At the end of last year, Disney bought Lucasfilm and its LucasArts gaming subsidiary for $4 billion. We learned in April that Disney planned to gut LucasArts' development role and instead focus on farming out the division's intellectual property. It didn't take long for the most storied franchise in the catalog to find a suitor: Electronic Arts has inked an exclusive, multi-year deal to make Star Wars games.
I'll give you a moment to let that sink in—or to slam your face into the keyboard. One of the most reviled publishers in the business now has control over one of the most beloved franchises of our time.
Although the agreement is billed as an exclusive one, Disney retains the right to make Star Wars games for smartphones, tablets, and the web. EA is going for the "core gaming audience, spanning all interactive platforms and the most popular game genres." PCs and consoles appear to be EA's focus, and the press release even reveals a few specifics. BioWare will continue its work within the Star Wars universe, and the studio will be joined by DICE and Visceral of Battlefield and Dead Space fame, respectively.
There's no word on whether anyone in EA's stable will continue where LucasArts left off with Star Wars 1313, which was due out this year. The game promised a grittier take on the Star Wars universe, and the trailers looked quite promising. Star Wars 1313 seems to fit with EA's desire to make games that are "entirely original with all new stories and gameplay," so it may yet have a future.
The financial terms of the deal haven't been disclosed; neither has the length of the exclusive agreement. Odds are EA will be making Star Wars games for a while, though. Buckle up.
Given the recent SimCity debacle and various offenses related to Origin exclusivity, there's reason to be worried about EA being the sole provider of Star Wars titles for serious gamers. That said, BioWare, DICE, and Visceral know how to make blockbuster games, and there may be no better franchise suited to the big stage. They can't do more damage to the franchise than Lucas did himself with the prequel trilogy.