After 6 years of dismal performance, it is time that Disney revoke EA’s license to the Star Wars franchise.
A few days ago, as I was browsing the morning news on my way to work, I encountered an article from Kotaku, a gaming and technology news platform. To my dismay, but not surprise, it read “EA Cancels Open World Star Wars Game”.
For those who have not followed this story, the game had initially been designed by Visceral Studios (of the Deadspace franchise) and headed up by Uncharted’s director Amy Hennig. For still unclear reasons, EA shutdown Visceral Studios and Amy Hennig moved on, and the format of the Star Wars game referred to as Ragtag has changed several times.
EA responded, in which they say quite a lot more than they likely intended to:
“There’s been speculation overnight about one of our Star Wars projects. As a natural part of the creative process, the great work by our team in Vancouver continues and will evolve into future Star Wars content and games. We’re fully committed to making more Star Wars games, we’re very excited about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order from Respawn, and we’ll share more about our new projects when the time is right.”
Assuming the aforementioned Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order sticks to its release date of November 2019, that will mean that EA has only managed to produce three “AAA” games in six years. While in theory this is an ambitious output, it doesn’t take a lot of digging to realise this is a dismal failure on EA’s part.
Currently the only two AAA Star Wars titles out are Battlefront and Battlefront II. The felonies against those games is quite extensive, to say the least. They could have easily been one game, with an on-going support structure to put in new content on a regular basis, including larger DLC expansions. Instead, EA wanted to extend its financial life further by releasing Battlefront II a few years later, in an effort to combat the first games main issue, which was a lack of a single-player campaign.
In true EA fashion they managed to get everything wrong again. The uninspired and short sing-player campaign was entirely overshadowed by the fiasco of a progression system which forced players to play for inhumane amounts of time to make enough in-game currency to buy the loot boxes, or they just pay with actual money to curtail that problem.
The retribution from the public was immediate, vociferous and every bit justified. Eventually, when various government agencies in Europe began questioning the legality of these loot-boxes, EA removed them from the game entirely (which was too little too late).
Given the repeated cancelation of games, which consumers were looking forward too, and the mediocre products that they have actually released, it isn’t difficult to reach the conclusion that EA has vastly mismanaged their license of the Star Wars franchise (which I believe was a 10 year contract).
The video game industry is not some small-fry start up of the 80’s. Globally video game sales made $19 billion in 2018.
EA, which has a total value of nearly $9 billion, is the second largest gaming firm in the world behind Activision Blizzard, and has spent decades gobbling up and acquiring smaller, more creatively inclined firms such as Bioware, who made the critically acclaimed Knights of the Old Republic as well as the hugely successful Mass-Effect franchise.
Given their assets and the terrible products they have released since the 2013 agreement, the only responsible thing I can see is for Disney to do is revoke their contract and open it up to new-bidders. Unfortunately, this isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. Disney has not made any comments on EA’s slow output of games, or on the fact the only two they have aren’t very well liked. This is likely because it has stull made them money.
Money, I suspect, is the primary driving force behind EA’s decision making. This isn’t always a bad thing, but in their case they haven’t been able to produce a good single-player game in years (readers may recall the Mass Effect: Andromeda fiasco, though I seem to be the only person in the universe who enjoyed playing the game). Until they cease their focus on multi-player (and therefor continued profit) I doubt that Star Wars games will get any better.
EA, as we have seen in the past, is only really swayed by shareholder concerns, of which there were some following the Battlefront II loot-box debacle. It isn’t enough that Star Wars loving consumers chastise them in IGN comments section. They need to speak with their wallet. If Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order proves to be anything less than amazing, with any luck Disney will pull the plug on EA.
Image is a screen shot by the author taken during game play of Star Wars Battlefront II developed by EA DICE, and published by Electronic Arts