The Star Wars franchise may be incredibly lucrative, but Disney apparently decided that Star Wars video games simply aren't, at least not right now. This morning, Disney closed publisher and developer LucasArts, laying off some 150 people and shutting down current projects Star Wars: First Assault and the much-anticipated Star Wars 1313.
Disney will keep the LucasArts name to license games, but the development side has been shut down.
Here is the official statement from LucasArts parent company LucasFilm:
“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.”
Startling as all this might seem, the unfortunate news also shouldn't be too much of a surprise for those who've been following LucasArts' goings-on over the last few years. Rumors have already pointed to an unstable environment, where poor sales of big-budget projects led to financial uncertainty.
The long-rumored Star Wars: Battlefront III was never going to see the light of day, and its spiritual predecessor, Star Wars: First Assault seemed to meet the same fate despite being nearly completed.
Despite boasting some successes -- such as Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer's The Secret of Monkey Island -- over the years, LucasArts eventually grew more reliant on the Star Wars brand. Yet the last in-house Star Wars title to see mainstream success was Star Wars: The Force Unleashed back in 2008, and its 2010 sequel wasn't exactly well-received. Kinect Star Wars, LucasArts' most recent release, definitely didn't help matters.
1313 was supposed to be their next big thing, a joint effort between LucasArts and the animation experts at LucasFilm; what we saw had really blown us away.
Star Wars: Battlefront and Star Wars: The Old Republic really seem to be the most successful games for the franchise in recent memory. Even then, we haven't heard anything about Battlefront since the second game was released back in 2005, and The Old Republic only lasted several months on pay-to-play before moving on to a free-to-play model.
In 2012, LucasArts was bought by Disney for a hefty $4 billion. Would make sense that its new owner wouldn't want to lose any money on their investment, but as unsurprising as all of this is, our hearts go out to the staff.