Hyperspace Beacon: No, Star Wars The Old Republic isn’t on the verge of sunset

I recently read a wild argument based on unsubstantiated rumor that Star War: The Old Republic is nearing its end of life, that BioWare is tired of it and is considering shutting it down. It’s just one among many I’ve read lately, and I don’t believe they are right. Instead, some appear to be repeating the same tired premise: “I don’t like it, and therefore no one should like it.”

Now, I don’t like many games, but I understand the merits and positive qualities of even some of the oldest, most shop-worn MMORPGs. First-person shooters make me disoriented because of the camera placement, but that doesn’t make them bad. In fact, one of my favorite series of games, Bioshock, was all told in first-person, but that didn’t affect the quality of the game. (Of course, I had to play it in super-easy mode just so that I could get through it without getting sick, but that’s beside the point.)

So in that vein, I would like to present my argument for why I believe the rumormongers are wrong about SWTOR.

New content

I’ve been around MMOs long enough to know that the release of new content by itself is not enough evidence to say that the game is still alive and kicking. It was only a little while before the Star Wars Galaxies‘ sunset that the developers released atmospheric flight to the game. In hindsight, that was likely a last-ditch effort to push things out before the end. However, SWG‘s end-time releases appeared to be more about side projects than real, meaty content.

SWTOR just released its latest boss to the Gods of the Machine operation: Scyva. This is the second-to-last boss in the operation that’s been in development for about a year. I know that many people — including me — think that it’s taking too long for BioWare to release all the bosses for this operation, but the bottom line is that content is being created, and more is very obviously on its way.

Constant communication

More than one person mentioned that BioWare hasn’t released really new information about the game since May. I found that particularly claim baffling to say the least. Now, I understand that maybe if someone weren’t paying close attention, it’d be possible to miss the many meaty forum posts and the couple of livestreams since then. However, I don’t know how someone could have missed the Roadmap post in October and the fact that Timothy Zahn (author of Thrawn and other Star Wars novels) attended the New York Comic Con Community Cantina because he was a consultant on the Copero flashpoint.

Even during the holidays, when other games are very light on communication, SWTOR continued to communicate with its fanbase, making sure to indicate many of the things that were coming in the future. Now it is true that many of the announcements were about new cashshop items, but class updates and the introduction of brand-new PvP zones were thrown in there, too.

A new expansion coming in 2018

It’s true that we are uncertain about why some of the 2017 items were delayed, but that is not an indication of an impending sunset. Perhaps they had to polish the final bosses in the operations or maybe they wanted to add more content to the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion before moving on to the next chapter. Or maybe they are looking for the right release window for the next expansion. And there will be another expansion.

No, we have not had a press release or a new trailer, but Producer Keith Kanneg said there will be a new expansion in a tiny hint following the October 3rd livestream. It took me a bit to find someone with a screenshot of it because he was talking to the chatroom post-stream, so it’s not on the VOD. Thankfully, SWTOR Central captured it. “I’ll leave you with not commenting on next year’s expansion plans,” Kanneg said, posting under the SWTOR Twitch account. “You’ll have to wait to hear about that!”

I suppose this could have been the ultimate troll. Kanneg could eventually say that there is not going to be an expansion and that SWTOR is shutting down, but I’m doubting that EA wants to piss off the Star Wars fanbase more than it already has.

Server merges

Lastly, I would like to comment that server merges are usually not an indication of a game shutting down. It is an indication — sometimes — of a population getting smaller, but just the fact that a game has been running for six years is an indication that the population for the game is getting smaller.

A game studio isn’t in denial when it combines servers; it knows that the population for the game isn’t what it used to be. However, the producers aren’t going to invest into the infrastructure of the game servers if they are just going to shut everything down a little while later unless opening and closing servers amounts to just a push of the button. And we learned from the server merges last year that things are a bit more tricky than that.

No, the SWTOR developers have clearly been allowed to invest in some of the fundamentals of the game stemming from art assets to server stability, which seems like an odd investment if the company is just going to shut everything down a few months later anyway.

