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