Editorials

Star Wars and EA is a Good Thing

EA is going to make Star Wars games for the foreseeable future. Read on to find out why it’s not only not the end of the world, but it’s also a good thing.

Sean Mesler

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.

Kathleen Kennedy is responsible for hiring J.J. Abrams to direct Episode VII. If you don't know who she is, start.

Kathleen Kennedy is responsible for hiring J.J. Abrams to direct Episode VII. If you don’t know who she is, start.

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.

Imaging what Bioware can do without being hampered by making a game for every possible rig.

Imagine what Bioware can do without being hampered by making a game for every possible gaming rig.

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.

Tell me the very thought of this doesn't give you a nerdgasm. I dare you. Liar.

Tell me the very thought of this doesn’t give you a nerdgasm. I dare you. Liar.

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.

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  • RavingArmy

    Sean, I think you might be overlooking a couple of items which negate or significantly devalue the points you make.

    For starters, BioWare didn’t just fumble with “Dragon Age II” and “Mass Effect 3.” Their continuing mismanagement of “The Old Republic” is a sore point in the gaming community. What they call “free to play” is a sick joke compared to other titles in the same space, particularly “Guild Wars 2.” Combined with the “ME3″ debacle, they’ve burned up a lot of the goodwill they’d built over the years. And while the company will carry on without Zeschuck or Muzyka, the leadership they have in place doesn’t seem capable of filling their shoes.

    Secondly, I loved the original “Dead Space,” but the sequels haven’t had quite the same grip on me. Visceral seems to be punching them out too quickly to give them a proper degree of growth and enhancement. The first game in the series did a great job of scaring me half to death. The ones after just never built up from there. I shouldn’t have the sense of “been there, done that” on the second game in a series. I definitely shouldn’t feel like I can spot exactly where the monsters are going to pop out like some cheap Halloween haunted house.

    Finally, even if BioWare gets their act together and Visceral manages to constantly top themselves, there’s still the problem of EA having exclusive control of the license. Take a look at “Madden.” Without competition, because it is literally the only game in town when it comes to authentic NFL football simulation, the last few iterations have gotten bloated and unenjoyable. However much sense it may appear to have on paper, the practical results of EA holding exclusive rights to third-party properties it didn’t develop on its own are a recipe for the slow decay of the quality of those properties.

  • Bryan Kirckof

    A Battlefield: Star Wars game would make me cry I’d be so happy.

  • RGDubz

    EA is gonna rape Star Wars with $70 games filled with microtransactions & lots of DLC to follow, If anybody thought EA was bad this gen just wait til next-gen.

    Fuck EA

  • RGDubz

    You just called MADDEN a simulator.. LMAO.

    EA and simulation do not belong in the same sentence.

    Authentic NFL, yes
    Simulator, no

    EA sports games are full of arcade elements, to call any EA sports game a simulator or even refer to it as simulation is laughable

  • RavingArmy

    Oh, I don’t disagree that it is a laughable, arcadey, overwrought, all-style-no-substance chunk of code, but it is at heart a simulation. Not a great simulation. Not even a modestly accurate simulation. But still a simulation.

  • Spencer Oas

    The EA of today is not the EA of yesterday (the small company that made Archon, Bards Tale, etc). Calling companies EA bought after success and then riding the coat tails of great games they made (before EA bought them) with average to ok games is not good in any book. There is a real reason most the companies EA buys the main guys quit a game or two later.. I could care less if there is a great NEW Star Wars game.. Tie fighter, X-wing, Dark Forces.. those are the ones I will remember.. Star Wars was great.. then the Ewoks, the Jar jars.. the understanding they had to appeal to 7 year old to sell toys was just as important as if the movie was ok.. Star Wars is a sad characture of its original self, the games are just rip off of some other game with star wars characters (rts, battlegrounds, MMORPG’s). NO EA is not in it to make games, they are in it to make money, as all publishers are.. problem is they don’t seem to understand a great game will do that as well as pushing crap out in assembly line fashion that just rides other great games ideas. Cant wait for Abrams slick polished but souless Star Wars.. New Star Trek was like Aramagedon.. fun to watch, but after a 2nd viewing you start to understand how they made it 90210 in space. No great adventure of mankind, just pew, pew, pew,, lets be all macho.. push the galaxy around .. don’t forget the lens flare.. at least they did a good job on Spock and Bones..

