The history of Star Wars franchise gaming is full of incredible and innovative titles – and downright terrible misadventures. Plenty of games also fall somewhere in the middle but, despite an especially rich premise and intergalactic playground, Star Wars games are far from sure-fire hits. While brand loyalty still helps move plenty of units, recent LucasArts titles haven’t exactly delivered a must-play experience that can compete with blockbuster game series like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty - until the developer revealed their upcoming action-shooter title, Star Wars: 1313 behind closed doors at E3 2012.
With only a short tech demo and brief gameplay sequence to show, LucasArts positioned Star Wars: 1313 as one of the most-talked about games at the event. Interest in the title has only increased with the release of the first official gameplay trailer but, following the recent acquisition of LucasArts’ parent company (LucasFilm) by Disney, many gaming fans began to wonder if the darker storyline in Star Wars: 1313 might be toned down by the Mouse House.
Speaking to IGN, LucasArts released an official statement claiming that, at this point, they do not expect any current projects to be affected:
“For the time being all projects are business as usual. We are excited about all the possibilities that Disney brings.”
While the statement should offer a brief sigh of relief, the statement is actually pretty vague – considering that it starts with “for the time being.” As a result, it’s significantly more likely that pre-acquisition conversations between the developer and Disney were pretty limited – meaning that current Star Wars projects are moving forward as planned for now. However, when the dust settles, it’s equally possible that Disney could begin to push a different agenda. At the time of the acquisition, Disney Chairman, Bob Iger, asserted that the Mouse House intends to license out the Star Wars brand for console gaming – so that internal studios can focus on ”social and mobile.”
Here’s the full quote from Iger:
”We’re likely to focus more on social and mobile than we are on console. We’ll look opportunistically at console, most likely in licensing rather than publishing, but we think that given the nature of these characters and how well known they are, and the storytelling, that they lend themselves quite nicely, as they’ve already demonstrated to the other platforms.”
Angry Birds: Star Wars is a clear example of Iger’s comments already in practice. Of course, it’s possible that the plan to shuffle console responsibility to third party developers might actually result in better console gaming experiences overall (given that LucasArts hasn’t exactly delivered must-have titles for hardcore players); however, the internal focus on “social and mobile” doesn’t exactly line-up with LucasArts’ “business as usual” comment – at least not when we’re looking longterm.
That said, despite some LucasArts high and low points, not to mention the Star Wars brand in general, Disney doesn’t exactly have a great track record with franchise gaming either – just look at all of the third party solo Avengers tie-ins for proof. As a result, the acquisition comes with unfortunate timing – given that LucasArts has seemingly learned from a number of its past console mistakes and are, assuming that they can deliver, poised to release a richer (and better) Star Wars game experience in 1313 (at the very moment that their parent company is interested in focusing on casual consumers).
Hopefully, Disney allows development on Star Wars: 1313 (and the amorphous Star Wars: First Assault) to progress as intended – so that, for better or worse, we can get a clearer picture of whether or not LucasArts is capable of headlining Star Wars console experiences in the future. If LucasArts can satisfy Disney’s “opportunistic” benchmark with a strong-selling and well-received Star Wars action title, everybody wins. If not… clouded, this studio’s future is.
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Star Wars 1313 does not have an official release date yet.