Disney’s Deal with EA Is Getting Worse All the Time

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Jan 30, 2019

Filed under: Column 128 comments

My Escapist column this week is an analysis of just how monumentally incompetent EA has been with their exclusive Star Wars license.

All of this is yet another manifestation of the fact that we have executives trying to run an industry they don’t understand. It’s like a fancy restaurant being run by someone who only eats microwaved hot pockets at home and has no working understanding of what people want or expect when they dine out…

Welcome to Restaurant d’arts électroniques

We can offer people a pre-order bonus if they reserve a table ahead of time. The bonus should be something they'll want. Like a chair to sit in.
We can offer people a pre-order bonus if they reserve a table ahead of time. The bonus should be something they'll want. Like a chair to sit in.

  • People waste a lot of resources when they visit our restaurant. Can we charge them for each napkin and every shake of salt, and explain we’re offering them the choice because they’re not being made to buy napkins they don’t want?
  • People don’t always drink all the wine we give them, so let’s replace the wine glasses with plastic tumblers. Those will contain less wine per serving, and we’ll also save money on breakage.
  • McDonald’s is making a lot of money with Happy Meal toy tie-ins. Can we add something like that to our filet mignon? What if we reduced the total number of dishes on our menu and re-branded them as “Value Meals”?
  • Sometimes people don’t use the knife or the extra spoon (what is that thing for, anyway?) and we end up washing that stuff anyway. Can we just have people request specific utensils and dinnerware at the start of the visit? I calculate that would save us $0.12 per diner.
  • Stop decorating the walls with all this stuff. The food will taste exactly the same with bare walls and we’ll save tons of money.
  • I just ran the numbers, and we could fit 50% more people in here if we adopted cafeteria-style seating.
  • Doesn’t all meat taste basically the same? We can cut our costs by switching to cheaper meat and using frozen vegetables instead of fresh.
  • Profits are down and less people are visiting our restaurants. I guess the market is pivoting away from high-end dining? Oh well. Nothing we can do about that. There was no way I could see this coming. I’m not Nostradamus. I suppose we can just raise prices on salt (and then under-salt the food) to make up the shortfall.
  • God, I’m such a genius. This company is lucky to have me.

Please no. I can't take much more of the business.
Please no. I can't take much more of the business.

In the past I’ve claimed that EA was good at business but bad at videogames, but now I’m worried the current leadership is just plain bad at everything. Even if you know nothing about videogames, you should still be able to look at the box office money Star Wars brings in and realize the potential. If Andrew Wilson had even a rudimentary grasp of things then we should be drowning in Star Wars games. Granted, they would be mostly terrible because he can’t tell a good game from a bad game, but even a know-nothing MBA fresh out of Harvard ought to be able to wrap their head around the value of licensed STAR FREAKING WARS products.

Andrew Wilson had one good ideaGood for revenue, not good for games. ten years ago. It made a lot of money, and since then the business world has just assumed he’s some sort of genius, despite how hard he’s worked to prove them wrong. I can understand this going on for a few years, but we’re now six years into his campaign of error and I wonder how much longer this can go on.

For the first few years there was always a little doubt in my mind. “Running a company is hard. You don’t get put in charge of something as big as EA unless you’ve got a gift of some sort. The executive decisions look dumb from where I’m sitting, but maybe these guys know something I don’t. Maybe this would all make sense if I understood the financials. As much as I personally hate loot boxes and the live services model, maybe this really is more profitable.”

As the years have dragged on, it’s become harder to justify this sort of open-mindedness. From the outside, it’s harder and harder to entertain this idea that Andrew Wilson is playing 4-dimensional chess. It seems the simplest narrative is the most plausible, and the incompetence of EA’s leadership is producing a never-ending cascade of outrage, controversy, missed opportunities, “disappointing sales”, brain drain, and brazen IP destruction. There’s no hidden agenda. No secret plan. No twist ending. This is exactly as stupid and destructive as it looks on the surface.

In the long run, the crash of 1983 was a pretty good thing. In the short term, it SUCKED for the people involved.
In the long run, the crash of 1983 was a pretty good thing. In the short term, it SUCKED for the people involved.

