelled) MD -- I didn't spend a lot of hours per week -- but surely 5-10 each week. My partner was one of the dog people -- I can't remember their name. Well he was two of them actually, on different accounts. He had a Creature Handler and a Politician. We loved the game, had a lot of fun, it was wonderful. We never complained, we enjoyed it too much. I had a house and lots of gowns and dresses and nice furniture. I had some rifleman levels too - as much as I could afford -- so I could defend myself and engage in combat when I wanted. I wasn't happy after the CU -- but we adjusted and kept playing. We had played from the beginning, we would have kept playing. Then came the abomination. Our classes disappeared completely, crafting didn't matter -- it all turned into crap.

We left the next day.

I still play EverQuest II -- some -- but I don't trust SONY anymore. I had always stuck up for them.

The sensible thing would have been to leave some servers, a minimum of support personnel -- and let those of us who wanted to play the old game with the crafting and the player cities and so forth keep playing what they liked to play -- while going ahead and creating a NEW "twitch" game. I think they would have kept a far larger base that way, we would have certainly stayed. Money would have kept flowing in, and it is possible to make money with a far smaller base than they would have kept -- no matter what percentage the liscense was costing them. They weren't interested.

ah well.

6 months after NGE hit, and now they've made more sweeping changes to the game.(Which of course, there was a strong backlash to this) Weapon stat systems have been completley overhauled, and now there's talk of reimplementing CU style gameplay from the developers.

When will SOE/LA ever learn?

God what I wouldnt pay for a pre CU server..HELL!! I would even settle for a post Cu server..Just no NGE.. $40 a month for a pre NGE server..I would do it.


SWGEmu will bring Pre-CU/NGE back free of charge!

Thanks for writing this definitive piece about SWG.
It was a sad, sad thing.

total agree with wallbanger except the price!!lol

True they have screwed the game up for alot of players, and yes they took huge risk changing so much and nerfing half the game. but 90% of the people that moan has not logged in for the last year and have not seen how much the game is changing yet again. Once again sony is rolling out a stream of patches and revamps changing basicly the whole game all over again and i myself for one am impressed with these changes, they seem to be listening to the customers the second time around ( hard lesson to learn the first time. ) but the patches are a positive move and bugs are being fixed, introduction to better pvp system, quest content, class specific content etc ..

I was at a cross road a while back, i was about to quit my account and continue to play on my wow toons, but i stuck it out and i am glad i did, SWG is definitely making a come-back and i don't think the game is near dead, on the contrary, player base is picking up daily, and altho it is no where near what it used to be it is slowly getting there. My advice to any new player, try the game, i promise you , you will love it, and to old players that left, you might be surprised how well the game has been designed now, i found a post on the net of an old SWG player who returned to test new changes and i will post the link where you can go read an honest opinion.


The NGE is the blueprint of how to bite the hand that feeds you.

I played this game for a long time, from september '03 to just after the NGE hit..when it did, i quit....disgusted at what SOE had did.

I recently downloaded the free 14 day trial version, to poke around and see what has happened since.. Let me tell you first hand, it is empty in there!!! The capital cities used to be packed full with people. Now however you are lucky to find 10 people in any one city.

Whats worse are all of the condemed buildings and factories, from players who have left..they litter the planet which creates tons of lag. Entire player cities are dead, empty, ghost towns, and the Developers have been very reluctant to remove them, kind of like a kid squeezing his eyes, hoping that those people will eventually return, so there isnt a need to delete them..

I can imagine the cost of SWG..the LA royalties for using Star wars content, the Cost of keeping the servers up, the cost of development and paying the developers, CSR's, and ontop of that the cost of marketing this thing...with such a low subscription base, they better have something good up there sleaves, because eventually they wont have any other option but to conceed defeat and either shut down the game, or swallow there pride and bring back the pre-cu...which EVERYONE knows would bring the people back

SOE took in my opinion the most potential MMO ever and said "Right how can we fuck this up. Ok. Let's do that".

In my opinion this is a great of example of people who don't know how to listen.

Great post nailed what happened on the dot.

SWG-pre-cu may have had lots of bugs, but for me it also had fantastic immersion and the most wonderfull complex crafting system, not least the bio engineer.

I did the trial recently and it seems to have improved since nge came out. but without the complexity and community, its just a waste of time.


Great post, SOE really Killed this one, and I believe That One day smed said something about 300k players playing swg, Oh! They also sold more than 1 million boxes, Now 1 million games sold, only maybe 30k people playing it today(much less when the 1 year subs expires) Thats got to be the worse way to handle a game ever.

