Disney has closed LucasArts and cancelled all projects currently in production, shutting the door on one of the iconic development houses of gaming history at the cost of a reported 150 jobs. In a statement picked up by Game Informer, Disney says:
“After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games. As a result of this change, we’ve had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles.”
Disney acquired Lucasfilm (the parent company of LucasArts) back in October 2012 in a deal worth $4.0 billion USD. The studio was working on the third-person shooter Star Wars: 1313 and Star Wars: First Assault. Both of these projects are now cancelled.
It’s a sad end for a studio who, in its 1990s incarnation, established itself as an incredible producer of adventure game titles. With creative talents like Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert at the company, LucasArts released games like Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. In those same early years, classic Star Wars titles like Tie Fighter and Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II were issued by the developer.
Of late, the company has been better known for burning through multiple members of management staff. Since 2004, LucasArts has been helmed by five different people (Jim Ward, Darrell Rodriguez, Paul Meegan and the co-leadership of Kevin Parker and Gio Corsi.) Ubisoft’s Clint Hocking was brought in as creative director in 2010, but left for Valve in 2012 with his LucasArts project unfinished.
The company’s output appeared to suffer from this internal turmoil, resulting in disappointing games like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II and Kinect Star Wars (which will now go down in history as the studio’s final game.)
At this stage, it’s difficult to know what Disney’s move to a “licensing model” may mean. In a best case scenario, older adventure game licenses may find homes at places like DoubleFine (Tim Schafer’s studio) or TellTale (who have already done work with Sam & Max and the Monkey Island series.) There’s potential, too, for the adventure games that have not yet made their way to Steam to now do so.
However, Disney only mentions Star Wars titles by name in its statement and gives no indication as to its intentions for older licenses. One hopes that they won’t end up locked away in Mickey’s vault, never again to see the light of day.