When it was first reported that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm, attention immediately shifted to the announcement of a new Star Wars trilogy. However, in the wake of the high-profile deal, gamers began to wonder what the acquisition would mean for them – specifically what changes might be in store for fan-favorite developer LucasArts. Despite a string of recent misses (we’re looking at you Kinect: Star Wars), the publisher has delivered countless beloved titles over the the last 30 years, including Star Wars: Battlefront, Star Wars: Rogue SquadronGrim FandangoThe Secret of Monkey Island, and even Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, to name a few.

Now, we’re getting official confirmation that Disney has decided to shutter LucasArts and outsource production on future Star Wars (as well as other LucasArts IP’s) to third party developers – resulting in sweeping layoffs throughout the Lucasfilm subsidiary.

Game Informer was the first outlet to get wind of the LucasArts’ closure – receiving an official confirmation from Disney:

“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.”

At this point, the story is still developing and it’s unclear if Disney intends to scrap all in-progress LucasArts projects and start fresh with third party studios – or whether they might be able to salvage a few existing titles, and with the help of outside developers, deliver the games to consumers. Specifically, the future of recently announced title, Star Wars: First Assault (rumored to be a precursor to Battlefront 3) is likely up in the air – and it’s unclear how the closure might affect ongoing development on further Old Republic content (though co-publisher EA and developer BioWare should be able to help smooth any post-LucasArts restructuring).

'Star Wars 1313' Gameplay Image

The most notable in-development title that gamers will surely miss, assuming it isn’t rescued, is Star Wars: 1313. At the time of the Disney acquisition, it was believed that 1313 development would continue (at least for the time being) but now the game faces a much less encouraging outlook. Ironically, LucasArts had positioned 1313 for essentially the opposite company model (compared to what Disney intends) – specifically a high-quality product that drew immense resources from  other branches of the Lucasfilm company in an effort to offer a blockbuster game experience built by a team that was intimately connected to the Star Wars brand. The approach was encouraging to anyone who was able to speak with the developers and see the game in action. As a result, even if Disney has future plans for 1313, it’s hard to imagine that the title will get the same attention that it would have under LucasArts.

Still, as mentioned, the publisher had been resting on name recongnition and established brands for a long time – and even the best LucasArts titles in recent memory, Star Wars: Force Unleashed and Star Wars: The Old Republic, for example, weren’t exactly groundbreaking. Instead, they were mostly competent video game experiences that were livened by their relationship to the rich Star Wars universe. For that reason, Disney’s choice to focus on licensing LucasArts properties could mean that talented third-party developers might have an opportunity to present some fresh and memorable Star Wars games – but it also means that, without strict oversight, gamers will also see plenty of Star Wars shovelware too.

Given the amount of sub-par movie tie-ins on the market, the news is certainly discouraging – and our thoughts go out to any LucasArts staff members who were affected by the layoffs. Clouded, the future of Star Wars game is. Until we know more, share your favorite LucasArts game in the comments.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick.

Source: Game Informer