StarWars.com just announced that Electronic Arts has locked up a multiyear licensing agreement with Lucasfilm and Disney Interactive to be the exclusive developer of Star Wars titles for the main gaming markets: console, PC, tablet & mobile. While not stating exactly how long the license will last, EA (which includes Bioware, producer of the popular Knights of the Old Republic game and The Old Republic MMO, as well as other EA studios like DICE and Visceral) will pretty much be the only game in town for Star Wars titles, with the exception for some casual games from Disney Interactive.
“Our number one objective was to find a developer who could consistently deliver our fans great Star Wars games for years to come,” said Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm. “When we looked at the talent of the teams that EA was committing to our games and the quality of their vision for Star Wars, the choice was clear.”
“This agreement demonstrates our commitment to creating quality game experiences that drive the popularity of the Star Wars franchise for years to come,” said John Pleasants, co-president of Disney Interactive. “Collaborating with one of the world’s premier game developers will allow us to bring an amazing portfolio of new Star Wars titles to fans around the world.”
“Every developer dreams of creating games for the Star Wars universe,” said EA Labels President Frank Gibeau. “Three of our top studios will fulfill that dream, crafting epic adventures for Star Wars fans. The new experiences we create may borrow from films, but the games will be entirely original with all new stories and gameplay.”
Or check out the full press release on EA’s site. With LucasArts downgraded from a game development company into a game licensing company last month, it looks like all eyes will be on EA’s stable of development studios for keeping Star Wars alive in the video game industry.
Over the past couple weeks, we’ve said goodbye to a few, mocked more, and, well, went a tiny bit overboard with the dramatics. Just another week in Star Wars fandom…
With the official word that Lucasfilm’s video game division, LucasArts, was being effectively shut down this week, there’s been a lot of reminiscing of the great titles that LucasArts had developed and some investigation for why the closing happened, and the search for a silver lining.
With the company’s re-alignment to solely focus on licensing Lucasfilm’s intellectual property to outside game developers, in-house game development has been shut down, finally cancelling Star Wars: 1313 and First Assault games. (See our guest column from Paul Ens suggesting that Dark Horse could turn these game projects into graphic novels.) I’ve rounded up some of the views on the closure, with a look at LucasArts’ recent history, and some tributes to the game company that started in 1982 and the people who worked there, as well as my own nostalgic look at some of the games that were part of my life.
Wednesday, it was announced that Disney is closing down LucasArts, the video game division of Lucasfilm. This news did not come as a surprise to me, nor likely to many who follow the storied company closely. In the process, an estimated 150 employees have been laid off, including friends and former colleagues of mine. To they who worked very hard everyday to bring interactive Star Wars entertainment to the fans, we wish the best of luck.
Like every aspect of Star Wars fandom, the pros and cons of this move will be hotly discussed and contested among fans, and perhaps I will join you when the wound has healed somewhat.
Meanwhile, for those who lament that they will never see cancelled LucasArts projects Star Wars: 1313 and Star Wars: First Assault, might I suggest that you may one day have a rescuer in Dark Horse Comics?
Kotaku reported and GameInformer confirmed with Lucasfilm that the company is in the process of shutting down LucasArts. Kotaku says that 150 have been laid off and both Star Wars: First Assault and Star Wars 1313 have been canceled. Variety is reporting that the layoffs are spilling over to Industrial Light & Magic as well.
Here’s part of the official statement:
“After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games. As a result of this change, we’ve had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles.”
This has expected for a while, and there was plenty of speculation that LucasArts was headed for the bin even before Disney was in the picture.
Ron Gilbert, creator and co-creater of several of the company’s most iconic games, says goodbye to Lucasfilm Games.
Unlike the ending of Clone Wars, reports of a possible LucasArts shutdown in the works are anything but surprising. While Kotaku’s report on the future of 1313 was mostly based on sources, the absence of the game – perhaps LucasArt’s hottest upcoming property – from any recent industry events is rather telling.
