I was on a break from work looking at my phone when a text message came in with news so shocking I thought it had to be fake. I immediately Googled it on my phone and low and behold, it was real.
Disney had bought Lucasfilm and all of it’s Intellectual Properties. Not only that, Star Wars Episode VII was a go and would arrive in 2015.
My mind immediately started to race, thinking of the pros and cons of this geek world shattering news. Had this been 3 years ago, I might have been upset, but it wasn’t. This news came 5 months after The Avengers took the world by storm and delivered on a promise years in the making. And it was good. Disney knew what it was doing. While I may not love every single Marvel film in “Phase 1,” none of them were bad and a lot of care was put into the films to make sure they lived up to the expectations of Marvel fans.
I then started thinking about how Lucas has alienated legions of his fans with his staunch, unflinching stance regarding the original Star Wars trilogy. I accepted that it was his to alter and mess with, but he became the most powerful independent in all of Hollywood because of those very same legions.
While many only saw the word “Disney” in this story, they missed one key detail. Yes, the House of Mouse was definitely the owner, however there was still a New Hope (I’m not sorry) in Kathleen Kennedy. Kennedy had been appointed as President of Lucasfilm and Brand Manager of Star Wars proper. For the uninitiated, Kathleen Kennedy has been a hugely successful film producer whose credits include Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Gremlins, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Munich, The Sixth Sense, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and many others. In short, she’s smart and knows how to shepherd quality films. Star Wars is in good hands as far as the films go. Of course, now we see that the franchise has talented writers such as Michael Ardnt and Lawrence Kasdan involved with various Star Wars related film projects, and J.J. Abrams has signed on to direct Episode VII. This talent was signed and fostered by Kennedy. She clearly cares about the brand and wants the best possible things for Star Wars.
In early April, Disney officially shuttered LucasArts as a development studio and instead opted for a licensing model for future Star Wars games. Many fans and gamers cried foul because it marked the end of the LucasArts legacy and wondered what this meant for future Star Wars video games. The answer came early last week when it was revealed that Disney signed a deal with EA to develop and publish “core” Star Wars games in a “multi-year” deal. Even worse than when Disney bought Lucasfilm, it seems that the internet was ignited by flames of venom and knee-jerk, almost Chicken Little-like cries of how the franchise was doomed- once again, ignoring a few key pieces of information that could very easily calm the swaths of angry fans.
First of all, LucasArts was a shell of its former self. They hadn’t released a truly great in-house Star Wars title in years, and not at all in this generation. Personally I did enjoy The Force Unleashed, but it wasn’t a “great” game by any stretch. In fact, I would argue that the last “great” Star Wars game was Knights of the Old Republic, and that was in 2003, 10 years ago, and Bioware developed it.
Which brings me to my next point. Much like the talent brought on for the films, the three studios that will be tasked with developing these new Star Wars titles are talented reputable, and respected.
First let’s talk about Bioware. Yes, I am aware of the vitriol and disdain for Mass Effect 3‘s ending–which I personally had no problems with–but aside from that it’s still an incredibly well made game on a purely technical level. These studios are not known for releasing substandard, rushed products as a whole. I haven’t personally played Dragon Age II, but I’m sure we can forgive them a misstep in an otherwise storied career. Even if they forgo making Knights of the Old Republic III, they could still make a excellent action RPG set in the Star Wars universe and we all know we’d be into it. Let’s face it; Mass Effect‘s biotic powers were essentially Force powers.
DICE has the much-lauded Battlefield franchise and one of my personal favorites of this generation, Mirror’s Edge. Even if they merely re-skinned Battlefield with Star Wars assets and sound effects it would still be a fantastic Star Wars game, and imagine a multiplayer Star Wars game with those graphics, that scale and destruction? It almost brings tears to my eyes thinking about it.
Lastly, we have Visceral who are responsible for the Dead Space series. Another highly respected, successful series. They could easily take over last year’s dark horse, 1313 and it would have us all frothing at the mouth to get the controller in our hands to experience it.
When I think of EA I don’t see “the worst company in America.” I see the publisher that gave me some of my favorite experiences this generation like Skate, Mass Effect 2 and to a lesser extent, Mass Effect 3, Dead Space, and Mirror’s Edge. I see them in the business of entertainment, and like all in the business, they have some misses minor and major. If Kathleen Kennedy is okay with the Star Wars brand in their hands, then so am I. I haven’t been this excited about the future of Star Wars in over a decade.