When Disney picked up George Lucas' company LucasFilm in October 2012, Star Wars fans across the galaxy cheered louder than an Ewok rendition of "Yub Nub." More adventures in the world of Jedi and Sith were on the way, a prospect few believed would ever happen while Lucas remained in control of the property.
Along with the rights to produce more Star Wars films, Disney's deal saw them take ownership of other lucrative divisions of Lucas' empire. Along with other properties, special effects house Industrial Light & Magic, and a number of post-production branches, Disney absorbed the legendary LucasArts, an innovator in the world of video games for nearly 30 years.
While the mega-deal looked prosperous for the theatrical side of Star Wars, what exactly Disney would do with LucasArts was up in the air. Today, their plans came to fruition: LucasArts would be closing its doors.
Hollywood.com reached out to LucasFilm, who released this 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.
Since their early days, LucasArts worked closely with LucasFilm to recreate the Star Wars experience in interactive form. Their recent projects included the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed series, the World of Warcraft-esque Star Wars: The Old Republic, the motion-controlled Kinect Star Wars, and Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. At the time of its closing, the developer was in production on the action-adventure game Star Wars 1313. The game was far enough along that footage was shown at the 2012 E3 conference, and while there was hope after the Disney acquisition that the game would soon hit shelves, the intriguing now looks to be officially dead.
During Disney's official conference call on the LucasFilm acquisition back in October, company CEO Bob Iger acknowledged that the company was "likely to focus more on social and mobile than we are on console” when it came to Star Wars video games. That seems to be evident from the released statement — at least for in-house. Much like tie-in games for other studio films (remember Avatar: The Game?), Disney's use of "licensing model" seems to indicate that there may be more Star Wars games in the future, they just won't be coming from one place with direct ties to the LucasFilm family.
Perhaps the greatest loss for fans of LucasArts is the potential unearthing of older, non-Star Wars properties. LucasArts has weird and wonderful back catalogue of titles prime for redux — and with the advent of mobile gaming, new iterations of the previously released games. Point-and-click adventures like Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango, the Monkey Island franchise, Sam & Max, and The Dig, a sci-fi adventure that was originally conceived by Steven Spielberg for a potential feature film. With iPad making touch and play all the rage, the loss of LucasArts feels even greater when potential is considered.
Unlike most spin-off material, the Star Wars games coming out of LucasArts could rarely be seen as cash-grabs. They were mythology builders — as important to the aura of the series as comic books, novels, action figures, and the movies themselves. Star Wars is a franchise when only thought of as a set of films. But it's more than that: Star Wars is a galaxy. LucasArts eliminated from the equation feels a bit like watching the Death Star blow Alderaan to smithereens.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: LucasArts]