SOE should have provided migration for the players (their clients) from old system to new. Perhaps creating NGE servers, offering incentives to players to migrate, then announce the eventual closing of old servers (to be converted to NGE) over a period of weeks. I'm sure that would have cost them alot less than what they ended up with. In the end it would have built even stronger fan communities with good faith toward SOE.

Everyone knew the old system was buggy and most would've gladly migrated had their been some PR involved. SOE made NO attempt to engage, migrate, or transition players that I know of (and they have all our email addresses). They transitioned servers and basically said, "live with it". I'm not even going to address the issues of fraud over non-refundable subscriptions or sold expansions (only to become worthless in NGE). The facts remain that SOE is a business and changed their product / service to increase profit by simplifying the system and changing the game's basic structure to appeal to a different demographic. Along the way, they forgot that their existing players ARE the fan base and not even attempting to offer good faith migration schemes was unbelievable. I'd like to know the name of the PR idiot who said, " just market the hell out of it and replace the old players with new". Word of mouth is FAR more powerful than commercials. Enough said. This horse cant be any more dead.

So, is the current game any good or an abomination? I recently loaded the 14 day trial, against my better judgment, for my 9yo son who wanted to play it. I found myself morbidly curious by the new system and, after playing it for a while, I wasnt horrified. Its engaging for new players with quests, cut scenes, and interaction with SW movie characters. Hopefully its balanced and relatively bug free - perhaps a good seedbed for new player communities to develop. Will it ever recover? The bitterness toward SOE is huge among former SWG fans but, since I wasn't around during the NGE rollout and don't harbor that bitterness of being betrayed (just annoyed by the bugs), I see the new version as being more than worthy of another try - not for SOE's sake but because I'm a bigger fan of SW than I am a hater of SOE.

it killed the game for me, but i know a few people that like the game more now..so, i guess there are two sides to every disaster.

My last hour in SWG was devoted to giving away money (500,000 credits to anyone who would take it).

I spent time in my city remembering the heady days when we had 125 residents, and easily 60 would be meeting around our market area at the shuttle preparing their evenings adventures. But not a soul was to be found. And for the 4 weeks prior to my cancellation date, I had emailed (in-game) citizens, announcing my final day and time for those that cared enough to receive distributions.

After 15 minutes wandering the lonely streets I moved on to the great cities, visiting each with a starport and at least walking out the entrance. Prior to the NGE, each was a festival of activity - now entirely empty.

Only on Tatooine, in the starting city did I encounter a few NEW players - who did gratefully accept my donation.

Only in the capital city of Naboo did I encounter any high level mature players. Two of them graced me with a moments time sufficient to give a gift and share a word or two about the game.

And finally, returning to my old beloved city, did I get a /tell from a friend. But he was not interested in receiving any money - he just wanted my name and server in WoW.

All told, I was able to give away 12 million credits in just under 2 hours. My wife and I were in the original beta (and included in the games credits which was a nice touch). She literally cried when the NGE went live, and terminated her account instantly.

I stayed on for a year, mainly because I was the Mayor of the city and felt a duty. But, eventually, there was no one to feel duty towards.

20 players I know personally, representing about 35 accounts, left SWG within a month or two of the NGE going live.
15 of those are playing WoW. None even considered WoW until the NGE incursion.

The SONY brand has fallen off my list of acceptable vendors.

i know how u feel u get like a cold feeling in ur chest remebering the good time and now its gone i feel u guys lets just hope they come back...

Lets just hope... :(

This is the greatest article ever!! I am so glad people have come together to air their opinions. SWG was awesome when it first came out. I met lots of fun people and could wait for my days off to dedicate my 2-3 hrs of free time to developing a character. Sadly I noticed the glitches right off. After filling out a ticket the problems never went away. I went through two new hard drives, soundcards and video cards. Just to be able to play effectively. It never worked. I remember being on the phone with a CSR who couldn't ever fix any of the problems I had. As a fan of Star Wars I hope and stayed a year longer than i should've hoping all would get fixed. Never happened. I did reach my goal of making jedi before my 11 year old son could play a few months later and earn it with his first character. I crapped my pants when i came up to look what he was talking about. I also never got my Trials of Obi-Wan refund. I remember the good old days of going to the jedi village and riding my speeder around in endless circles wondering how Luke became a jedi and if he ever did that usless crap. You would think jedi trials would be a bit more advanced. I hope and hear rumors of the design of a new SWG style game based on KOTOR. Who knows maybe the arrogant jerks at Sony will take care of their customers better. By the way WOW rules!.

Still the best on the web when it comes down to what happend in the game, I recently came back to look around last month on Ahazi, there are a few left from the old days. Some are back because of the new SWTOR I hope to catch you guys there if its close to being good like SWG..