Microsoft cancelling unique space battle game Galactic Reign in three days; servers offline by January

If there is one thing we don’t like about Microsoft it’s when they put an end to good ideas that seemingly didn’t get a fair chance.

Such is the case with Galactic Reign, the distinctive space-battle and strategy game that co-launched on Windows Phone and Windows 8 just a few months ago. The game allowed people to play online against other Xbox users and to continue the game on their phone or tablet, seamlessly. The game’s real unique feature was the custom rendering of space battles, giving users a new way to appreciate war.

Now in their support forums, Microsoft has announced that the game will no longer be available after August 15th, which is in just three days. The game’s online servers which power the system, will be taken offline December 31st.

Color us crushed.

The game, which costs $4.99 on Windows Phone and Windows 8 (though users only needed to purchase it once for cross-platform play), will evidently not be refunded unless you put up a fight with customer service.

But why?

Microsoft only gave the tersest non-answer to the question ‘Why?’ by stating:

“We continually explore new games and entertainment concepts.  Galactic Reign was a great cloud-based video rendering game exploration that we are going to bring to a close.”

There are either two explanations for the change: the business model just did not work out (and not enough people were playing to justify the costs) or the game itself was a test-bed for newer technology (that you paid to be a part of). While the second answer probably has some truth in it, we suspect that it was simply not cost-efficient to run those servers with so few players.

In fact, as much as we love the game, we found ourselves often forgetting we had ongoing battles with other opponents. The game is turn-based, meaning games could go on for some time, especially if someone didn’t play their turn.

Even worse was Microsoft’s answer to the question will there be any future Galactic Reign games released? The answer is no, meaning this is the end of this unique experience.

We understand Microsoft has a business to run, but we can’t help but be upset at such a cancellation. The game has massive potential and had it gone to iOS and Android along with some actual promotion, could have potentially taken off bringing much needed attention to the mobile Xbox universe. The game has a high 4.5 Star rating in the Store from 366 reviews, but that number of reviews is quite low for an Xbox Live title.

You can read our detailed review of Galactic Reign here and if you need to re-download it before it goes, you can pick it up here in the Store.

