This week, Lucasfilm announced an overhaul of its video game licensing efforts with a rebranding of Lucasfilm Games (a re-re-branding, going back to the studio’s original gaming name back in the 1980s), indicating the impending end of its current exclusivity deal with EA Games to create Star Wars titles. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things of a more varied gaming galaxy far, far away.
Hot on the heels of the rebranding and yesterday’s announcement of Wolfenstein developer MachineGames’ new Indiana Jones title, this morning Lucasfilm announced another major new deal: it would be partnering with Ubisoft — known for series like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and Watch Dogs — and in particular Massive Games, the developers of the post-pandemic online Tom Clancy shooter series The Division, to develop an open-world adventure game in the Star Wars universe.
“We know that fans of Star Wars value the feeling of immersion — of being transported into the Star Wars galaxy and moving through richly-detailed environments,” Lucasfilm Games VP Douglas Reilly told StarWars.com. “It’s fun to imagine what the team at Massive can do within Star Wars by bringing their innovative spirit and their commitment to quality.”
Star Wars fans have been clamoring for an open-world adventure game in the saga’s fiction for years at this point — intensified by the cancellation of the Boba-Fett-starring Star Wars: 1313 nearly a decade ago, as well as the scrapping of former Uncharted developer Amy Hennig’s long-simmering project. It’s a genre that’s gone unserved by the current exclusivity deal Lucasfilm has had with EA Games to develop Star Wars games for eight years (it’s set to last another two, and Reilly also stressed that Lucasfilm still has “a number of projects underway with the talented teams at EA” even as that exclusivity seems set to expire).
In the eight years it’s had exclusive access to the Star Wars IP, EA’s studios have released four big-budget titles. That’s not even counting mobile releases like Galaxy of Heroes or ongoing support for the Legends-canon MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic: two entries in DICE’s Star Wars: Battlefront series, Respawn’s action game Jedi: Fallen Order, and last year’s starship combat simulator Star Wars Squadrons. A mouthful but also, a Galaxy’s Edge tie-in expansion for The Sims 4. So already, the announcement of Massive’s game, whenever it arrives, is a signal that Lucasfilm wants to start exploring more gaming genres within Star Wars’ setting.
But hopefully, it’s just the start of a commitment to a diverse variety of developers, working on an even more diverse variety of game genres. Even more so, hopefully the stories they tell in those games will be, unlike the overwhelming majority of the games we have the minute, be told outside the confines and the immediate vicinity of the original Star Wars trilogy. If these current announcements and the apparently more to come won’t be releasing until 2023 at the least, as far as non-EA-developed games are concerned, they’re going to be coming out a time of fascinating change for Star Wars as a franchise.
In 2023, Patty Jenkin’s Rogue Squadron movie will be on the edge of release. We’ll have had new shows like Ahsoka, Rangers of the New Republic, The Book of Boba Fett, and presumably a third season of The Mandalorian, all fleshing out the outer edges of the post-Return of the Jedi timeline. We’ll have had shows like The Bad Batch, Andor, and Obi-Wan Kenobi even further fleshing out the Rise of the Empire period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.
In addition, The High Republic initiative, telling stories hundreds of years before the prequel films, will be well into its later phases across a plethora of mediums, from books and comics to the upcoming Disney+ series, The Acolyte. And that’s just what we know already! Imagine what that landscape could be like with games that begin supporting and highlighting those periods of time, too. A High Republic RPG! A New Republic-era adventure game! Someone, please, for the love of god, give me a Star Wars strategy game again wherever it takes place!
With the Skywalker Saga over (for a good few years into the future, at least), Star Wars stands at the edge of an overwhelming amount of potential to tell stories that flesh out parts and times of its galaxy that we barely know about or have yet to see, and that doesn’t just apply to books, comics, movies, and streaming shows: it should apply to its games. Sure, give us games couched in the familiarity of the films we know, but as Lucasfilm Games reaches out to more developers, give them the chance to tell stories and takes on adventures far beyond them, too.