  • http://www.gamerhorizon.com/ Ted Polak

    Every AAA (I guess the term is AAAA now) game is going to have microtransactions and DLC because the budgets are such that they need to make their money back.

  • RGDubz

    lol, it’s about as much of a simulator as Call of Duty is to a real war.

  • RGDubz

    Microtransactions have no place in full priced games, only free-to-play games should have microtransactions in them.
    Also unless you’re just talking EA, no not all AAA games will have microtransactions.. Just the ones with greedy publishers like EA.. Boycott these companies & don’t buy their games, I know I am & will continue to do so.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.bergman.142 Sarah Bergman

    Loved the article you make some excellent points.Too bad it’s going to get ripped apart for not sticking to the internet popular opinion that all things EA are bad.

  • http://www.gamerhorizon.com/ Ted Polak

    EA isn’t the only one. Ubisoft, Activision, Capcom, NIS America, and Namco Bandai are doing this, and those are the only ones off the top of my head. Notable games include Assassin’s Creed 3, Black Ops 2, Street Fighter x Tekken, Dragon’s Dogma Dark Arisen, pretty much anything Namco has released since 2008, and good lord have you seen how many microtransactions those Hyperdimension Neptunia games have? Or better yet, any of the newer JRPGs? It’s not just AAA games now.

  • RGDubz

    You’re retarded not a single publisher you listed has stated it will go $70 games full of microtransactions & have lots of DLC, not a single one dumb ass, stop trying to defend EA’s greed by saying others are doing the same when they’re not & have not said they were doing the same as EA

  • http://www.gamerhorizon.com/ Alex Inigo

    I don’t think he’s disagreeing that EA has made some mistakes over the past few years, but bringing to light that EA is not the only company that’s done this. He gave a specific game, Hyper Dimension Neptunia, as an example. Here’s a list of all the microtransactions and DLC they’ve put out:

    http://hyperdimensionneptunia.wikia.com/wiki/DLC

    Like you, I think microtransactions and DLC are pretty bad as a whole. I rarely buy DLC and I have no inclination to get microtransactions for the simple fact that if they take down the servers that’s hosting all these things, you won’t be able to download them anymore.

    A more recent example? The original Xbox DLC pack for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. You can never get this anymore, save for modding your Xbox and copying someone’s file and fiddling around with the DRM.

  • http://www.gamerhorizon.com/ Alex Inigo

    The biggest concern I really have with this transaction is that they make it seem like they’re only focusing on these games. Most of the developers mentioned have been one game studios up until this point.

  • RGDubz

    All DLC even those which have been removed from the PSN store can always be downloaded from your download history, DLC is still hosted but is not visible for purchase, example Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, DLC rights expired years ago but I can still download the DLC off the store by going to my download history.. You’re problem is actually with Microsoft not DLC.

    Never played Hyper Dimension Neptunia, nor do I want to, but he’s still wrong blaming NIS America when it was a smaller shitty developer called Idea Factory who called the shots & put microtransactions in a full priced game, NIS America just published the game in the English speaking regions and has nothing to do with those microtransactions being in the game.

    All the other games like AC3, BO2, SxT, & Dogma have no microtransactions.

    Posting false facts about other publishers is trying to defend EA’s greed.

  • http://www.gamerhorizon.com/ Alex Inigo

    You don’t consider the costumes or new gems in Street Fighter x Tekken microtransactions? I would definitely lump those under that category, along with the Need for Speed series’ easy unlock and cash microtransactions. For clarity’s sake, I would like to know what you’d consider microtransactions just so that we’re on the same page.

  • http://www.gamerhorizon.com/ Ted Polak

    Have you played any of the games I listed? Full of microtransactions. Thanks for playing, kid.

  • RGDubz

    No, Gem & Outfits in SxT are merely the worst form of DLC (Disc Locked Content)

    EA always has unlock everything DLC but I would not consider that a microtransaction either.

    Play stuff like PS Hone, FreeRealms, The Simpsons: Tapped Out, Dead Space 3, DCU Online and any other MMO.. They make more money off microtransactions then having people subscribing monthly, Any game with microtransaction better be free-to-play like the upcoming Spartacus game.

