With the news that mega-publisher Electronic Arts has gained the rights to develop Star Wars games in a multi-year exclusivity deal, the Daily Reaction double team of Seb and Dan discuss what it means for the games industry and nerdom’s biggest IP.
Seb: We did a Daily Reaction back in October (have we really been doing this that long?) about the future of Star Wars games after LucasFilm, and therefore LucasArts, was bought out by Disney. I predicted that Disney would likely shutter LucasArts due to their pathological lack of interest in making core games themselves. Sadly, I was right.
LucasArts is gone, and now EA has picked up the lightsaber and plans to make some Star Wars games – and they’re really going at it with all they’ve got. Not only is BioWare going to continue making Star Wars games (after the incredibly expensive MMO Star Wars The Old Republic), but Battlefield developer DICE and Dead Space guys Visceral are adding their own games to the mix. That’s like all of EA’s good developers.
You might be thinking that, while Star Wars is a huge franchise with millions of fans, it’s still pretty tired and the core material is dated. But Disney is bringing the telekinetic space knights IP back to the silver screen, with Episode VII set to come out in 2015. In a couple of years, the franchise could bring back the focus to actual entertainment, and move away from simply becoming a method to move cheap merchandise to children.
We know, thanks to today’s investor call, that none of EA’s Star Wars games are coming out in FY 2014, so they are likely planning to put out a few titles just before the first movie comes out, then really drive up production after consumer interest builds from the films. Essentially, they’re betting big that Disney doesn’t utterly mess up Episode VII, which, while unlikely, is still a possibility.
So what should they make? If EA has any sense, DICE will develop a Star Wars Battlefront game, but the series has a death curse on it that’ll probably stop that happening and for some baffling reason they’ll end up creating Force Unleashed 3 as an FPS.
BioWare? Knights of the Old Republic. Go, do it. None of the MMO stuff, it’s too big for you BioWare, and no one pays for subscription MMOs any more, they want F2P, and that leads to more problems.
Visceral? Now they could actually be the most interesting of the bunch, as what they’re going to create isn’t so immediately obvious. However, one really has to wonder if Disney will allow the studio to be as ‘visceral’ as they love to be. If so, I hope they make a game where all you do is mash Jar Jar Binks’ face into a pulp and then say “mesa sorry”.
EA has said that the Frostbite 3-powered games “may borrow from films, but will be entirely new stories and gameplay”. That’s good, movie tie-ins are universally terrible – but Disney will still have a huge hand in the games and their direction, trying to micromanage every aspect, just as 20th Century Fox micromanaged Aliens Colonial Marines, ultimately contributing to the utter mess that was produced in the end.
If we’re lucky, the outcome of this announcement is that we’ll see a bunch of incredible games set in a vibrant and rich universe. If we’re unlucky, we’ll see a bunch of micromanaged games that ultimately lack direction, milk a tired brand, are filled with horrible microtransactions, break the already-shattered hearts of Star Wars Lunchbox-owning fans and take quality developers away from creating vital new IP.
And we’re generally unlucky.
Dan: We all know that movie based games are usually terrible, but the one thing that gives me hope is that Star Wars has actually had a few diamonds in between the endless shilling of crap to fans. Plus there’s the fact that EA might be sticking their best developers onto this franchise, which could give us hope.
BioWare has had a great track record with some of their previous console based Star Wars titles like KOTR and well…ok, that’s about it. They have made a number of other games that have proven themselves worthy of having my faith, but the only real problem is that BioWare is no longer the only developer to use that moniker. When EA bought the social development studio KlickNation, they also rebranded the devs as BioWare Sacramento, meaning currently no one knows which team they are talking about. Hopefully it is the more seasoned team leading the way for the Star Wars universe in a multi-million dollar project that will make us relive our dreams of joining Boba Fett on the Slave One, and not just a Facebook game where we finally learn what it was like to be a Nerf Herder.
DICE and Visceral are also amazing studios with a great deal of potential and a great backlog of experience backing them up so we can be pretty certain that they are both developing fully fledged AAA titles. What exactly they are handling is still a mystery, but whatever it is I cannot wait to see it.
Given that Disney shut down LucasArts and that pretty much gave Star Wars 1313 the pink slip, it would be an interesting thing to see one of these studios pick up the reigns and finish the project. EA had alluded that BioWare had already been working on a project, but sadly whether that means anything new or if it just continued support for TOR, we will just have to wait and see.
Star Wars is not a brand that will die off any time soon, its ability to take a generation of people back to their childhood as well as re-saturate new ones years after releasing means that it should be a guaranteed success. But, as we saw with the mild-life of the Unleashed IP and the reception of Jar Jar, the ability to introduce new characters into the universe is not always as guaranteed. With the new trilogy setting out to almost start a new saga, no one can say for certain just what will happen regarding the reception outside of the movies, but given that more than enough Jar Jar toys were still moved – things should be pretty easy to predict.
With the inevitable resurgence of Star Wars on every store shelf and every man-child’s wall (I am already making room next to my Padmé poster), Star Wars is sure to generate billions in revenue for all involved. EA has already seen their shares rise by 3.3% simply after announcing its new deal with Disney, so it seems that I am not the only one to know that we are far from seeing the end of this for quite some time.
Are you excited for a flood of new Star Wars games, Star Wars movies, Star Wars T-Shirts, Star Wars-mobiles, Star Wars toys, and Star Wars blow up dolls? Or do you wish that EA was simply making EA games? Let us know your thoughts by waving your hands in the comments below, show us your true force by emailing us at [email protected], or follow our death star building plans at Seb and Dan.