Disney announced yesterday that it has shut down Lucasfilm’s long-running video game division, LucasArts. Sad as this news is, it’s not the end of games based on Lucasfilm properties.
150 talented game makers are out of jobs today, and that’s a terrible, terrible thing. (Especially in this economy.) And an era has come to an end. It’s a sad day all around, and I don’t mean to diminish that in any way.
Look back at LucasArts’ list of published titles. Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, The Dig, Star Wars: Dark Forces, Jedi Knight and its sequel, and Star Wars: Republic Commando are just a few of the successful, critically-acclaimed titles created by LucasArts over its thirty-year history. But this closure has been a long time coming. Let’s face facts: LucasArts hasn’t produced anything worth playing in years. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was probably the last thing LucasArts made that generated any sort of excitement among gamers. (LucasArts’ most recent title was the abysmal Kinect Star Wars.)
But you haven’t played your last Lucas-centric game. Disney will keep that ball rolling, relying exclusively on third-party developers for Lucas’ properties. Before you turn your nose up to such a notion, it’s worth noting that some of LucasArts’ bestselling, fan-favorite titles have come from third-party devs. The LEGO Star Wars series was made by TT Games, Star Wars Galaxies came from Sony Online Entertainment, Knights of the Old Republic and its recent namesake MMO came from BioWare, the X-Wing/TIE Fighter games were the handiwork of developer Totally Games, and the wildly popular Star Wars: Battlefront and its sequel were made by Pandemic.
So hope is not lost. It will probably be a while before we see any new Star Wars games, but I suspect Disney has a strategy in place for this. Remember that they very recently cancelled production on TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars so they could re-devote many of those animators to a new animated series set at a new time in the Star Wars universe. Understandably, Disney wants to focus all of their Lucasfilm efforts on properties that tie-in with or augment their new trilogy of Star Wars films, which are set after the original trilogy. So I imagine that any new games we get will fill in some of the gaps between the original trilogy and the new.
And for what it’s worth, video game developers are always hiring new recruits, so I’d like to think that those 150 souls who are without jobs today will have an easy time finding new work. I don’t know any of them or their situations, so it’s not for me to say. I hope for bigger and better things for every one of them.
Sadly, there is one other noteworthy casualty in all this. Last year, LucasArts premiered the first gameplay footage from a brand new game they were working on, a genuinely impressive-looking bounty hunter game called Star Wars 1313. Now it appears that this promising title is dead. Some conflicting reports suggest that another studio could conceivably come along and pick up the rights to 1313 and continue its development. But there’s no word of any such interested studio yet. Fingers crossed!