Sure, it’s possible that I’m completely wrong about all this. Maybe Kanneg is trolling us and EA will pull the funding for the game – certainly, unnamed source have said BioWare’s plans are “up in the air.” Maybe Kanneg has no idea, and EA will pull the plug on the servers without warning the people creating the game. (I would not be surprised if that’s how it eventually happens.) But given what we actually know about the studio’s activities and decisions in 2017, a sunset in the near future just doesn’t seem likely.

What are your thoughts? Is there enough evidence to suggest that SWTOR will go into maintenance mode or have its plug pulled? Are we running into a case where many people don’t play the game anymore so they believe it needs to be turned off? Let me know in the comments.

Every other week, Larry Everett jumps into his T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and posts his adventures in the Hyperspace Beacon. Drop him a holocom on Twitter @Shaddoe or send him a transmission at larry@massivelyop.com. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!
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67 Comments on "Hyperspace Beacon: No, Star Wars The Old Republic isn’t on the verge of sunset"

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wayshuba

I do not share in your optimism nor assessment.

SWTOR is down to five servers (from 214 at launch and 17 from the last couple of years) and the population continues to drop.

Content coming out is the bare minimum an MMO could possibly do to at least hold on to what subs they do. When you are taking a sub fee you are kind of obligated to produce some content for that. However, the content put out in 2017 was completely laughable for an MMO. An entire year of content in SWTOR was less content than a typical triple-AAA MMO, like ESO, puts out in one patch.

Speaking of content, how many other triple AAA MMOs do you know that have taken three years in between raids AND took 18 months to put out ONE RAID. This coupled with the lack of content in 2017 tells you there is a skeleton team putting out the most bare minimum to keep the subs from falling faster than they are.

As for the expansion, Keith said no such thing at all. All he said in his typical announcement of an announcement was he was’t going to talk about 6.0. Considering the current patch release was 5.7, and we know there has to be a 5.8 at least (for the last op boss), 6.0 for BioWare could simply be another paltry patch as it falls in line. There is nothing in his statement hinting it is a full expansion. Besides, if it is, don’t be surprised with the minimal team they have on it that it is nothing more than adding five levels to characters, adding four NEW tiers of gear for morons to continue to chase to do the same content they could do before the increase, and an increase for top tier content to justify it all.

I am sorry, but this is EA we are talking about. The same company that said 7 million units for Battlefront 2 was bad. You really think an MMO with five servers and maybe 50,000 people still playing it is even on EA’s radar to care about? They have closed entire studios in one swoop doing better than SWTOR is.

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Armsman

After the whole Star Wars battlefront II situation (Where Disney basically point blank told EA – “No! Change the way this works – NOW!”); along with how Disney just ended their relationship with Marvel Heroes and Gazillion (with VERY GOOD reasons) – I wouldn’t be surprised if EA is moving Devs to a game/IP they have more direct control over.

The writing is on the wall and it’s clear EAZ mishandled SWToR almost from day one. They thought it would just be a money making machine no matter what they did (because Hey! – Star Wars) – bit even they started to see that no, the majority of people drawn to a Star Wars game WON’T just shell out cash/aren’t gullible lemmings just because something has ‘Star Wars’ in the title; and it’s an attitude they then carried over to ‘Star Wars Battlefront II’ to the game’s (and EA’s and Disney’s) detriment.

There’s a very good chance Disney will NOT renew whatever Star Wars IP license agreement with regard to game development with EA once time on the current agreement ends. EA management is at least smart enough to realize that; so yeah, it’s not surprising SWToR is effectively going into near maintenance mode as a result.