I’ve heard people suggest that another videogame crash is coming. I think the industry is too diverse and complicated to “crash” in the 1983 sense of the word, but there’s plenty of room for executives to lose their jobs and for fresh contenders to join the fray. Like the enormous waste of the WoW clones that went broke trying to copy WoW rather than trying to make a good game, sometimes you need to wait for natural selection to run its course. EA and Activision are coming off as increasingly desperate, flailing around and hoping for a miracle. Heavyweights Netflix and Amazon are apparently spinning up game studios of their own, and social platform Discord is getting into the storefront business. The new console generation is on the way. Valve finally made a new videogame, and it was bad and nobody wants to play it.

Like the narrator ominously tells us in the movie trailers, “The world is changing.”

I doubt we’re headed for a crash, and I’m not even convinced we’ll get a proper market correction, but we’re certainly partway into some sort of disruption. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Good for revenue, not good for games.



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128 thoughts on “Disney’s Deal with EA Is Getting Worse All the Time

  1. Infinitron says:

    If Andrew Wilson had even a rudimentary grasp of things then we should be drowning in Star Wars game

    Would we? I’d like to make a controversial claim: The use of licensed third party IPs is increasingly out of step with modern AAA game development. If you’re as big as EA, it limits you more than it helps you. Nobody wants “Fortnite, but with lightsabers!” and EA (to its credit!) has figured that out.

    1. Daimbert says:

      I’m not sure that’s true, though. First, I’m sure that there are a lot of people — and I myself might be one of them — who would like a Star Wars skinned version of an existing game like Galactic Battlegrounds was back in the day. Second, you don’t need to make a clone but can instead make a game in the genre, and there would still be a market for Star Wars themed racing, flight, RPG and even adventure games. Pick a genre, and a Star Wars game in that genre would sell at least as well if not better in that genre. And finally, Team Persona contradicts that with the Persona games, taking the RPG and mapping it to fighting and dancing genres and having enough success to keep doing it. So it doesn’t look like EA has actually figured out something that we can’t understand.

      1. If it was a GOOD version of Fortnite, with lightsabers (and other cool Star Wars stuff) people would play it.

        What they don’t want is a CRAPPY version of a current game with Star Wars pasted on top. So, yeah, it does still need to be a COMPETENT game. But, on that same token, it doesn’t need to be some groundbreaking stuff, either. Competent shading toward good is plenty when you’re working with licenses.

        The trouble with EA is that over the past few years they’ve been hard-pressed to even put out something that’s EVEN as good as competent that they didn’t subsequently destroy with lootboxes or other shenanigans.

    2. Fizban says:

      It’s possible that EA could have sub-liscenced it out, so they could keep their own studios focused on spinning their wheels until put down. Or not, since we don’t know the details.

      But that does bring up a potential point: could EA have purchased the rights as a deliberate acts of anti-competition sabotage? Star Wars games would be huge. Even if some profit was coming your way from sub-liscencing, your own live service trash would have to compete with friggin STAR WARS. Instead just take those exclusive rights and durdle around making one or two games that will sell because Star Wars, but otherwise not make any waves.

      Nah, probably giving them too much credit. Squelching competition from the IP by getting the exclusive rights even if you’re not going to use them is plausible, but players and IPs of that size and power seems too risky. I expect they were going to use it normally, and just suck at their jobs.

      Although, since we don’t know the terms of the deal- well it’s possible Disney just got bamboozled. Say, if they assumed EA couldn’t possibly screw things up and let them off with a less than huge initial payment, in favor of percentage profits later. And then, not actually being out a ton of money, EA just kept closing studios to avoid spending money (profit!), instead of making a tons of Star Wars games.

      1. Daimbert says:

        Even worse is that in order to do this there’d have to be discussions of it somewhere, and if Disney ever caught on to the trick they’d sue EA into the Stone Age. You REALLY wouldn’t want to try that with a company with as much power as Disney, and EA didn’t try it with other, less powerful companies before this … or, at least, not successfully.

      2. Viktor says:

        “Buy exclusive IP so that none of our competitors can use it” is a standard EA tactic. EA killed their competitors in the football game world by getting an exclusive NFL license, and nearly did the same thing with racing games and car companies.

