Unlimited Spinoffs! What's Next For Star Wars Games With No EA Exclusivity?

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Unlimited Spinoffs! What's Next For Star Wars Games With No EA Exclusivity?

January 22, 2021

By: Anson Chan

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Developer
Motive Studios
Publisher
Electronic Arts
Platforms
PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date
October 2, 2020
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If you thought that the gaming industry would take a quick break after the roller coaster year of 2020, think again. Among other notable happenings, it was recently announced that EA will not be renewing their exclusive rights to develop Star Wars games. This means that while EA can still develop and publish their own Star Wars games, other game developers and publishers can get in on the action and have their own slice of the Star Wars pie. In addition, LucasArts has effectively been reborn as Lucasfilms Games, and they will be responsible for licensing various Lucasfilm properties to developers. To no one's surprise, this news was quickly followed by announcements that Massive Entertainment and Machine Games will be developing a Star Wars and Indiana Jones game, respectively.

Naturally, the big question on everyone's mind is "What's next for Star Wars games?" For starters, you don't need to worry if you desperately want a Star Wars: Squadrons or Fallen Order sequel. As far as can be told, there's nothing stopping EA from pumping out Star Wars games of their own. Indeed, there's very little that will change for the average consumer in this regard. It's not like this turn of events will cause EA to drop whatever it is they're working on, nor will it have a conceivable impact on the quality of their games. If anything, EA might be more free to do whatever they want as we have no idea what their original contract looked like. For all we know, EA's exclusivity deal came with a ton of stipulations that limited their creative freedom. It would certainly explain why almost all of their games heavily feature Original Trilogy era content. Of course, their new deal might have just as many rules, making this line of speculation rather moot.

For everyone else, this is nothing but good news. History has proven that allowing multiple game developers to work on a franchise can result in great things. Simply take a look at the Warhammer brand as an example (both 40K and Fantasy). There have been Left 4 Dead inspired FPS games, top-down dungeon crawlers, Total War RTS spinoffs, space-based RTS games, third-person shooters, 4X turn-based strategy games, and so much more, made by a countless number of developers of all shapes and sizes. Such a wide variety of games undoubtedly helped the Warhammer brand reach a much greater audience, to the point where you don't need to be invested in tabletop gaming at all to be interested in the brand. As it turns out, giving game developers equal access to a brand with a fascinating setting and tons of established backstory means that you can get a million different more stories, and the funny thing is that people love that.

There is a downside to this though. The mere fact that there are literally dozens upon dozens of Warhammer games means that you're never going to get consistent quality. Even among games of the same genre, you can have wildly different approaches to gameplay design that are unique to each individual developer. Which, in turn, makes it a bit of a gamble when it comes to trying to figure out which game is worth playing. One can't help but to ask if the same thing will happen as the era of EA's Star Wars exclusivity ends. 

 
 
star wars fallen order
If no one can compete with the quality of Fallen Order and Squadrons though, EA may end up being the de-facto Star Wars game developer regardless of exclusivity rights.

So far, all signs point to "it's highly likely" as the first developer to publicly jump onto the Star Wars game train is Massive Entertainment, best known for their work on the Division series. Obviously, just because Massive worked on The Division doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to be making a Division clone with Star Wars skins layered over it. On the other hand, it's not like you can really accuse Ubisoft (Massive's parent company) of having many original thoughts over the past half decade when their name has basically become synonymous with cookie-cutter open-world RPG-lite games that are filled with way too many collectibles. Sure, a modern open-world Star Wars game sounds cool now, but that's what everyone thought before Assassin's Creed got over a dozen sequels in just as many years. 

Then there's all the other companies that have deep enough pockets for Mickey Mouse's deals. Take Activision for example. They almost certainly have an interest in the Star Wars franchise, if only because it's arguably the most recognizable sci-fi brand in modern history. Whether or not Activision would actually pursue a deal is anyone's guess, but let's not pretend that Activision's notoriously poor reputation isn't well deserved. Would you trust them with publishing a Star Wars game that isn't oozing microtransactions out of every pixel? Probably not, given the state of the Call of Duty series. Let's not even imagine the uproar that a Tencent partnership would create, justified or otherwise—or for that matter, a Facebook partnership for some Oculus-related VR project. 

There are some fantastic, smaller developers that can really bring Star Wars games into a new era though. One can imagine the possibilities, like a 4X strategy game developed by Paradox. They already have a very good starting point with Stellaris, especially when you take into account how many Star Wars related mods exist for the game. Firaxis, with their extensive XCOM experience, could make a turn-based spiritual successor to Republic Commando. Dozens of other developers have proven themselves in the third-person shooter/action-adventure genre, often working with mechanics that are perfect for a theoretical bounty hunter game. Alas, the only real question is whether or not Disney would be willing to go to such lengths, as EA losing their exclusivity and granting licensing rights to everyone are two very different things.

Hi :)
Staff Writer

Hi everybody! I've been playing all kinds of games for decades now, from FPSes to city builders to the occasional platformer, and if nothing else, it's taught me that games are the ultimate form of art. 

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