Talk about a string of bad news for PC gamers. First Bethesda admitted that three years of Doom 4 development was dumped for a rebooted version, and now Disney reports that it has closed LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC, the popular game development studio of LucasFilm Limited. Seriously, what the heck.
"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," Disney said in a statement submitted to Game Informer. "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."
LucasArts became highly popular in the late 1980s and all through the 1990s with its adventure games and its Star Wars-based titles like the TIE Fighter, X-Wing and Jedi Knight series. It also thrived on a number of Indiana Jones adventure games, and non-mainstream IPs like The Secret of Monkey Island, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango and Sam & Max. Its footing resided in all platforms, ranging from the Amiga to MS-DOS to Windows to the GameBoy to the Sega CD and beyond.
But looking at its portfolio of titles over the last two decades, the company has understandably relied on the Star Wars property to generate revenue. It's a highly-valuable Lucas product, yet in 1998 alone, there were five Star Wars products released, and five separate titles released in 2000. The last game published by LucasArts as a company was Kinect Star Wars for the Xbox 360 in 2012. Talk about heavy market saturation.
Perhaps then that falling sales -- despite hits like Star Wars Battlefront, The Force Unleashed and Knights of the Old Republic -- stem from sheer boredom of Star Wars in the gaming arena as seen with BioWare's The Old Republic MMORPG. Even the franchise itself was hit by a backwash of angst from fans over the prequel trilogy, and the succeeding games only remind them of that disappointment. Too much of a good thing could end up being a bad thing.
In 2002, the company realized that it had gotten a little crazy with the Star Wars license and admitted that this quick-fire mode reduced the overall quality of its products – critics agreed. Thus the studio said that at least 50-percent of future releases wouldn't be related to Star Wars. Unfortunately, those titles either failed to gain any traction, or where cancelled before they even hit retail stores. LucasArts thus caved in and resumed producing more content in the all-too-familiar Star Wars territory.
In 2004, VP of Marketing Jim Ward became president of LucasArts and decided to perform a top-to-bottom audit of the company's infrastructure, saying that its current state was a "mess". He then created a five-year investment plan, and focused on making the internal development team more efficient and easily adaptable to a changing game industry. After that, LucasArts went on to churn out quality, popular titles like Star Wars: Battlefront, Star Wars: Republic Commando, Mercenaries with Pandemic Studios, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Fracture, Thrillville and more.
Now it appears that Star Wars 1313, which impressed gamers and press alike at E3 2012, has now been cancelled. Star Wars: First Assault has likely suffered the same fate. With Disney now going into full licensing mode with the Star Wars franchise, it may be possible these two games will be resumed by third-party developers.
George Lucas founded LucasArts back in May 1982 as part of LucasFilm branching out into other areas of entertainment. The company was transferred over into the Disney collective when the House the Mickey Built acquired the Empire that Lucas Built in a surprising $4.05 billion purchase in 2012. The seventh Star Wars film is expected to arrive in 2015 although there's talk that it may be pushed back into 2016.