LucasArts, the LucasFilm division and computer game studio that brought us some classic games including many of the Star Wars titles, has been closed. New corporate parent Disney, who has shuttered some of it’s own game studios, announced the move today, canceling in-progress games like Star Wars 1313 and Star Wars: First Assault and laying off all the staff.
It appears that Disney will instead concentrate on licensing properties to other game studios, which LucasArts had also done – BioWare/EA produced the current MMO game Star Wars: The Old Republic.
LucasArts produced some of my favorite games of yesteryear: I remember their very first game, Ballblazer (and programming a clone on my C-64 at the time). Star Wars: Jedi Knight – Dark Forces II was the game for which I got my first 3D video card, and the difference was amazing (and I still have the mini-lightsaber that came with it, and it still works, with the original batteries.) Secrets of Monkey Island was one of the more interesting early graphical adventures. and I loved combat flight simulators, so I was thrilled to pilot an X-Wing against the Empire…
More recently LucasArts was hit-or-miss. While scoring decent hits with some Star Wars titles like Knights of the Old Republic, Battlefront and The Force Unleashed (starring our friend Sam Witwer, currently starring in Being Human), it seemed to have issues when producing sequels to some games, in some cases forcing their releases too soon. And the release of Kinect Star Wars for the XBox 360, what seemed like it would be a slam-dunk for the Kinect motion platform to have players swinging their lightsabers in combat, turned sour as critics and players panned it…I mean, did they really need to include a “Just Dance” clone? Did Han Solo ever look less studly as when he dances to his own song??
While this doesn’t mean the end of Star Wars games, it will be interesting to see where it heads. Disney still has one game studio working – Disney Interactive – which is concentrating everything on the upcoming Disney Infinity, an expandable/collectible game that will compete directly with Skylanders. Whether 1313 or First Assault will ever be released is unknown.