Disney Plans New ‘Star Wars’ Games Through Electronic Arts

Star Wars: Old Republic

Licensing deal will split new games among developers DICE, Visceral and BioWare.

The Force is now with Electronic Arts.

The second largest videogame publisher has locked down an exclusive multi-year deal to produce “Star Warsgames for all platforms.

Deal comes a month after Lucasfilm laid off much of its development and production staff at LucasArts, which oversaw “Star Wars” and other games.

While Disney has said it will focus much of its interactive business on games for mobile apps and social networks like Facebook, “Star Wars” is being treated as an entirely different animal.

New games will be based on “Star Wars” characters and storylines for what the companies call “a core gaming audience” — which, in this case, means mostly men in their 30s.

Disney will retain certain rights to develop new titles for the mobile, social, tablet and online game categories aimed at younger auds. First games will likely be ready sometime in 2015, around the release of J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: Episode VII.”

“This agreement demonstrates our commitment to creating quality game experiences that drive the popularity of the ‘Star Wars’ franchise for years to come,” said John Pleasants, co-president of Disney Interactive. “Collaborating with one of the world’s premier game developers will allow us to bring an amazing portfolio of new ‘Star Wars’ titles to our fans around the world.”

EA isn’t new to the “Star Wars” franchise.

It published BioWare’s “Star Wars: The Old Republic,” a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. It was the most expensive game produced when it launched in 2011, with a $150 million pricetag, but has struggled to generate a large fanbase. It has since embraced a free-to-play model rather than rely on monthly subscriptions.

Although financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, Disney clearly found a gamemaker eager to shell out a hefty licensing fee to secure the “Star Wars” franchise and help grow a business that’s struggled in recent years.

LucasArts earned just $55 million mostly from its “Star Wars” titles, according to NPD. Last month, LucasArts pulled the plug on “Star Wars 1313,” while “Star Wars: First Assault” was canceled before that. Deal enables Disney’s interactive team to focus on other internally developed tentpole titles like the upcoming “Disney Infinity,” which mixes toys with traditional videogame-play.

DICE and Visceral will produce new games, while BioWare will continue to focus on “Star Wars: The Old Republic,” said EA Labels president Frank Gibeau. EA’s website already is asking “Star Wars” fans to suggest ideas for new games. “We have lots of ideas, but we want to hear from you,” it said.

DICE is best known for its work on EA’s “Battlefield” franchise, which competes with Activision’s “Call of Duty” games, while Visceral is behind the sci-fi horror series “Dead Space.”

“Every developer dreams of creating games for the ‘Star Wars’ universe,” Gibeau said. “The new experiences we create may borrow from films, but the games will be entirely original with all new stories and gameplay.”

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  1. Peabody McCloud says:

    Visceral games are too graphically violent and too hard to play. They don’t have a good sense of when an enemy should die. DICE is the ugly stepcousin (not even stepbrother) of war games developers – Battlefield is completely unrealistic as compared to Activision’s Call of Duty series – no comparison. EA is also well known as a chop shop for employees much like Disney – get em in, wring em dry, pay em nothing, fire em – I’m surprised George Lucas would sell his faithful crew to Disney. EA is losing ground and credibility in the video game world. So, I don’t hold much faith in the EA crew doing a good job. What Disney should have done is gone for a developer that will release a good game like Crytek/Ubisoft’s Far Cry 3. A Star Wars story set in a Far Cry scenario where instead of islands and enemy bases you have planets and outposts where relationships and story paths change based on decisions made by the player, and where transport between planets becomes an adventure rather than just a cut scene, would be great. I love to see a an updated version of the old PC-based Tie Fighter or X-Wing game series – back in the Intel 486 processor days – that was fun, and mixed with the reality and playability of Far Cry – now that’s a billion+ dollar game. Watch, EA won’t even come close. There is seriously no way that EA will make a billion dollar Star Wars game. Not in a million years.

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