Star Wars: The Old Republic - A New Hope for Star Wars Fans

By Cody "Micajah" Bye, Managing Editor
By Cody "Micajah" Bye, Managing Editor

For a decade, massively multiplayer online games have been entertaining hundreds of thousands of gamers on a daily basis. These massive virtual worlds are embodiments of the fictional lands that we've always dreamed of exploring - from the hallowed grounds of Middle Earth to the war torn lands of Azeroth - and every year gamers spend countless hours dreaming of how they might change their favorite novel into a massively multiplayer online game. While thousands of intellectual properties are considered for MMOG treatment, only a few ever get the funding and the creative team on board to actually turn them into a full-blown AAA MMOG.

Everyone wants a lightsaber

So when Sony Online Entertainment and LucasArts announced in mid-2000 that they were creating a MMORPG based on the Star Wars universe, the majority of the gaming industry believed that Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) would be the game that would push MMOG gaming into popular culture. Looking at the top grossing movies since 1977, the Star Wars franchise holds four of the top ten spots (if you adjust for inflation), and every Star Wars movie has grossed over $200,000,000 at the box office. As a money-making intellectual property, nothing can touch the sheer power of Star Wars. Billions of dollars have been spent on Star Wars toys, video games and merchandise, and Star Wars fans continue to show their support, despite some mediocre products in the past. It was easily apparent that the rapidly growing MMOG industry would receive a huge shot in the arm with an influx of Star Wars fans, and SOE had that spot reserved with Star Wars Galaxies.

However, Star Wars Galaxies was nowhere near the game that many Star Wars and MMOG aficionados expected. The world was almost too big, the fights were mediocre at best, and the content was sparely populated throughout the various regions. Outer space combat was non-existent and those players that wanted to vie for a position as a Jedi were met with a cryptic and almost impossible grinding period. In essence, Star Wars Galaxies was not what anyone had hoped, and rather than bringing the MMOG market into new venues, SWG and its subsequent alterations created a vast number of jaded and cynical MMOG players. The game remains a fairly positive part of the SOE portfolio, but MMO gamers that played the title previously were furious with the way they were treated and dropped out of the Star Wars universe entirely.

But hope is far from lost for the Star Wars license in the MMOG marketplace. Officially announced only a few minutes ago, LucasArts has opted to give the Star Wars franchise another attempt in the MMOG space, and this time they’ve set their sites squarely in an era of Star Wars that is much more conducive to a popular player experience. The new MMO, which is titled Star Wars: The Old Republic, takes place thousands of years before Star Wars: Episode I and has the potential to harbor thousands of Jedi and Sith per server. While the details are still coming in regarding the exact use of Jedi and Sith in SW: TOR, it’s safe to assume that LucasArts and Bioware aren’t going to make the same mistakes that a Star Wars MMOG made in the past.

Star Wars Galaxies was viewed as a crime by many

Yet as this announcement breaks through the cloud cover of the San Francisco Bay, the rest of the MMOG industry is trying to determine how this game will affect the rest of the gaming space. As stated previously, a huge percentage of the U.S. population has seen one of the seven officially released Star Wars movies, and that is an audience that EA and Bioware obviously hope to tap into with the release of their upcoming MMO. While there will probably be some fallout from previously released MMOGs, I don’t envision that every subscription to World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, or Warhammer Online will end simply because of the release of a Star Wars-based MMOG.

On the contrary, Bioware may have a hard time convincing many of the formerly jaded Star Wars MMO gamers to come back to the fold and try their hand at a different Star Wars MMOG. That said, Sony Online Entertainment may be hard pressed to keep their existing player base in Star Wars Galaxies. For many Star Wars fans, the Era of the Old Republic is one that is full of mystery and the sort of epic adventures that we grew up envisioning when we played with our Star Wars action figures. If Bioware creates a game of truly grand proportions, everyone will be eager to try their hand at this new world.

In the end, I can only see Star Wars: The Old Republic bringing an even brighter spotlight to the MMOG market and pulling more people into our virtual worlds. Star Wars is huge. There is no denying that fact. With the consistency and standards set by previous Bioware titles, I can only assume that SW: TOR will be one of the bestselling MMO games of all time.

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