        1. marty says:

          I think the big difference between buying a NFL license and a Star Wars license is that without the NFL license, no one else bothers making football games–so even if EA were to abandon the NFL license and another company picked it upthe new licensee would have zero experience making football games–because there really is no market for unlicensed football game. There isn’t some studio honing their pass-rush AI over that last 15 years, waiting for their ship to come in.

          But Star Wars being (essentially) a coat of paint for any given genre doesn’t give EA that advantage. It’s a souls-like but Star Wars? would sell millions. Star Wars kart racer? millions. Star Wars cover shooter? millions. etc. EA isn’t hording knowledge or talent about making Star Wars games (clearly) like they can with then NFL license, they’re just hording the paint can. It’s a decent strategy for NFL games but they’re not going to see any long-term benefit from denying other companies the Star Wars license–heck, whoever gets the license next is probably going to generate sales solely for not being EA.

          1. Marcellus Magnus says:

            That’s not necessarily the case for all sports franchises, especially if the developer makes it easy to mod the game. The Pro Evolution Soccer series managed to be successful despite having to use serial-numbers-filed-off teams and players.

            1. Daimbert says:

              And in the good old days before licensing leagues were common there were a number of franchises that didn’t bother (the Superstar and Backyard series are the ones I remember). I think that the rise of serious simulations rather than more arcade style games was probably the bigger factor. And come to think of it I remember there being multiple licensed hockey games in the past, two of them being simulations. Maybe there just isn’t enough money in those things to build a sports simulation game from scratch.

        2. Daimbert says:

          The thing is that the license from the league is what’s necessary to be able to use the actual teams and players, and is under the control of the leagues themselves. And the leagues themselves don’t want to broadly license things because the revenue division gets complicated. So it’s more a mutually beneficial arrangement than EA simply doing that to get rid of competitors.

        3. Guest says:

          Yeah, but that’s because sports fans want to play as the teams they like, and the players they follow. It’s part of the metanarrative that sports fans enjoy. That’s why they don’t just want any hockey game, any football game, and that’s why they’ll buy the yearly version (Seriously, that’s the same way they sold football strips here, the rich kids would get new ones on the year, and the poor kids would pick up last years and hope the dang sponsors hadn’t changed.

          Who are you edging out with the Star Wars license? Are you doing it to promote Anthem? A game that’s only now coming out, is that the reason they’ve done as little as possible with the license since Star Wars got going again? For Titanfall 2? As opposed to, I dunno, edging people out by owning the license, and actually selling the damn games?

          Seriously, this thread is people in knots trying to justify a premise which was absurd on it’s face. Did they remove irony-detectors from the comments section?

      3. GoStu says:

        No way, not with the Star Wars license.

        EA can do this with various franchise sports things because without those brands and names, there’s really no competition. It’d be very, very hard to get people to buy a hockey game without the NHL rights; a basketball game without the NBA rights; soccer without FIFA, etc. Once you’ve got the big brand and the engine(s) built too you can muscle out anyone else who tries. Even if someone acquires another league’s rights, these are the biggest in their space and they let you dominate the video game market too:

        Example: Let’s say some middle-market studio spins up and decides that they want to sell a KHL hockey game in Russia. They figure the KHL rights are cheaper, and as long as they don’t break the bank on developing, they might see a decent return despite the smaller market. EA can crush you because they’ve already got a very refined “hockey engine” and could deliver a game cheaper (and likely better!) by just licensing the KHL rights too and slapping them onto their existing engine.

        While Star Wars is HUGE, it’s not so dominant in its world of science fiction / Hollywood movies that by controlling it you control everything else. You try to hold onto the Star Wars license just so nobody else can touch it, competitors can still make sci-fi shooters/with some other IP. (I hear Games Workshop’s quite easy to deal with to get some Warhammer rights. Alternately, hire some writers and create your own.) Now you’re out millions of dollars on the rights and the competition’s hardly been inconvenienced at all.

