Games based on “the galaxy far, far away” will no longer be exclusive to EA. As of this date, the exclusive agreement between Lucasfilm and the Walt Disney Company with Electronic Arts Inc. has ended. Coinciding with this epic development, Lucasfilm has brought back Lucasfilm Games as the in-house division that will handle video game licensing and development for its IPs. This marks the end of a long period since May 2013 that EA had been the sole developer and publisher of all Star Wars games.
LucasFilm Games to LucasArts Games
In 1982, LucasFilm Games was established by George Lucas himself. It was intended as a department under the larger Lucasfilm Group to serve as the arm for video games development. Interestingly, the first games developed by the LucasFilm Games arm would not be Star Wars related. This was because the rights and development license was given to Atari.
However, having their biggest intellectual property out of their hands may have been a blessing in disguise. As stated by Ron Gilbert, one of the earliest LucasFilm Games employees, if they had the Star Wars license and property to work on, they might not have developed new properties. Thanks to the absence of the Star Wars brand, LucasFilm Games would develop such classics as Ballblazer, Koronis Rift, Habitat (one of the first online roleplaying games), Labyrinth, Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle, Curse of Monkey Island, and Full Throttle.
LucasFilm Games would be re-branded as LucasArts in the early 1990s, as LucasFilm reorganized. LucasArts would become the specific games division under LucasArts Entertainment Company, as other divisions like Industrial Light & Magic (aka ILM) and Skywalker Sound were established. It would be under the LucasArts name that the Star Wars IP would finally come home, so to speak.
By 1993, LucasArts started developing Star Wars games such as X-Wing, TIE Fighter, Dark Forces, Rebel Assault, Jedi Knight, among many others. LucasArts would work with many notable gaming companies for development and publishing their games. Among them are Totally Games, Planet Moon Studios, BioWare, Obsidian Studios, Raven Software, Sony Online Entertainment, and Electronic Arts.
Disney Buyout and Exclusive EA Games Deal
LucasArts continued to gain and maintain prominence as a gaming developer through the early 2000s. Backed by the Star Wars IP, critically and commercially successful games such as Knights of the Old Republic, Battlefront, Republic Commando, and Force Unleashed were released to much acclaim.
One of the last games developed under the LucasArts name would be Star Wars: The Old Republic. This MMO was intended to replace the previous Star Wars Galaxies game, which was closing in 2011. The Old Republic was developed in partnership with EA Games.
On December 2012, The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm for $4 Billion. By 2013, most of the LucasArts video game development staff and production ceased. Further video game development would be under Disney Interactive Studios, as well as properties licensed to other third party developers. In a huge licensing deal, Electronic Arts acquired a multi-year exclusive agreement to develop and publish all Star Wars games.
EA Games Star Wars Era Beginning and End
The first projects under the EA Games exclusive Star Wars agreement were expansions for The Old Republic MMO. As BioWare is a subsidiary under EA Games, this was simply continuing what was already established in 2011. It would not be until 2015, a full 3 years after the exclusive license, that Star Wars: Battlefront would be released (under EA DICE).
The next games under the EA umbrella would be Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes in 2015, Star Wars: Battlefront II in 2017, and Star Wars: Fallen Order. Galaxy of Heroes would be a non-canon mobile game drawing from the entire Star Wars history, including the Legends and Expanded Universe material. Meanwhile, Star Wars Fallen Order was a single player action adventure with elements of God of War and Metroidvania designs.
The last EA exclusive game that would be developed and released is Star Wars: Squadrons. With a release date of October 2, 2020, the VR game became available on the Playstation 4, PC, and Xbox One platforms.
The number of games developed and released under the star Wars (and Lucasfilm properties, as a whole) is a far cry from the previous two decades. This is a common point fans of the franchise and other Lucasfilm properties have spoken about and criticized about the EA exclusive agreement. The mixed reactions and success of the games produced during this period, as well as at least 3 cancelled Star Wars games, further echoed that sentiment.
Rebirth of LucasFilm Games
As of January 11, 2021, a new version of LucasFilm Games has been re-established. StarWars.com released the information and a sizzle reel of the new division. Per the announcement, LucasFilm Games will be the official corporate identity of all game titles under Lucasfilm and its properties.
In addition to this announcement, it has been revealed that Ubisoft is already developing a massive, open-world game under the Star Wars universe. Furthermore, Bethesda Softworks is in the initial stages of developing an Indiana Jones game with a large free exploration mechanic in a similar vein to the Uncharted series of games. Clearly, Lucasfilm Games has already started its wheels turning with creating the next era of games using their intellectual properties.
Although the exclusive license is no longer solely with EA Games, there are still Disney/Lucasfilm games under development with the company until 2023. Star Wars The Old Republic is still under the EA umbrella, and Star Wars: Rise to Power (a planned mobile MMO strategy game through Google Play) is set for a 2021 release. However, with the return of Lucasfilm Games as the primary division, the course of future of Star Wars video games will be more diverse.