The Force is now with Electronic Arts.
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.”