This Fall has been hit with some devastating setbacks regarding EA’s handling of the Star Wars franchise. Most critical is the closure of Visceral, headed by Amy Hennig, famed Uncharted director, on October 17th. This project was the premier Star Wars experience everyone was eagerly waiting for. I mean, who wouldn’t want Uncharted in the Star Wars universe? The second bomb EA dropped was this back and forth game they played with the aggressive micro-transaction system for Battlefront 2 which brought negative press almost every week leading up to its release, ultimately resulting in temporarily removing it altogether, but leaving the steep natural progression. Aside from the money Disney earns through its gaming sector, Star Wars is first and foremost a movie franchise with the games being used to support positive brand recognition. I’m sure you can see how months of bad press can really leave a bad taste in Disney’s mouth when a numbered Star Wars movie is right around the corner.
The results are in and EA’s 2nd Star Wars game since signing the exclusive license deal almost 5 years has sold 60% less than its previous entry with their stock plummeting over $3 billion. Plus, the horizon looks bleak with Respawn still in the shadows and Hennig’s action adventure baby gone for good. This is a bad look and I can imagine a fuming Mickey Mouse trying to set the stage for Episode VIII. So what should Disney do?
Well, if we look at Marvel, Disney has been dispersing its IP selectively across the video game industry to the developers that seem best fit to handle the type of game that most relates to the respective characters, as opposed to just giving it all to one publisher. This gives Disney the opportunity to choose devs who are excited and passionate about treating the property well and making a type of game that falls within their expertise. Guardians of the Galaxy went to Tell Tale, Spiderman went to Insomniac, and the beloved Avengers are with Square Enix. Tell Tale did their interactive novel treatment, Insomniac is doing their fast paced third-person action which so far looks insanely good, and Square Enix has the budget and expertise to make a huge AAA social action adventure game with the Avengers. The Marvel franchise is sitting pretty in the video game industry and Disney’s curation is a huge factor. Star Wars should definitely follow suit.
The writing is on the wall and it’s just a matter of time before Disney sees it, if they haven’t already. I can only assume that the $4.05 billion exclusive EA deal is temporary, so either Disney will find a way to end the contract early to give Star Wars the Marvel treatment, or eagerly wait for its contract to end and not renew. EA was quick to close the door on Amy’s game and they deserve the same thing to happen to them. Both Amy and Star Wars have earned the flexibility to fully realize their creativity; EA is not the place for that.