Lucasfilm Games

On January 11, 2021, Lucasfilm Games was officially revealed. In practice, this is just a rebrand that allows video games related to Lucasfilm properties to fall under one roof. However, this is clearly just the first step in a massive strategy overhaul that could have big repercussions on the gaming world.

I can’t stress this enough: The Lucasfilm Games rebrand is a huge freakin’ deal if you like video games at all. Here’s why:

LucasArts is getting the revival it deserves

Star Wars Squadrons

A long, long time ago, there was a game studio called LucasArts. This studio was founded in 1982 by George Lucas himself, and it put out more than 120 games in its four-decade run. 40 years after it began, in 2012, it fell under the jurisdiction of Disney (during the Lucasfilm acquisition).

It wasn’t clear what Disney’s intentions for LucasArts were until they announced in 2013 that the studio would be shuttered, and everything they were working on at the time would be cancelled. One game on the chopping block was the much-hyped Star Wars 1313, which was being called the Star Wars equivalent of Uncharted and getting massive amounts of hype.

LucasArts had a whole lot of momentum behind it, yet it came crashing to a halt in 2013. Finally, with Lucasfilm games, we can see the studio pick up exactly where it left off, and hopefully regain some of the momentum they lost along the way.

Star Wars games could break away from EA’s stranglehold

Star Wars Battlefront II

The official Star Wars website unveiled a sizzle reel of the Star Wars games that had been released since LucasArts was dissolved, and you can check that out right here:

If you watch this sizzle reel, you’ll see that the Star Wars video game output has been pretty meager since the Disney acquisition. Here’s a partial list of Star Wars games released since the acquisition:

  • Star Wars: The Old Republic (2011)
  • Star Wars Battlefront (2015)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2016)
  • Star Wars Battlefront II (2017)
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (2019)
  • Star Wars: Squadrons (2020)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga (2020)

Now, this is admittedly a partial list, but that’s only because everything else is either a mobile game, a browser-based game, a pinball table, or a crossover (like Disney Infinity 3.0, Minecraft Star Wars or The Sims 4: Journey to Batuu). Of the games I did list, two of them are Lego games, and the rest were handled by EA Games. When you consider that this represents the entirety of full-sized, triple-A Star Wars games for almost a decade, it’s actually a pretty skimpy list.

The main reason for this is that Disney signed a ten-year exclusivity agreement with EA Games that put the entire creative output of Star Wars video games into the greedy and mostly incompetent hands of EA. This relationship was able to produce very little fruit. Now, I actually adore the Battlefront games, and Fallen Order and Squadrons were both pretty well-received. Still, it’s hard to deny that Star Wars games have existed inside an incredibly tiny box for the past decade.

EA’s exclusivity agreement expires in 2023, so the Lucasfilm Games announcement strongly suggests that Disney plans on taking the license back once it expires rather than renewing their contract with EA. If you miss the gloriously weird and creative era of Star Wars games, then the end of EA’s stranglehold on the IP is really, really good news.

LucasArts was so much more than Star Wars

Indiana Jones

Up until this point, I’ve been talking about Star Wars. So I should make something clear: LucasArts wasn’t only making Star Wars games.

In the early days, LucasArts was behind a truckload of fantastic adventure games, from Maniac Mansion to Monkey Island to Grim Fandango. But their experimentation didn’t stop there; LucasArts was dabbling in every game genre imaginable, including first-person shooters (Outlaws), strategy games (Wrath Unleashed), flight simulators (Secret Weapons Over Normandy), tactical RPGs (Gladius), third-person action games (Fracture, Armed and Dangerous), park management sims (Thrillville), and more. LucasArts was a game studio with a massive output that was constantly experimenting with new formats and ideas.

In fact, as an offshoot of Lucasfilm proper, LucasArts was also putting out Indiana Jones games. This part of the Lucasfilm Games rebranding is already bearing fruit, as just one day after the initial rebrand reveal, a new Indiana Jones game was announced.

It’s hard to say if Lucasfilm Games will have much output beyond Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but the fact that they announced a non-Star Wars project almost immediately shows their willingness to take on projects that aren’t connected to the Star Wars IP. This could lead to a wealth of interesting and experimental games.

I suppose all of this hinges on how much creative control the execs at Disney will allow here. I’m crossing my fingers, though, and hoping to see some of the old LucasArts creative energy return to the gaming industry. We could really use it right now.

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