Let’s admit it, LucasArts wasn’t doing so well prior to the Disney acquisition in late October 2012. The last and only game the company licensed in 2012 was Kinect Star Wars for the XBox 360 and that received mixed reviews because it wasn’t anywhere near the level fans wanted it to be.
Prior to that in 2011, LucasArts released two games: Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) for Windows and Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars for multiple platforms. SWTOR received generally positive reviews, and recently, subscriptions started to rise.
When free-to-play launched in November, it “blew all expectations out of the water,” said [James] Ohlen [Senior Creative Director of BioWare]. Subscriptions started going up again. Concurrent players on the servers went way up. Both of those statistics continue to rise. As Ohlen put it, TOR is the second biggest subscription MMORPG in the western world, it has had two million new accounts since the F2P launch, thousands of new players try out the game everyday, and TOR is one of the largest microtransaction money-makers for publisherEA. (via Joystiq)
In my opinion, the last real action game LucasArts released was Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. I should also mention that I’m not much of a gamer. Sure, I grew up playing Mario and Tetris, and the last real game I played was GoldenEye 007 for the N64, but I normally watch my brother play and catch up with the gameplays on YouTube. Going back to my original point, Force Unleashed had something that fans wanted. Consider the fact that it “was both the fastest-selling Star Wars game and LucasArts’ fastest-selling game.” That says plenty. Unfortunately, its successor didn’t live up to expectations, but the fans still waited for something to come their way–something that could be just as great, if not, better.
That’s where Star Wars 1313 comes into place.
Star Wars 1313 was supposed to be an action-adventure video game, where the player took up the role of a bounty hunter navigating through Coruscant’s subterranean level 1313–a place full of scum and villainy. The game was promised to be more mature and rougher than past games, and that’s what made it more intriguing. LucasArts was headed towards the next level, where games like Bioshock, Mass Effect, and Assassin’s Creed live and thrive.
When you ask Star Wars gamers the question “What is your favorite Star Wars game?” you’ll get a variety of answers, but the ones you’ll hear the most include Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Star Wars: Republic Commando, and the Battlefront series (among many others, of course). The now cancelled product Star Wars: First Assault was speculated to feature gameplay similar to the Battlefront series, giving a homage to the past, while also taking the franchise further in the future.
Today, however, fans were informed that the games have been cancelled. On top of that, close to 150 employees from LucasArts have been laid off, completely rendering the division obsolete. Well, not completely. Disney is converting it to a “licensing model.”
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. (Source)
What bothers me the most are the fans that say, “LucasArts died a long time ago.” Yes, LucasArts was suffering and unable to produce products that would receive acclamation and a substantial amount of revenue, often turning to basic games to keep its legs moving. However, it still had a future. The company understood that action-adventure games were (and always was) the way to go, and Star Wars 1313 and First Assault were going to be the two games to help it reach that level–or at least, put itself back in the eyes of the gaming industry. Unfortunately, Disney cut it down before even investing time in it.
Disney only has eyes for the new trilogy. Instead of thinking up games to release simultaneously with the new movie releases, the Mouse decided to hand out pink slips and completely dismantle another division of Lucasfilm, the first victim being its animation department. What else will end up on the chopping block? The EU books and comic books? The 501st Legion? Only time will tell.