LucasArts, and those who love the 90s.
“On April 3, 2013, Disney confirmed that LucasArts would cease to operate as a video game developer and serve as a licensor, with video games being developed by either third-party companies or Disney Interactive Studios. As a result, all of its future projects were cancelled, and most of its staff was laid off from the company.” (Wikipedia)
The biggest problem I have with opinions online regarding LucasArts no longer developing games is that they haven’t made a reputable original game since 2000 (excluding the well-received Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, a collaboration with Bioware in 2003. Not original, as it’s Star Wars). People speak about the company fondly, and with good reason. Many state that they have childhood memories of the games, and that they’re upset or angry about the shift in the company’s role. The issue is that most games I’ve seen people talking about in this way were made before they attempted to purge original titles out of their products. They’ve actively tried to make nothing but Star Wars games, and were responsible for Star Wars Kinect, and Star Wars Lego (as well as a bunch of other Lego games).
“In 2002, LucasArts recognized that the over-reliance on Star Wars was reducing the quality of its output, and announced that future releases would be at least 50% non-Star Wars-related. However, many of the original titles were either unsuccessful or even cancelled before release and currently LucasArts has again mainly Star Wars titles in production.” That was the pre-2002. Eleven years later, and they continue to churn out numerous Star Wars titles (with the very occasional re-release or original game). “Disney indicated that the new business model would “[minimize] the company’s risk while achieving a broad portfolio of quality Star Wars games.” With the acquisition by Disney, it’s clear this will remain the case.
With all that in mind, I can’t say I’m upset about what’s happened to LucasArts. The developer can be a big part of the game production process, it’s the people who work on the game that create the experiences you know and love. The past decade or so has set artists and creators apart from their publishers, through the rise of crowd funding and even just the Internet being more accessible. There’s less of a reason for people to stay in companies they don’t enjoy, making things they don’t like for people they hate when they can make their own work and share it independently.
Tim Schafer moved on from LucasArts in January 2000 to work on his own projects. He founded Double Fine, and has recently received $2m in crowd funding for a new adventure game. Similarly, when Glen Keane resigned from Disney, many of his fans were was saying how Disney was never going to be the same, and were acting like it was the end of his career. While there would be some impact from his departure, it also meant he was able to begin work on personal projects that were otherwise ignored. He has made multiple visits to colleges in America to teach students, as well as had a few gallery shows. His work is still out there, it just isn’t under the name of Disney.
“The decision to shutter LucasArts comes as the developer and publisher, once known for humour-tinged adventure games like Secret of Monkey Island, has struggled in recent years to produce a hit in an industry increasingly dominated by action-oriented games.” (Reuters/AFP, Disney to Shut Down LucasArts) Ultimately, Disney is outsourcing the creation of Star Wars games to third-party developers. It’s crappy they fired a large portion of people, but LucasArts has been struggling for years to make something that competes with the market. In this haste, they’ve forfeited quality for quantity.
The change of management won’t inherently not solve the issue, but it may stop the slew of Star Wars games that are loved solely for their license. The games you loved in the 90s are still around. And unlike ten years ago, the creation of games has opened up to a much larger group of people. Despite LucasArts being closed, there are those who worked on those games, who loved those games, who want to make those sorts of games; if you love LucasArts’ work in the 90s, and want to find more like that, search for it.
I hope those employees from LucasArts find a new place to work, and I hope Disney doesn’t screw Star Wars up any more than Star Wars Kinect did.