EA just cancelled another Star Wars game, and we have to wonder what Disney's new CEO thinks about the publisher's track record.
Disney just got a new CEO, and he could shake things up on the game development level. Bob Iger recently stepped down as Disney's CEO and now company alum Bob Chapek is in the big seat. In the past, Iger said he's happy with the 10-year deal with EA despite the growing number of game cancellations and timeline disruptions. Will Chapek feel the same way?
The major deciding factor whether or not EA gets to keep the license is costs vs sales revenues. If Disney is spending more money to make the games than the games are actually pulling in, then we could see a hand-off to another publisher. There's compelling arguments for and against EA keeping the exclusive game license.
First, let's go over the against arguments.
Concept art for Visceral Games' cancelled Project Ragtag Star Wars game, which would've had a multi-perspective story arc with bounty hunters.
EA has since cancelled three major Star Wars games over the last few years, first with Visceral's Project Ragtag, which was very far in development before it got axed, then with two successive EA Vancouver games: the open world Project Orca and Project Viking, a Battlefront spin-off.
These cancellations interrupted the original plan that called for a new game released every year.
We don't know how much EA or Disney spent on these projects, and how much of that money is actually lost or counted as a sunken cost. EA has a way of recycling assets and resurrecting games by collecting pieces of scrapped projects and putting them back together. That was the plan with Project Orca, which was to use content from Project Ragtag. Orca was cancelled, and it was believed Viking would in turn cannibalize Orca's assets. Then Viking was cancelled, too.
On the flip side, EA probably doesn't want the Star Wars license any more. In fact, EA's current CEO Andrew Wilson never really wanted it to begin with.
The publisher's management might not be too enthusiastic about the incredible responsibility and weight that the franchise brings. The deal was originally made in 2013 by EA execs John Riccitiello and Frank Gibeau, who jumped ship and left then-new EA CEO Andrew Wilson to handle the games.
It's not all EA's fault, though. Making Star Wars games is incredibly hard. Back in the Lucas Arts days, George Lucas would come in and constantly make changes to the games that set the teams back weeks, forcing them to scrap tons of work on a whim. This ultimately killed a number of projects including Star Wars 1313.
Even though Lucas is gone, Lucasfilm does the same thing. The company is extremely protective over the Star Wars IP and is constantly nit-picking, inspecting, and scrutinizing every little thing that developers put in a Star Wars game. The end result is lots of unnecessary stress--and if it's something game developers don't need, it's more stress.
The arguments that EA keeps the franchise are compelling as well.
Jedi: Fallen Order is Respawn's Star Wars game, a big third-person singleplayer action-adventure game set in between the prequel and original trilogy.
EA has had a tremendous track record insofar as sales. The first two Battlefront games have sold through an impressive 33 million units combined, and have also generated strong revenues via live service monetization.
Jedi: Fallen Order has also sold extremely well as a singleplayer-only game. EA confirms the game has sold more than 8 million copies to date, pushing the publisher to raise its sales estimates to 10 million.
Also remember that Disney has absolutely no desire to actually make its own video games. It will continue handing out licenses to its top-tier IPs to third-party game developers and publishers. We've seen this manifest with Square Enix's big multi-year deal to make Marvel games, and of course with EA's Star Wars franchise.
Disney has since invited other developers to pitch ideas for new games in other IPs, throwing open the doors to widespread adoption and a new fleet of video game experiences.
Ultimately I think it's likely that Disney would renew the Star Wars license and give EA more free reign to craft new games. But the biggest question is: Would EA accept it this time?
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