This week, another report from GamesIndustry International has been making the rounds. LucasArts told them that the speculation of a shutdown is “one hundred percent not true” and that “everything is moving ahead.”
Ex-employees are less optimistic, echoing much of what you’ll hear from gamers themselves these days:
The studio’s performance in recent years has not impressed former LucasArts employees. One ex-LucasArts employee had this to say: “The ‘business’ has been on life-support since the Star Wars license and subsequent development for their best title went to Bioware/EA. I’m frankly amazed that they’ve stayed in business this long. No stomach for truly original product, and slender means to produce their previous cash cows – Indy and Star Wars.”
Given Disney’s history with their gaming divisions, along with some other hints, you can’t blame anyone for worrying about the future of LucasArts these days.
More info has been leaking out about Star Wars: First Assault, a multiplayer shooter that was likely a predecessor to Battlefront III, but is now in possible limbo, much like 1313.
First spotted last October, though never officially announced, the game was meant to prove there was a market for a new Star Wars shooter, and be the engine for a potential Battlefront III according to Kotaku earlier this week, though the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm seems to have put its release into question.
Now Kotaku has some additional screenshots of Cloud City and Tatooine, and also some video, including some gameplay footage and a promo teaser, made back in last part of 2012.
Are these leaks intentional to gauge potential interest in such a product? Or is this another glimpse at stuff that could have been…
Upcoming nonfiction. Guess what’s appeared on the Random House online catalog? It’s J. W. Rinzler’s Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, with a release date of October 8. In other Rinzler news, he’s announced that the next art book will be devoted to concept art. As someone who already owns all six concept art books devoted to the films, I hope we’ll get to see something new from the actual movies… If it comes out next year, would it be too early to hope for an Episode VII peek?
The blogside. Tor’s Ryan Britt looks at how Heir to the Empire turned Star Wars into science fiction. Lucasfilm’s Jennifer Heddle discusses balancing between work and being a fan. And Tosche Station’s Bria visits two extremes of the EU with The Crystal Star and Starfighters of Adumar.
Conventions. Dark Horse had a panel at Emerald City Comicon yesterday, and Amy Ratcliffe was kind enough to live-tweet it for those of us playing at home. While there was no breaking Star Wars news, there were a few insights into Star Wars and Legacy comics.
Short stories. Del Rey’s Frank Parisi reveals that John Ostrander has an Insider story coming up, ‘Eruption,’ with cover art by Jan Duursema. (It’ll also appear in the hardcover of Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void.) A Jason Fry story featuring a Clone Wars character was also recently greenlit. He also hints at something we’ll be seeing in Miller’s Kenobi.
The Last Jedi. Author Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff talks to NJOE (with Del Rey’s Shelly Shapiro) and TFN.
Gaming. We don’t even try to cover gaming anymore – trust me, it’s for the best – but if you’re curious about the (rumored) fate of 1313, well, here’s the word on the street.
Somewhere on the scale between ‘Ugh, no’ (Boba Fett/Yoda) and ‘Well… okay?’ (Han Solo) there exists AICN reporting a possible Knights of the Old Republic spin-off movie. Somewhere a gamer is screeching like a little girl, but I just roll my eyes. Don’t get too excited, though – “literally a ton of activity going on regarding a whole bunch of ideas,” the report also says.
Apparently there are also rumors going around Bioware about Drew Karpyshyn being involved. I thought he was working on some fantasy novels (and a screenplay that will need to be shopped around, which doesn’t exactly scream ‘part of a major franchise’ to me.) Whatever, rumor mill.
UPDATE: Let the record show…
Looking for some new Mara Jade artwork? Fantasy Flight Games slid a few image of Mara Jade into the base set of Star Wars: The Card Game, which came out in December. The game features artwork on all of the cards, ranging from concept art from Ralph McQuarrie to new artwork done for Fantasy Flight. While not directly named on any cards, Mara Jade makes her appearance as the Emperor’s Hand on two cards in the Sith deck sets for the Dark Side player.