They also misjudge the type of game someone who would be interested in Star Wars would enjoy. Perhaps I'm wrong but I always thought Star Wars Galaxies was fairly popular until the developers started chasing World of Warcraft after seeing it do incredible numbers (which was a first). SWG was it's own thing. Closer to Ultima Online then Everquest and then eventually WoW. I figured it had solid numbers at least when Jump to Lightspeed came out.
It might be huge in other mediums, but we are talking about videogames here. There´s the perception among gamers that SW games are generally shity cash grabs, and as you say... Lucasarts has done nothing to dispel that notion.
So the prospective player base for SW titles has never been even remotely near the most other AAA franchises. You can´t compare SW with the Halo, Mass Effect, Blizzard games, Valve games, Elder Scrolls, Call of Duty, EA Sports franchises, it will never sell as well.
I think EA and Lucasarts thought the Old Republic would sell huge numbers and have massive subscription numbers just because it was Star Wars... they grossly misjudged the market.
Its selling point was that you could exist in the Star Wars universe. You could hunt things, take part in the civil war, visit locations from the films, books, and comics. You'd encounter iconic characters. In that you had a few quest lines (the themeparks which I think were there before the combat upgrade), mission terminals (ala Anarchy Online) that provided random content for you to deal with either solo or as a group to get better rewards. Bounty Hunters could actually hunt other players via mission terminals I believe. If you want to craft you could. You could even have factories out in the field gathering materials.If you wanted to build a city you could. Have a house in the middle of nowhere where you can be alone you could do that as well. If you wanted to fly in space and dogfight it out with Imperials, Rebels, or pirates you eventually could as well. If you wanted to just hang out in the cities, spaceports, or out in the middle of nowhere you could. You were your characters and you got out of it what you put into it. A "epic" storyline wasn't needed to push you or to make you feel important.
I think this a problem with mmos in general. Many (not all) don't allow you to just exist in the world you are playing in. Don't allow you to really just pretend for a few hours.
Edit: Hmm. I think I finally understand (in words) what my problem with recent mmos are and what I'm really looking for that I'd not finding. Wow.