Source: Xbox Forums (opens in new tab); Thanks, ActiveNick, for the tip

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Lol, good that I didn't buy it :p
  • I was thinking about it, but now I saw this...
  • Lol...
    I thought the same
  • Rats!  I was about to buy this as it's just the sort of game I actually have time for (a bit of time scrounged here and there) and seemed to be a good robust game (not the usual phone-game that's as shallow as a rain puddle).
    Are people really that worked up about $5?
  • That's too bad. I really enjoyed the game.
  • :'(
  • What about a refund or an offline mode for the Game I bought it twice on WP and win8 so I spend 10€ :( btw always ready for a round Galagtic Reign gamertag: Kaynachtsman ;)
  • +1 for offline mode even if without animations!
  • +920 on the refund! If they going to shut it down for good they should refund everyone.
  • Just let the user host the game in the phone with a update like a lot other games do
  • Liked this game a lot, just never really got into playing it on a regualr basis for fun. Purchased it both on Windows Phone and Windows 8, but like so many Xbox Live Windows Phone/8 titles, the online world is dead within a week. Literally, you wll not find a single player online at any time. Kind of a shame. I can see the reason for pulling this as mentioned in the article. The game is entirely online. It is not like it is even part of the experience.
  • Should also be said that the company that developed the game, Slant 6, laid off all staff in June. Very sad as several friends worked there and I was a big fan of the game.
  • Interesting and sad to hear...had no idea.
  • Hey man, best of luck to all your friends...hope they get another steady gig soon! =[
  • The plight of every Windows Phone 7 developer...
  • There resoning for closing the game hurts my soul
  • That is really disappointing. I use it on my Surface and my Phone and really enjoy it! :-(
  • I played once didn't like it.
  • That sucks, loved this game...
  • I was just about to try it too, good job I didn't eh.
  • I bought it what a Rip off this the 1st game I bought that won't work after December what the hell Microsoft?
  • No wonder nobody is playing it if it costs $5, duh.
  • No doubt to cover the costs of the servers, but if no one was playing, even that wouldn't help.
  • Playing doesn't cover the costs, it generates more costs actually. Purchasing the game covers costs, and that wouldn't happen untill the price was right. MS Studios could've saved this game by cutting the price, but instead they decided to brutally murder it. Did they even try at least putting it on sale for a week? I really don't buy the server cost angle. I'm pretty sure MS Studios gets good deals on renting Azure servers, so the cost of running a simple service for a few users is minimal. Please notice that various freemium, $1 or even free multiplayer games do just fine, even though thousands of users keep plaing without paying. I think it's just Microsoft being Microsoft - randomly doing weird shit with their products and services, and screwing over some customers to remind us how unstable of a vendor they are when on their period.
  • [Not speaking on behalf of my employer or any related entities.  All views and opinions expressed are mine.]
    Running things in Azure isn't free.  There's overhead involved and capacity is expensive (not to mention regional concerns - sure there's capacity in SE Asia BUT... the ping time could be triple digits leading to a poor experience).
    You can look at it as the left hand stealing from the right but that's really an internal control mechanism for making good business decisions.  Purchasing a game doesn't BEGIN to cover the costs unless it becomes "Angry Birds" or something.
    Look at the basic costs like this (and keep in mind this is just SE - sustained engineering - upkeep and patching NOT dev time or licensing an engine):
    Devs - 90-100K (at least three but better to have at least five with any three being able to support the entire codebase) Art - Same price but smaller studios, or projects, can hire on an ad-hoc basis and a smart artist will leave a "I can increase my bill rate whenever I want." clause and by getting creative with licensing. (50K+)
    Sound - See above
    Story - See above
    HR/management - A dev's salary might break down to 50/hr but ultimately after benefits and overhead each head could REALLY cost 120/hr
    Now add that up, and knowing that you could have 10,000 players.
    Do the math.
    There*s likely more to the story than that as it takes a LOT of work to get into MSG.
    [BTW - MS is *THE* most stable vendor in the world for their Enterprise products.  Just a bit of an FYI there.]
  • All your silly logic gets in the way of my skin deep thinking & my right to bitch & complain on the Internet like some anonymous toddler. I don't have to run their business P&L so why should I care about sustainability? And while we're whining, let's talk about the clear lack of innovation & risk Microsoft has demonstrated: One of these days, they're gonna take some big financial risks on some new ideas, like new types of cross-platform cloud gaming. Oh, and Microsoft doesn't give products a chance! How could they possibly see that NO ONE WAS PLAYING THE GAME AT ALL? It's not like they have, y'know, usage & sales trend reports or anything. When, oh, when will Microsoft spend billions of dollars on a product and really stick to it? WHEN I ASK YOU?!? /sarcasm
  • It's one of those tricky situations... Do you charge more for less customers, or less for more customers overall? I can't recall ever seeing GR on sale... They should've tried that to see if they get a rise in people playing which can often lead to even more customers coming onboard.
  • I love it when we all discuss businesses like we know what we're talking about...look at me, I'm a grown up! "Standard costs and consumer purchasing power...overhead" lol =P I'm just kidding everybody, I thought maybe a little levity would help... ;)
  • Edit - Just saw a lot of reviews letting people know that it will be shutdown soon. Good on them.
  • Owned on wp7
  • I really enjoyed the game when it came out, but as stated above, people would seem to forget they had a turn. I think most of my victories came from people who timed out. It's too bad, the game was very cool.
  • They have to get some of that $900 million they wasted on RT back somehow...
  • This is why I don't bother buying these kind of games, as companies can do what they like once they've got your money. The worst thing about this is people will have to jump through hoops, to 'try' get their money back -- this is terrible!
  • This is the only Xbox game I actually play. It had great potential too. I am very disappointed.
