Sony Online Entertainment has closed down the Japanese servers for Massively Multiplayer Online game Star Wars Galaxies, offering subscribers a refund or the option to switch to a US or European server.
The move comes just after the title's one-year anniversary in Japan, and is sure to disappoint subscribers awaiting the imminent release of the latest expansion pack, The Trials of Obi-Wan. Unused time in the game which has been paid for in advance will be refunded to any affected customers.
Should Japanese subscribers wish to continue playing the game, SOE will also offer the option to transfer the game to a European or US server, though there may well be connectivity issues and the loss of a large percentage of gamers from the Japanese community to contend with should they take that option.
The market for MMO games is huge in Japan, though there are often marked differences in the type of games which are popular in the East. During the recent Austin Games Conference, leading MMO developers and publishers discussed the cultural differences between East and West, and it was suggested that titles like Star Wars Galaxies would always perform less favourably in Asian markets, due to a cultural disconnect with the concept of a 'future' world.
Games utilising already recognised brands such as Hello Kitty or Transformers would fair much better. There was also a suggestion that future titles are developed with territory specific expansion packs to diversify the gameplay and attract different types of gamers.