The shuttering of LucasArts still stings for a lot of fans. Many hold Disney accountable for closing the venerable game studio, but did problems for the developer begin before the sale? According to a Kotaku profile by Jason Schreier, LucasArts was in trouble years before Disney came into the picture.
Over the last five months, I’ve talked to a dozen people connected to LucasArts, including ex-employees at the company’s highest levels, in an attempt to figure out just how the studio collapsed. Some spoke off the record; others spoke under condition of anonymity. They told me about the failed deals, the drastic shifts in direction, the cancelled projects with codenames likeSmuggler and Outpost. They told me the stories behind the fantastic-looking Star Wars 1313and the multi-tiered plans for a new Battlefront starting with the multiplayer game known asStar Wars: First Assault.
All of these people helped paint a single picture: Even before Disney purchased LucasFilm, the parent company of LucasArts, in November of 2012, the studio faced serious issues. LucasArts was a company paralyzed by dysfunction, apathy, and indecision from executives at the highest levels.
It may not have been just 1313 and First Assault that wound up meeting untimely demises either:
In news that will certainly crush anyone who enjoyed LucasArts-branded adventure games, the team at LucasArts Singapore was working on a remastered version of the classic point-and-click game Day of the Tentacle, according to three people familiar with that project. Like the special editions of the first two Monkey Island games, released in 2009 and 2010, the remastered Day of the Tentacle would be pseudo-3D, with remade background art and cut-scenes redone to run at 30 frames per second…
…The list of cancelled projects goes on and on. There was Smuggler, a game designed for cross-platform multiplayer that would let you play as a customizable character within the Star Warsuniverse, smuggling and trading between Facebook, tablets, and consoles.P
There was Outpost, the Star Wars take on Zynga’s FarmVille that would let players build empires, one click at a time.P
There was Death Star, the iOS game in which you’d get to control your very own version of the Empire’s iconic space station.P
There was the online service that would be LucasArts’ very own version of Origin, EA’s network for distributing games and servicing online multiplayer. Like Origin for EA, this LucasArts-branded network would help the company distribute Star Wars games and in-app purchases. According to one person familiar with plans for this network, it would have launched alongside Star Wars: First Assault, which would have had some sort of microtransaction store.
Shortly after LucasArts closed, I cautioned fans not to blame Disney. The anger was understandable, the studio closure came right on the heels of The Clone Wars getting cancelled. From my outside perspective, it looked as if LucasArts had been in trouble for years and issues had cropped up almost a decade earlier. This piece by Kotaku lends more to the idea that the company had merely been on life support from Lucasfilm for some time.
Be sure to read the entire Kotaku profile, there’s a whole lot more there that paints a much clearer picture that the problems that befell LucasArts come from within, not from Disney.