        The only way you spend $X on the rights to Star Wars is if you think (Your game + Star Wars IP) sells an extra $(X+1) dollars better than (Your Game) alone. You’ve still got to make (Your Game) to make that money, so why not use the HELL out of the IP you already dropped money on?

      4. Guest says:

        So, Star Wars games are a big enough competitive edge that it’s worth not letting the oppposition have them, but it’s not worth using them?

        That’s a very specific amount of value (And it’s also wrong).

        1. newplan says:

          It makes a lot of sense.

          If EA makes a blockbuster Star Wars game it still doesn’t own the Star Wars IP. When the contract with Disney is up Disney then has the leverage of that blockbuster that you created for them.

          The situation isn’t symmetrical with a rival developing a Star Wars blockbuster – in that case the game is eating at the sales of your games and you don’t care that the developer is in an unfavorable position with Disney – you just care that it costs you sales.

          As EA your preference are:

          1) You fully own the Star Wars IP with regard to games
          2) Star Wars doesn’t exist
          3) You contingently own the Star Wars game IP so you can throttle back the development effort on it to a bare minimum
          4) You contingently own the Star Wars game IP but you’re required to develop nothing but Star Wars games (with exceptions only for other licensed titles)
          5) Some competitor can develop Star Wars games

    3. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      A ton of people would love a Fortnite with lightsabers made well, are you kidding?

      1. Echo Tango says:

        I wouldn’t mind some more Lego Star Wars games either. Maybe a simple 3rd-person online quick-games-with-friends type of thing. Hell, you could make a Fortnite knockoff easily, since Lego is all about building stuff!

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          So, your plan is to just mash all the things kids love together into one product and hope it sells? I mean, come on! “Lego Starwars Fortnite” is so ridiculous, so brazen, and… ok, yeah, that’s a great idea.

      2. Guest says:

        Lightsabers are one of the most modded in items barring genitals! Am I taking crazy pills?

    4. Jabberwok says:

      It seems very unlikely to me that EA doesn’t want to plug existing mechanics into other franchises. Doing exactly that is the wheelhouse of pretty much every AAA IP, new or old. Take some already successful mechanics and wrap them up in a new multi-million dollar package. In fact, isn’t EA the king of doing that? And isn’t Star Wars Battlefront essentially just re-skinned Battlefield?

    5. Sleeping Dragon says:

      See, I’d actually agree with you. Arriving at a decision that we don’t need to chase every single genre, every single age group, every single audience and instead we’d like to focus on fewer titles of high quality actually sounds great.

      Except that we didn’t get those titles. We got an overmarketed multiplayer shooter with questionable monetization mechanics and a cancelled game whose assets were meant to be used in a different game which, far as I know, also got cancelled recently. And frankly, while we could argue that sometimes despite the best of intentions and skills a project just doesn’t work at this point I’m not willing to give EA the benefit of doubt.

    6. Guest says:

      The films are coming out right now-if anything, their popularity may have already peaked. They clearly knew enough to know this is the time to use that license-that’s why they rebooted Battlefront, and included stuff from the new films.

      Right now is the time to strike before people get tired of Star Wars for a while, this is when we should see tie-in games galore, even if they’re shitty movie tie-ins.

      Everybody wants Fortnite but with Lightsabers, CoD but with blasters, Age of Empires but with Ewoks, or at least, there will never be a larger demand for them than when they’re literally coming out with some of the biggest films imaginable.

      What a wrongheaded sentiment. People enjoy the franchise so much that Star Wars games have continued to come out outside of the films release cycles, sometimes in gaping dead spots for them, and they’ve still sold, still been seen as valuable enough to continue producing. You know what limits you? Spending millions on a license to the biggest franchise on the planet, with some of the highest grossing films at the moment, and bloody sitting on it.

