Inside: What Disney’s Purchase Means for Gaming

(Ping! Zine Issue 54) – Disney was the talk of the town in late October after the company announced its intention to acquire Star Wars-maker Lucasfilm for the sum of 4.05 billion.

The move has the chance to reinvigorate the classic sci-fi franchise and most significantly paves way for a new Star Wars film with an Episode 7, anticipated for release by 2015.

Lucasfilm had been wholly owned by Star Wars creator George Lucas. When the move was announced, the iconic filmmaker stated, “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers.”

The appeal of Star Wars, meanwhile, is notably evident in the sale of related products, especially in the computer and video gaming industries.

LucasArts, a division of Lucasfilm, has been developing highly successful game titles since its foundation in the 1980s. Just some of its past popular works include the likes of The Force Unleashed, Battlefront, Knights of the Old Republic and the list goes on…
Just to give you an idea of how big Star Wars titles are in the gaming industry, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed sold a total of 5.7 million units globally not long after its release, according to a 2009 article from Gamasutra.com.

So with Disney taking the reins of Star Wars, we have to ask: What’s the future for the iconic film series in the area of gaming?

“For the time being all projects are business as usual,” commented a LucasArts representative in a report appearing on Polygon.com. However, futures changes could be in the mix. A trend could see Star Wars games moving towards other platforms.

Push to Social?
“We’re likely to focus more on social and mobile than we are on console,” commented Disney CEO Robert Iger in a conference call, according to Polygon.

Some gaming enthusiasts have expressed worry that Star Wars 1313 could be nixed following Disney’s high profile move. The game itself focuses on something less kid friendly, the criminal underground of Star Wars planet Coruscant as players assume the role of a bounty hunter seeking to unravel a mystery. And while that surely sounds exciting to many LucasArts fans, it’s not necessarily something that fits Disney’s repertoire.

But as of now, it appears things are still good to go, hence the statement from a LucasArts spokesperson. However, a late October report from Digital Trends contemplated that it could be the game studio’s “last big Star Wars game” due to Disney’s emphasis on both social and mobile platforms.

Game Licensing?
A hint of reference could be provided in Disney’s previous purchase of Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion in 2009. At the time, some hardcore Marvel fans worried Disney would delude the popular comic brand. Announcing the purchase, Disney CEO Robert Iger had this to say: “On the games front, Marvel have some smart licensing agreements with some of the best manufacturers in the business [..] While we have been steadily moving in the direction of integration, we don’t rule out the blend of licensing and self-produced and distributed video games. As these licensing deals expire we have the luxury of considering what is best for the company and the products,” the CEO remarked, according to a 2009 report from LazyGamer.net.

Meanwhile, Marvel-related game titles have continued to be outsourced to game developers including the likes of Activision, Capcom and Sega. However, unlike Marvel, Star Wars games have generally always been produced under LucasArt’s direction. So could licensing the Star Wars games to top developers be in the mix?

“We’ll look opportunistically at console, most likely in licensing rather than publishing, but we think that given the nature of these characters and how well known they are, and the storytelling, that they lend themselves quite nicely, as they’ve already demonstrated to the other platforms,” Iger’s stated in his most recent conference call, Polygon reported.

In some form or another, Star Wars games are sure to stick around, but the form they do so in might just tick off the most passionate of gamers. So will Disney stay true to the classic LucasArt’s format or will that be tossed into another galaxy far far away? Only time will tell…

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