EA wants top shift focus to something they control and that they hope will net a way better ROI then SWToR has done since they launched it. The majority of marketing and development mis-steps with regard to SWToR can be DIRECTLY laid at the feet of EA/BioWare

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Daniel Reasor

I would imagine that a lot hinges on the question of when does EA’s Star Wars license expire. Engadget reported in 2013 that EA had extended the license for ten years, meaning that they’ve got it for another five unless Disney has some escape clause in the fine print.

https://www.engadget.com/2013/11/20/ea-holds-onto-star-wars-games-license-for-10-years-says-swtor-i/

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Bannex

This game has nothing to do with Disney’s sw. It’s dead in the water, anything that comes out from here on out is cutting room floor content until Disney turns the lights out.

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SirUrza

I said it in October and I’ll say it again…

“I’ll leave you with not commenting on next year’s expansion plans.”

Could mean the plan for next year’s expansion is there are no plans just as easily as it means there are plans.

Also, remember a game Austin was developing, Shadow Realm? That got cancelled. If they’re going to cancel a whole game, they clearly wouldn’t have a problem cancelling an expansion, especially if things are as bad as the kotaku article suggests and Anthem could make or break them. If most of Austin is working on Anthem, that means barely anyone if anyone is working on an expansion.

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Ariel Domen

Well IDK if it’s going to shutdown, that depends on the money they are making. But if you play the game you can tell the resources are extremely low. Look at the “new” warzone is just a copy paste of the old one, to an embarassing level. There’s practically no new content, they take ages to fix bugs, or simply they leave them be, and forget about balance. When I log in and play, I already assume I’m playing a broken game in maintanance mode.

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IronSalamander8 .

I have to respectfully disagree with most of this Larry.

The new content is pitiful at best. It’s been at least a year and they still haven’t finished 1 Ops! The new companion ‘content’ is little more than a cutscene, the uprisings were made as simplistic as possible, and a couple new FPs is a joke for new content.

The communication is abysmal too. I watch the official forums to look for a sign that they turn things around since I did love the game for years but legitimate queries are ignored or left with cut and paste answers, their posts are few and far between and often they miscommunicate; either intentionally or not (like the west coast server is now on the east coast, driving APAC players nuts with lag). The focus is far too heavy on the CM and not content the playerbase can sink their teeth into.

Even the late and often minimal roadmap is overdue. There’s no reason to think the game has a rosy future. As for shuttering soon? I don’t know for sure but I doubt we’ll see any real growth as even long term defenders of the game on the official forums and elsewhere have been more measured and cautious in their defense of the game. I would be shocked to see an actual expansion this year, even one of the poor KOTET/KOTFE story upgrades seems a stretch for them now.

Of course if they do manage to turn things around, I’d be happy to login to my Chiss Darth again, I just don’t see that ever happening. 2017 was a terrible year for a game that had such promise. The latest 5.7 patch has only one thing I would like and that’s the Salsa dance and that’s in a gamble box! It’s so depressing for a game I played like mad for years!

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Barachiel

You’ve pretty much summed up my feelings.

While I don’t think SWTOR is going to *shut down*, any time soon, the game is already inching towards maintenance mode, and Shreier’s article pretty much confirms it’s only a matter of “when”, and not “if.”

Also, calling it an “unsubstantiated rumor” when Shreier, an actual journalist with a good track record of reliable anonymous inside sources, is quoting said sources, is just disingenuous at best. Whereas the only thing Everett provides are educated guesses based on some seriously spurious reasoning.

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Witches

Doubt it, the game is already on life support, so maybe these conversations happened sometime in late 2016/early 2017, i’ve heard of games closing right after expansions, the expansion was the last ditch effort to save the game, but shutting down after an hardware upgrade would be strange even for EA, if the plan was to either shut down or go to maintenance mode, they could just let things stay as they were.

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Vicarious Fan

what MMO was shut down right after an expansion?

hurbster
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hurbster

At this point in time I’d like to see some one else have a go.

Grimalkin
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Grimalkin

So many straws to grasp at

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wratts

I will bet that if it does shutter that it’s somehow license related. Disney, Lucas, and EA all think big. If this game seems niche only, they’ll put pressure on it for that alone. In their view, Star Wars should never be niche