In October 2012, Disney dropped roughly $4 billion to acquire LucasFilm and the Star Wars multimedia empire. Six months later, in April 2013, it pulled the plug on LucasArts, the company’s game development and publishing division. An exclusive deal to make Star Wars games was made with Electronic Arts later that year, a relationship that by some estimates has not gone as smoothly as expected. And today, Disney announced a “new era of storytelling in Star Wars and beyond” that will take place under the revived Lucasfilm Games banner.
“Lucasfilm’s legacy in gaming stretches back decades. And with Lucasfilm and the galaxy far, far away entering a new and unprecedented phase of creativity, so will the world of Lucasfilm Games — developed in collaboration with the finest studios across the industry,” the announcement says. “Lucasfilm Games is now the official identity for all gaming titles from Lucasfilm, a name that encompasses the company’s rich catalog of video games and its eye toward the future.”
Press release hyperbole aside, the LucasFilm Games name does have some serious history behind it. It was originally founded in the early ‘80s but couldn’t actually make Star Wars games because Atari held the exclusive license. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, for gamers at least, because it forced the studio to make original games instead, resulting in Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, Zak McKracken, Loom, Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, Sam and Max, The Dig, Full Throttle, and more. The division was renamed to LucasArts in 1990.
It’s not clear how the return of LucasFilm Games will impact EA’s license, as the announcement doesn’t say whether the name was resurrected as an EA-led publishing label or an in-house division at Disney. By rights, the Star Wars license should be a golden goose for a major games publisher, but Electronic Arts has had a rough go of it: High-profile projects were cancelled, a loot box bonfire was started, and the Star Wars Battlefront 2 community team managed to create what was literally the most-downvoted Reddit comment of all time.
Disney CEO Bob Iger said in 2019 that it had a “good relationship” with Electronic Arts, and EA CEO Andrew Wilson echoed that a year later, saying the publisher has “a tremendous relationship with Disney” and intends to “double down on that relationship.” But there are only a couple of years remaining in EA’s exclusive Star Wars license, and Disney may have decided that it wants to be free to try its luck with other studios.
I’ve reached out to EA for comment and will update if I receive a reply.