In 2013 Electronic Arts scored the deal of a lifetime as the company sealed a contract with Disney that would grant the home of Madden and Titanfall with a decade of exclusivity rights over Star Wars gaming content. Flashforward to this past week, Lucasfilm surprisingly announced a new dedicated gaming division for the company under the name “Lucasfilm Games” that would oversee all of their digital entertainment projects and collaborations in the coming future. As the mouse’s golden goose jumped to announce an original Indiana Jones title from Wolfenstein developer Machine Games and Fallout publisher Bethesda, of course, questions poured in regarding the possible upcoming renewal of EA’s access codes to the galaxy far far away. As the latest news of Ubisoft developing an open-world story-driven Star Wars title with the help of those behind The Division 2 at Massive Entertainment broke, it became abundantly clear that the empire’s rain will come to a bitter and well-deserved end in two years as EA’s Disney deal will not see a renewal.
Despite actually attributing a chunk of lore to the franchise, Electronic Arts wasted their grand opportunity to kickstart another Star Wars universe of ongoing titles that were able to coincide with its other mediums of popular content. After a decade of misfires, critical flops, cancellations, and finally finding somewhat grounded success with Respawn Entertainment’s buggy story of Order 66 survivor Cal Kestis, it was clear to fans not even at the halfway point of Disney’s contract that altercations were needed. EA may have begun to find their footing in the space opera’s universe as they cleaned up their act with both the multiplayer and single-player sides of their Star Wars projects after Battlefront 2’s disastrous- let alone embarrassing launch, yet its time spent with science fiction’s biggest breakthrough was nothing close to substantial. However, the bright future the company was headed towards with the franchise still coincides with the current vision of Lucasfilm’s new development branch: to make better and more ambitious products in line with the legacy of LucasArts players have wanted to return to.
Star Wars’ placement in the gaming industry is finally heading on an optimistic path after eight long years, yet that very same trail to becoming one with the force is still shrouded by a dark side of potential discrete decisions. Knowing that Ubisoft and Bethesda- companies with especially recent quality track records that are rather hit or miss- will be taking on the roles of developing new narratives in this ever-expanding universe along with Lucasfilm’s other iconic properties is something fans should remain cautiously optimistic about. The current situation of outsourcing developers to make Star Wars titles is exactly akin to Marvel Games’ predicament that still has not entirely panned out successfully even after years of back and forth meandering with well-regarded developers. Insomniac’s Spider-Man titles are fantastic PlayStation exclusives to boast about, but behind them lies a larger slew of targets that have never even landed close to a bullseye for the comic book powerhouse. Square Enix’s Avengers game failed miserably both with critics and audiences and Guardians of the Galaxy from TellTale Games fell to lackluster and “playing it safe” tropes nowhere near ambitious enough to hold the Marvel property’s name.
Whether or not Star Wars will follow the same path as Marvel is still of course up in the air, but the situation does practically mirror one another. For EA though, the loss of their grip over the franchise might just be a blessing in disguise for both the company and certainly fans. There is no doubt that a sequel to Jedi Fallen Order is on the way and Electronic Arts will continue to develop Star Wars games far beyond their contract thanks to the former and Battlefront’s success, but their new situation gives audiences an upper hand that will ultimately benefit the developer. EA Will be forced to adapt to a growing competition with Lucasfilm Games’ other collaborators to create original Star Wars games. Revoking EA’s exclusivity rights over Star Wars is not just a blessing for fans who desire higher quality games from one of the world’s biggest franchises, it is a weightful decision for putting this major publisher on the right track. They now will have to prove their worth in a galaxy of ideas and ways to experience Star Wars.
EA will no longer be able to pounce around titles in need of layers of patches and public relations concerns. Developers will no longer fall under fire for EA’s poor decision making. Fans will have more alternatives to being a space samurai or marksman whether they are looking for stories to love or gameplay to indulge in for hours. Star Wars is about to gain leverage to a diverse amount of creative minds and EA will be forced to acknowledge this. Even if the company continues to expand on the story of Cal Kestis or continue to make new Battlefront entries every few years, they will still have to inevitably face rising expectations as more developers get to embrace the franchise. The company will have to adapt to the growing expectations of higher quality titles as their massive competitors begin pumping out new games left and right that will give players less of a reason to experience what EA has to offer.
Star Wars and Lucasfilm Games’ current stance in the gaming industry is far from worthy of receiving praise as it merely makes a step in the right direction, but perhaps in just two years the floodgates will open and audiences will get to see an incredible dose of titles from their favorite franchise housed by various large and small names. The entire situation surrounding the galaxy far far away will hopefully give rise to a new generation of substantial Star Wars content from both well-known developers taking their first crack at the franchise and previous owners like EA who have plowed through rough obstacles to reach positive reception. Let us all hope that Disney and Lucasfilm have learned from their masters. Maybe in two years we will all be able to sing Yub Nub together as we clamor through different playable versions of Star Wars’ generations.