  • RGDubz

    I have played them all, why do you think I’m calling you a dumb ass? Because you cannot tell the difference between DLC & microtransactions.

  • http://www.gamerhorizon.com/ Alex Inigo

    Guild Wars 2 was a MMO that didn’t have a monthly fee. Well, you had to buy the game first at full price, then the game’s free… and I admit I spent a lot of money on converting real money to gold since that’s supported. After that, I felt terrible since I could’ve just grinded my whole way through that game. So now I’m at the end game and there’s nothing there. One of the many reasons why I left that game.

    To me, anything that is an in-game item or boost that I have to buy is a microtransaction. I define DLC as any mission based or map based expansions using the existing game to add things to the current game.

    I think we’re both on the page here. I actually am thinking of writing an article to see if people even care about paying for things that may not even be present in the future should they revisit it. I think this is a bigger root of the problem, since some games are starting to be really crazy with all this additional transaction hijinks that some games don’t even come with an ending on the disc and companies, instead, sell them as DLC (Asura’s Wrath comes to mind).

  • http://www.gamerhorizon.com/ Alex Inigo

    At Lucasarts they actually were planning an open world Star Wars game. While the details are hazy, that would be something interesting to have.

  • RGDubz

    Asura’s Wrath was just a bunch of entitled whinners crying over nothing, Had they not added the extra level to simply show you there was DLC coming no one would had said a damn thing, the game as it was without the extra level was the complete game.. No extra level showing DLC is on the way to extend the ending = no crying.
    That was Capcom’s real mistake, showing people there was story DLC on the way.

    The biggest problem with microtransactions is how much content (guns, outfits, characters, etc) get cut to be sold off as microtrasactions, DLC is nowhere near as bad.. My probleme with DLC is when it’s on the disc but locked, had Asura’s Wrath done that with the DLC I’d have been pissed.

  • http://www.gamerhorizon.com/ Alex Inigo

    I think, along the same lines of what you said in your first point, your second point about Visceral could also be applied to that i.e. the leadership at Visceral hasn’t been the same since Glen Schofield left. I’m also in agreement with you that Dead Space hasn’t been the same since the first.

    I’m not entirely convinced yet that ousting Riccitielo would do EA any good. I can definitely see how this can shake things up in upper management, but something drastic needs to happen to the company and its properties as a whole so that they can build up that good will again.

  • http://gamerhorizon.com/ Ari Margo

    We can disagree with each other without throwing insults you know.

    To your point, EA has certainly earned its bad reputation over the years, and they seem unable to stop making bad decisions… The SimCity Launch and the closure of SimCity Social are both recent examples of EA really messing things up. But, at the same time, they did show some goodwill by offering a free game to all of the people that bought SimCity. I snagged Battlefield 3 through that apologetic offer. But that doesn’t excuse their bad decisions that so directly affect their customers, and they have a long way to go to restore the faith of their customers.

    That said, please keep it civil or we’ll have to delete all of this conversation.

  • http://www.gamerhorizon.com/ Alex Inigo

    See, I hadn’t finished Asura’s Wrath so I didn’t know about that and you got me there. I actually had fun with the game, even though much of our press colleagues quickly labelled it as a QTE fest. But the way you put it sounds reasonable. Bad context, basically.

  • RavingArmy

    Like so many CEO’s, Riccitielo was the sacrificial goat. It’s the
    devil’s bargain of corporate America: “Sure, you’ll make lots of money
    and have all these awesome perks. But when we tell you to fall on your
    sword, that sucker should already be going through your belly button.”
    I’ve long had mixed feelings about him and his tenure at EA. On the one
    hand, the members of the press who have a longstanding relationship
    with him swear up and down he’s a gamer. On the other, he’s stood up
    and smiled while telling the fanbases of countless titles what new brand
    of insanity was going to be foisted on them.

    That being said,
    sacking him “pour encourager les autres” is going to do anything but.
    The entire executive team from CEO probably on down through EVPs needs
    to be wiped clean. Customer-centric initiatives, ideas that genuinely
    encourage and promote brand loyalty instead of locking customers in like
    galley slaves, need to be conceived and executed with an attitude of
    humility and cooperation. But as long as the “#dealwithit” mentality
    remains prevalent, at EA and elsewhere, we’re probably going to be
    putting up with a lot of nonsense for many years to come.

