Despite Fallen Order, Disney’s Star Wars Gaming Era Has Been A Failure
The success of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the clear standout of Star Wars games since Disney’s acquisition of the franchise, but it hasn’t been enough to consider this particular era a success. The engaging single-player experience of Cal Kestis’s story energized many fans, providing a reason to hope that Star Wars games could reach their previous heights again. One great game is not enough, however, to wipe away a scene of overall mismanagement. Although Jedi: Fallen Order showcases how good a modern AAA Star Wars title can be, the era of Star Wars games under Disney’s control has fallen short overall.
New management often brings shakeups, and Disney’s purchase of Star Wars in 2012 immediately raised concerns that projects in development could meet an early end. These fears were realized in 2013 when Disney shut down LucasArts, the legendary studio/publisher that had presided over such hits as Pandemic Studios’ Star Wars: Battlefront and BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic. Exclusive rights to Star Wars video games were transferred to Electronic Arts, which focused on a reboot of the Battlefront games as its first project. Despite graphical prowess and visual scope that brought iconic Star Wars battles to light in a new way, EA’s 2015 game Star Wars Battlefront was plagued by controversy from the start, with fewer modes and maps than fans hoped and a season pass model to monetize future updates. The follow-up, Star Wars Battlefront 2, launched with even more surrounding negativity, implementing a loot box monetization system that the internet met with outrage.
Disney’s Star Wars Games Haven’t Lived Up To The Days Of LucasArts
Both of EA’s Star Wars Battlefront games improved over time, but development on Battlefront 2 ended prematurely in 2020 after a remarkable comeback by DICE, and the strong points of the series under Disney’s ownership couldn’t match the love that many fans had for the LucasArts entries. The sense of « what could have been » was not helped by the drought of games relative to the frequency of LucasArts releases. Star Wars: 1313, a canceled game that would have let the players take on the Coruscant underworld as Boba Fett, could have provided an engaging experience while fans waited for the release of EA’s first Battlefront game. Under EA’s management, an action-adventure title known as Project Ragtag from the developers of Dead Space was shut down alongside the studio in 2017, and the open-world game intended to succeed it was also canceled in 2019. Amy Hennig is finally getting to make her Star Wars game at Skydance New Media, but news of that title came five years after her initial effort was axed.
Moving forward, Disney and Lucasfilm Games have approached other studios and publishers about developing new Star Wars games, including Ubisoft and the aforementioned Skydance. The only Star Wars game from EA in the past several years was Star Wars: Squadrons, a solid dogfighting title that once again met with some dissatisfaction over a lack of content, bringing EA’s grand total to four inconsistent games across a decade. Despite the potential in licensing to other studios, the current slate still provides little confidence that Disney’s era of Star Wars gaming is finally shaping up. Ubisoft is working on a story-driven open-world game, but nothing else about their project is known. Star Wars Eclipse is coming from Quantic Dream, a studio plagued by controversy. Even the PS5-exclusive Knights of the Old Republic remake, which has the foundation of an acclaimed title behind it, has been left in limbo by development shakeups.
It’s still possible that Star Wars gaming under Disney will improve in the future, and the franchise has limitless potential for more games that generate the same kind of excitement as Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Respawn is currently developing a sequel, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, as well as both a first-person shooter and a strategy game. Take into account the open-world Star Wars game from Ubisoft and the prospect of Hennig making the game she wasn’t able to at EA with Skydance, and there is cause for optimism. Without more information on any of these titles, though, the future of Star Wars games still feels unclear. With an unsteady past and an uncertain future, Disney’s era of Star Wars games hasn’t lived up to the legacy of the franchise.