  • Can't blame Microsoft, if no one is playing, no one is playing. And by "no one" I mean not enough to matter, exact reason I never bought it. I knew I'd likely be waiting forever to get through games.
  • And that's what happens. There were no toast notifications (at least for me) unless you were in-game already, in which case it's completely pointless. I blame my forgetting about the games on that. The game itself had a good concept, however, and im sad since I spent $5 on it haha.
  • Dude, I think we have had a few games of GR between. Assuming your xbgt id the same as your wpcentral handle :P
  • That was you?!?! Dude nice!! I sucked hahaha
  • They should refund everyone's money without having to ask if they are going to shut down the severs that soon. I tried the demo but couldn't get past that.
  • Wtf??????? Microsoft wtf??????????????? One of your best games???????????? Just why?????????????
  • One vs. 100
  • One Vs. 100 was amazing. MS really don't give things a chance to succeed sometimes. I'm surprised they've even kept WP going as long as they have.
  • Another one of my games taken away my MS... This seems to happen too often to continue to be overlooked. At least credit back or replace with another like-priced game. I'm getting tired of my games becoming unpublished and I end up SOL.
  • Yikes.  
  • And leaving some virtual machines powered on costs them how much?
    Versus the negative vibe/publicity. RIght now, in the mobile phone world, the last thing Microsoft need is negative publicity. Stupidos.
  • Probably around $5 or even $10 a month.
  • You should probably do some research and I'm sure you'll find out how much...
  • And what came out of your research? $15?
  • I am not surprised. Bought it, attempted to play it. Looked neat, very ambitious, but I found it too engrossing for a phone game. Just my opinion, of course.
  • A sad loss. Enjoyed playing, but found mobile networks could not support, so game play limited to WiFi when at home. Was expecting 4g to help, but I guess this will not happen in time.
  • A key point brought up is that this should have been ported to ios and android with marketing behind it. Take the game to gamescon with a tie-in with a popular SciFi character like Stargate. Let users pay to upgrade to unique weapons and ship classes. This is a title that would've been one that excelled cross platform. Instead they will plead with an ios dev to bring their game to the platform and be behind on updates.
  • Actually that probably would have been the smart play, get the monies from the fat market share that the "DroidiOS" have so greatly benefited from... =/
  • I disagree with the strategy of brining any Xbox-branded games to iOS or Android. I lay out my argument here, but the gist of it is that Xbox-branded games can be a huge selling point of Windows Phone and if they give up that exclusivity at all, they kill that leverage they have.
    While I played Galactic Reign on Surface RT and didn't like it, I disagree with Microsoft's decision to shut it down. Sometimes you have to absorb some tiny costs in order to make the overall platform better. This was one of those cases. Instead, they've now left a sour taste in the mouths of everyone who bought this game (and even those who didn't, like me). Dumb move.
  • Not much into MP games, even less on a phone.
  • k?
  • Are you saying you are not into phones?
  • I hope and I pray that because of you brave souls who purchased said game, that the rest of us will be blessed with a full on multiplayer game with some of these features available, since you so freely invested in the development of this awesome technology and software. =D #TakeHeart
  • I bought it for Windows Phone and downloaded it for W8. I played for about a week. I have it pinned but I could never really get into it. Oh well. Its only $5, could be worse.
  • WHAT THE HEC is going on with Microsoft's Xbox support on Windows Phone?? Cant even get a release every week ! and now this?? Have we lost it all?
  • I'm still waiting on tentacles :/ Best mobile game I ever played, not much can keep my attention these days but tentacles was just awesome. WHY don't they release it in WP8 again?
  • Not 100% sure on this but never seen this game in the store in Australia, really think all games should be available in all regions. also not impressed that we have to purchase these games twice once on the phone another on windows 8 or RT.
    Hoping they can unify this soon. This is one area apple beats windows.
  • To be fair, a developer have to create a universal app.  If they don't, then you have to buy apps twice on ipad and iphone too.
  • Blows. Out $5.
  • perhaps they could have put the game on sale for 99 cents to spur interest.
  • Surprised they didn't release an Xbox 360 edition to solidify a big enough base of users.
  • I liked the game, but also have not played it for months.  i think the waiting to get your battle results made it sub-optimal.
  • Same here, waited and waited for the scenes to render. Sometimes a few minutes, sometimes 10 minutes or longer, or sometimes just hangs forever. If this is a test bed for future cloud-based games, doesn't the non-refund discourage future users from paying, since you don't know how long the game will keep working? Maybe offer paying users some store credit?
  • Bulls*!t. Why did they charge for a concept they where exploring with. I will be contacting them. I give them enough money as it is.
  • WTF? Now I think twice about buying any Online-relient game from Microsoft. They are even worse than EA! This questions the whole XBox One cloud-crap.
  • They should allow an azure service to run the game and then any game you start is run by your azure server for you and your friends. I would be cool with that for all of these games that have server parts that want to shut down.
  • Its a great game and a perfect example if Xbox cross platform multiplayer. Maybe they should have given away a few free tokens as a promotion to get more gamers involved I dunno but I think its a great game that shouldn't be canceled
  • Wow, I'm glad that I didn't buy this...
  • I tried it on Windows 8 and it wasn't much fun.
  • I assumed this business model wouldn't hold up... I just hoped they would update the game so you could still play, just skip the server rendering...
  •   Pity. It was a novel concept. Hopefully, more games will implement this feature in the future.
  • I truly wish for a time when Microsoft can bring a solid platform and stand behind it all the way. They had MSN Plus which included online storage of files and photos before even the term cloud was a technical jargon; then they discontnued it and lost me all my family photos from my siblings, nephews and nieces that were irreplaceable. Then they brought the service back when others smaller companies created a business model around the same principle. There was Spaces (pre-Facebook), it was very popular with MSN Messenger users around the globe. MS wasn't making money off of it and killed while introducing another similar service that never gained traction. Oh! And now, killing off MSN Messenger before Skype has all the features of the Windows Live Messenger it's replacing is forcing more and more folks to use apps like WhatsApp, Viber, etc..
