I’ve written about issues in Star Wars Galaxies before (one, two), but that was before LucasArts and SOE decided to radically redesign the game without consulting their customers first. My impression has been that this became a major catastrophe, but to be honest I haven’t looked at their subscription numbers before and after.
Whatever the case may be, Henry Jenkins just posted an article about the mistakes LucasArts and SOE made when they pulled the rug from under their fans’ feet. That Chip Guy also has an interesting analysis on his blog.
My general conclusion is that LucasArts / SOE’s move was made with an old-fashioned company-customer relationship in mind, and not the new, participatory, egalitarian relationship that is becoming more and more prevalent – one based on customers who can spread information more rapidly than you, who can talk among themselves faster than you can talk to them, who are passionate and intelligent. It’s a very different mindset. Most types of video games are curiously detached from the general intersection of culture and technology. In my opinion, this is because video games tend to be hermetic, culturally speaking (see Second Life, arguably not a game, for a counter-example), and because they typically use the Internet in quite limited ways, if at all. Nevertheless, this is not the case for MMOs, and it’s foolish to not show respect for your paying customers.
Update: I just came across an interview with Raph Koster in The Escapist which also discusses the SWG NGE.