  • RGDubz

    The Star Wars games that were cancelled because of this deal would have been a lot better then any Star Wars game that comes from this deal.

  • http://www.gamerhorizon.com/ Ted Polak

    AC3 absolutely has microtransactions. You can buy Erudito credits for money. Dogma Dark Arisen lets you buy teleport gems or life gems (One of them) for money. Black Ops 2 sells cosmetic weapons skins for money.

  • RGDubz

    Microtransactions consists of content that cannot be earned in-game.

    What you describe is booster DLC for lazy people, If I can earn it then it’s no microtransaction.

    I cannot earn the”extra” guns in Dead Space 3, I cannot earn the premium content in Freerealms, I cannot earn the “extra” equipment in the new Spartacus game.

    Microtransactions games are quickly evolving into pay-to-win games.

    The future of games & gaming in general does not look good if these publishing giants get their way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sean.mesler Sean Mesler

    Thanks, Sarah. You’re absolutely correct and the reason why I wrote this article. The proof can be seen in these comments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sean.mesler Sean Mesler

    Thanks for reading and commenting! Always value a good, well thought argument.

    First of all, I don’t consider anything that happened with ME3 a “debacle.” I genuinely feel that a LOT of people didn’t understand that the entirety of the third game was all of the decisions made through out the trilogy being paid off. It didn’t matter to me if the Mass Relays were all destroyed. That was the price for winning the war. The game always had 3 choices when picking either the neutral, Paragon and Renegade. People going nuts over three choices at the end seemed incredibly odd to me, as if they weren’t paying attention.

    I do think having the animations at the end being similar was a mistake but hardly the end of the world. Retconning the ending through DLC and caving in to the pressure was the biggest mistake that Bioware made.

    In regards to The Old Republic, I’ll have to take your word for it since I don’t play MMOs. I’ve heard many people say it’s a good game, but those people aren’t me so arguing the point would be weak at best.

    You bring up a fair point in regards to the Madden games, but are leaving out one thing. Those games are made yearly. Which really means you’re looking at about a 10-11 month production cycle. I’d venture to guess that this will not be the same case for these games. Mind you, I could be completely wrong about this, but as I said, I’m excited about the Star Wars franchise, both cinematically and in the video game space, in ways I haven’t been in over a decade.

  • RavingArmy

    I do try to elevate the conversation where I can, Sean. :)

    With regards to ME3, I’d say that it was a debacle based less on the content of the endings and more with BioWare’s response to the fans’ displeasure. We can agree that simply changing the colors around wasn’t the smartest move BioWare could have done from a design perspective. From people I’ve talked to, it wasn’t just that. They genuinely felt a lack of payoff. Compare the original ending of ME3 to say ME2. In ME2, how you executed the final mission had a big payoff revealed during the final cinematics. If you’re anything less than perfect, there’s dead bodies in the cargo hold. If you are the sort of living legend that lives up to the legend, you get to see your entire crew ready to take on something REALLY challenging, like defeating the Collectors was just a warmup. It would be hard to top that. The fans felt that BioWare didn’t just fail to top ME2’s ending, they didn’t even try. It’s not quite as bad as “Duke Nuke’em Forever,” but I think the same forces were at work.

    The thing about Madden being on such a compacted development cycle is actually more worrying. Keep in mind, Disney has committed to a yearly release schedule of Star Wars movies. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that they’re going to press EA to come up with tie-in games. And if history any indication, you rush a movie tie-in game’s development, you get rotten movie tie-ins.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sean.mesler Sean Mesler

    Again, feeling lack of payoff is concentrating solely on the end. Ignoring that the entire game pays off on decisions you’ve made throughout. Your interactions with your crew if they survived ME2 (mine all did), how you handled the Geth, Tali and the fleet, the Rachni Queen, etc. All of those choices paid off. The entire third game is the last act of the story which means that Bioware made good on their goal. The issue is that people are only looking at the final mission. I get that to an extent but so many people see it the way I do, that I can’t help but feel that anyone who doesn’t just wasn’t thinking about it at all. That’s not Bioware’s fault.

    Yes, Star Wars will have an annual release schedule, for different films, made by different filmmakers. There is no reason why EA couldn’t do the same. Staggering releases for each year. Again, I am being optimistic about this and until I see tangible proof that I shouldn’t be, I will remain so.