    Microsoft could have eaten up the costs of running that game and cross promoted during the XboxOne launch and Windows 8.1 release.
  • Dear Microsoft if you are going to sell access to a beta test please be upfront about it. Don't rope people unknowingly into a paid beta test and then suprise them a few months later in saying that it's over. 
  • Oh man!!! This is sad news. Dang!!!
  • I guess I'm a rare beast but I play this game almost every week. Guess I'm the fool for buying a server based product.
  • I must have at least 150 matches on this. Great game. It could have used a few more maps, a little more customization. I kept sending invites but the regular players had stopped playing completely. Eventually I stopped playing too.
  • I too play this game many times a day. It was not released on Xbox or iPhone or Andriod. How did they expect to get players in numbers to make the game sustainable let alone profitable? So disappointing. Seriously today was day to buy my Windows Phone. It would allow me to play GR on the go. Sadly the rug was pulled out from under it.
  • Its stories like this which will kill what little confidence I had in ms in the mobile gaming space.  I bought it on surface and will likely be my last game as it is now the second game they have just abandoned that I bought (crackdown project sunburst being the other).
    I thought the whole point of leveraging the azure stuff for xbox cloud was it did not take any resources when it had low usage so it should not have cost anything if nobody was playing and would spool up servers when needed.  If we can't count on those games to be there why would anybody buy them going forward?
  • The problem with mobile platforms; many of these gems just come and go under the radar. I never heard about this one.
  • Good. I never got head or tail of this game. Good that I didn't buy. I already suffered for PES 2012.
  • But I thought the power of the cloud was infinite, so there is no need to take the server down...
  • Tells a story how much MS is committed to windows phone.
  • So this game joins the rank of  "Crackdown - Operation Sunburst": A nice gaming concept that simply gets abandoned.
    After my experience with Crackdown (which got cancelled, delisted and shutdown less than 30 days after I purchased it without getting a refund) I knew why I skipped on a game that relies heavily on online mode. Unfortunatelly my fears have come true, though. I am sorry for everyone who purchased this game.
  • have to pay to be a beta tester ! thank you Microsoft !!
  • Guess I'll remember this before I think about buying other cloud games, like Order & Chaos.
  • And I actrually bought this game. I hope I get a refund.
  • I have to say I loved playing this game but did wonder how it was financially viable for Microsoft.
    For those saying they want money back... come on guys, you spend more when going to Starbucks.  For a few months of fun, that was good value.  Sad that the game will be going though.
    Curious how the whole XBox One online servers will work given Microsoft's words about each console having many servers backing it up and that games can offload processing to those.  Perhaps XBox Live membership will pay for that as it's an ongoing revenue stream.
  • Lets all go nuts over them taking it down, they may well reverse this too!
  • Reminds me of how they killed Freelancer from going onto Freelancer 2: 
  • I was never a fan of this game.  Was so very simplistic.  And it took a few minutes to generate a video of the result.  You can't control the result, other than configuring the units and the class.  So what.  I wish it would have been somewhat realtime.  Just to simple of a game and it wasn't fun IMO.  Halo Spartan Assault, that's a different story and should be way more successful.  
  • I was able to get a refund (WP8) with no fuss in their live chat.
  • I think a lot of people have incredibly unrealistic expectations about what it takes to host a server. This is not like hosting a dinky little website; it's a server running a customized implementation intended to handle heavy and constant loads. Monthly costs run in the thousands per month, to start. Those costs scale with load, although I suspect that was not an issue here. Then there's all the custom software running to handle this game. That also is far from trivial, and I can't even imagine the upfront cost in development that environment. The important detail here is that Galactic Reign was built around that server-based environment. So this isn't something where you write a few lines of code, flip a switch and now have a neat little single-player game. It's easy to trivalize all the work involved when you don't understand what's going on behind the scenes. That's not to say, however, that what's happened here is a good thing. First, you have to question the decision to go with a game that even required a central server. Secondly, it's frustrating that a company like Microsoft couldn't have footed the bill to keep the game going. Unfortunately, I suspect they had a pathetically tiny numbering in the hundreds, at best. The more disheartening thing here is that it speaks to the state of gaming on Windows Phone. There isn't much variety or quality to be found and there's no good mechanism for promoting games.
  • I'm sorry but this is complete and utter horseshit
  • Fine. I will never buy an online game from ms again!
  • MS can't stop shooting themselves in the foot.
    Maybe Steve Ballmer is Bills Gates' idiot younger brother?
  • This sucks, I bought it only some weeks ago! That's a pretty short lifetime for such an expensive app.. Guess rendering those videos cost them quite a lot of bandwith which makes it a relatively costly service in processing power as well as bandwith for a game.
  • This sucks. Glad I didnt buy it
  • First, Project Sunburst, now this.
  • Would it have been that difficult for them to integrate the AI into the game for the single player campaign at least, instead of having that portion "in the cloud"?
    Maybe convert it to a freemium game to at least give it a chance at success?
  • this is amazingly stupid...what the interns are going back to school so they have to shut it down?  shit like this gives the android pirate crowd more ammo.
  • We pay for Xbox live gold for this and the servers are doing to be dead. This is a joke Microsoft :(
  • Help save Galactic Reign!