As we all know, ever since A New Hope released back in ’77 Star Wars has become a fixture in pop culture. Over 30 years later it shows no signs of fading into the background of society’s consciousness. In fact, Star Wars keeps growing in popularity as the years go by. Kids who have enjoyed the films when they were young, turntheir kids on to them when the time comes. So it’s due to this popularity that Star Wars has invaded multiple different mediums, including video games. We’ve had Star Wars games since the first one was released in 1983 in arcades. Since then, we’ve had good games: Knights of the Old Republic, Battlefront, Super Star Wars; as well as bad games: Star Wars: Obi-wan, Rebel Assault.
Ever since LucasArts was founded in 1982, they’ve been responsible for creating and consulting on all Star Wars video games to be released. Unfortunately, just last year the company closed it’s doors for good. At the same time, George Lucas sold the overall rights to Star Wars to Disney. Then after that, Electronic Arts acquired rights to Star Wars video games. So now that all of the deals are said and done, what’s to become of Star Wars games?
In order to properly understand the future, it’s best to look at the past. So, why did LucasArts close? At the time the studio closed, no one was entirely sure as to what led to their downfall. Nearly a year after closing, information has begun to surface from various different sources, including former employees of LucasArts. It wasn’t just one thing that led to the studio’s downfall. While LucasArts put out quality games for years, many people contribute it’s problems in recent years to the number of changes in Presidents the company has had. In the last four years of the company’s existence, they’ve had 3 Presidents. This lead to multiple changes in direction for the company.
Good ol’ George’s name has also come up in conversation as to why LucasArts went under. It’s true George suffers much blame for other negative development of the Star Wars franchise, some have also pointed the finger at Mr. Lucas for LucasArts’ problems. Apparently Lucas was said to misunderstand the development process of games. He was used to being able to change his mind in regard to story multiple times within the film industry. However in the game industry, this can be very damaging. If you make a change to the story, you have to change everything else. This line of development lead to many setbacks.
Finally, a good majority of former LucasArts employees blame LucasFilm execs. According to these sources, the execs didn’t like to take risks on games. The team would pitch new and interesting ideas to take the Star Wars franchise and the execs would shoot them down and insist the team take a direction more in line with what was popular with the masses. That is, if they didn’t can the idea completely.
Now that we understand why they failed, examine what’s happening now. Disney now has rights to everything Star Wars related. However, they showed no interest in anything related to console games, this is where EA stepped in. Disney made a deal with EA, giving them the rights to Star Wars console games while Disney retained the rights to make mobile and social games.
Where will all of these changes take our beloved franchise? Well, one game has already been announced at E3 last year. EA debuted a teaser trailer of a new Star Wars: Battlefront game which is being developed by DICE, who are responsible for the Battlefield games. It’s also rumored that Visceral will be debuting a new Star Wars game at E3 2014 in a month from now.
EA has gotten a lot of flack over the years for how it runs things, but I personally believe their deal with Disney will be one that will benefit the fans of Star Wars. While LucasArts has worked with companies in the past, allowing them to develop (i.e. KOTOR from Bioware, Battlefront by Pandemic), many were done by LucasArts themselves. Due to the many issues at LucasArts in recent years, a lot of games were canceled or rushed and they either didn’t see the light of day or ended up being flops. What the acquisition by EA means is that EA can dole out the ability to create a Star Wars game to any of the many studios they have working under them. This allows for a larger variety of style, talent and direction than we would normally see from a single studio. This is fantastic, because as I mentioned before, some of the best Star Wars games were developed by other devs, not LucasArts directly.
However, this won’t be enough to deliver the great Star Wars video games we as fans have been waiting and asking for. EA will have to give us fresh new ideas and concepts, much like Star Wars 1313 before it was canceled when LucasArts went under. No “movie” games. Games with fresh and new characters would renew the interest in fans.
Star Wars will never die. Even if one company goes under, another will be standing by waiting to pick up the rights. EA will certainly make use of their newly-acquired rights to Star Wars games. We will see plenty of new games come out in the near future. Sure, some of them may be bad as games always run the risk of being, but we will most certainly see a great number of quality games from the many AAA studios that EA has under it’s umbrella. Get ready fans we won’t have to wait long. Star Wars will make an appearance in one form or another at E3, only a month away now.
May the 4th be with you!