EA Signs Exclusive Deal With Disney To Publish Star Wars Games

When Disney closed LucasArts earlier this year and canceled all of the games under development, it left the future of video games within Star Wars franchise in serious doubt. Now we know what that future is going to look like -- it's got a giant EA logo stamped on it. According to the joint press release, EA now has the exclusive rights to " develop and publish new Star Wars titles for a core gaming audience, spanning all interactive platforms and the most popular game genres, while Disney will retain certain rights to develop new titles within the mobile, social, tablet and online game categories."

“Every developer dreams of creating games for the Star Wars universe,” said EA Labels President Frank Gibeau. “Three of our top studios will fulfill that dream, crafting epic adventures for Star Wars fans. DICE and Visceral will produce new games, joining the BioWare team which continues to develop for the Star Wars franchise."  

How much you like this statement is going to depend on how much you like EA. Electronic Arts has won the coveted "Worst company" award from Consumerist.com for two years running. This has always seemed a bit ridiculous considering that other companies, like Bank of America, are also on the list. Still, it's a telling condemnation of how the company has alienated the vast majority of players.

If you trust EA to turn Star Wars over to Bioware, than this deal looks pretty good. The problem is, EA has a really bad habit of wrecking good franchises with bad follow-ups. Sim City is the most recent example, but far from the only one. Dead Space 3 eschewed its survival horror roots for a straightforward action game. Mass Effect 3 alienated its most fervent fans with a weak original ending that the company actually revised / expanded due to fan criticism. Then there's the announcement from a few weeks back that the majority of the company's social games would be unceremoniously closed and players would lose access to any specialty purchases or funds still in their accounts. On the other hand, the publisher moved up several notches in Metacritic's most recent publisher rankings, and currently occupies the top spot.

After Kinect Star Wars, the bar isn't exactly floating up in space

As for Star Wars titles in particular, it's difficult to argue that there's some unilateral level of quality that EA is in danger of sabotaging. The fact is, it's been years since w saw a Star Wars game that delivered on the series' potential. KOTOR turns ten this year. KOTOR II was a flawed, half-baked game. The last Battlefront game is eight years old, and The Force Unleashed series was middling, at best. If you don't like MMOs, Lego Star Wars is the only series that's been delivering high-quality fun these past five years.

In short, EA has a bona fide opportunity here. This could be the deal that turns Star Wars around and opens up new vistas of gameplay rather than trading on the reputation of fondly remembered titles back when six green pixels and a few gray ones was a valid way to represent Yoda on screen. Personally, I'd love to see better Star Wars games, period, regardless of who publishes them.

But please, EA, don't screw this up.