  2. Lino says:

    I think a big part of the problem is also Disney’s obsession of keeping everything under control – it was a very conscious decision to give the rights to only one publisher – they want to have complete and total control of their IPs. And this is such a shame for something as diverse as Star Wars.
    Even if we ignore the diversity of experiences we had under Lucas Arts, just look at what Games Workshop did with the Warhammer universe. Not until a couple of years ago, they were similarly protective of it, and only a couple of companies could make games with the Warhammer name. Now that they’ve opened it up, here are a few of the great games we have in the setting: two Vermintide games, two Total War games, two Battlefleet: Gothic Armada games, WH 40k: Mechanicus, the upcoming Chaosbane game…. I’m sure I’m missing some – in all honesty, I’ve never been a big WH fan, but I know a good game when I see one, and those are certainly good games.
    Yes, there are some shitty mobile games, but those are quickly forgotten by the general public, and the overall effect on the IP is very positive.
    Once I get some more time, I plan to actually look at some numbers and see if the recent WH games have been more profitable for Games Workshop than EA’s Star Wars “games” – after all, both companies are public. Even if they aren’t, I expect the result to be very close (even though one of the properties is much less valuable than the other).

    1. Hal says:

      Not related to your point, but I love Vermintide. What surprises me more is that, given his love for L4D, we’ve never seen Shamus say anything about the game(s). (I’ll grant it might have come up in a stream or on the podcast and I simply missed it.)

      1. Mephane says:

        I love Vermintide, too. Now I can’t help but imagine a game in that vein but set in Star Wars. Let’s call it Order 66, and you play as a small group of Jedi (maybe add a smuggler/scroundrel/etc hero for good measure) escaping from and fighting through an entire army of clone troopers trying to execute the titular order.

        1. Lino says:

          I don’t even like horde-style games, and I’d play the hell out of that! I wouldn’t even mind cosmetic microtransactions in it!

        2. Mr. Wolf says:

          That… is an amazing idea. Write up a pitch and book a flight to LA! EA or not, I want to see this game get made!

        3. MelTorefas says:

          This… is brilliant. I loved both L4D games. I loved Vermintide. My friend and I still coop in VT2. I am not the biggest Star Wars fan but I do like it well enough. The game you are describing would be… perfect. It fits SO WELL and would be INSANELY FUN to play. I am just imagining various Jedi with different force specializations (plus whatever non-Jedi class characters). Running through citiscapes (and obligatory tech-sewers), deflecting hails of blaster fire with your lightsabers… good lord. I’d say I can’t believe no one has already MADE this game, but… EA.

        4. Guest says:

          It’s literally that damn easy to come up with ideas for Star Wars games that even a Fatshark sized studio could accomplish, that sound worth playing.

          That’s why it’s so obvious they’re asleep at the wheel. No, it’s not fourth dimensional chess. They’re just foundering.

    2. tmtvl says:

      I’ve never been a big WH fan

      You have been reported to your local Ordo Hereticus agent. Expect an inquisitorial visit one of these days. Emperor Protects!

    3. Nick Powell says:

      Hey, you missed Space Marine!

  3. Terradyne says:

    Valve finally made a new videogame, and it was bad and nobody wants to play it.

    97 percent drop, huh? I guess Valve finally has the chance to count to three.

    1. Hector says:

      Wow.

      I think my favorite *hot sauce* is envious of that burn.

    2. tremor3258 says:

      The Pyro is looking on in muffled awe at that burn.

  4. Gethsemani says:

    From the outside it definitely appears as if EA is really mishandling the Star Wars license, doesn’t it? Four years of license and all they’ve got is two multiplayer FPS, one being very mediocre and the other kickstarting the on-going lootbox controversy through sheer money grubbing (even though it is an excellent MP FPS now that the lootboxes are gone). But what the picture in your column doesn’t tell you is that Bioware is still supporting The Old Republic with new story content, because that game was released way back in 2011, and is actively supported by EA. It also doesn’t tell us that Ragtag was most certainly backed-up by EA and its’ demise has little to do with EA and a lot to do with Visceral failing to deliver anything but a fancy 30 second concept trailer in 4 years of development.

    To add to this, we don’t know what kind of stipulations Disney made in the licensing contract. It seems likely, considering how conservative EA are being with the license, that Disney must have some clauses regarding quality, number of games per year or something else that’s preventing EA from doing the logical business thing and just forcing all its’ subsidiary developers to make tons of Star Wars games. Because that’d be what you’d expect from EA, an annual series of Star Wars games packed with MTX, DLC and loot boxes. That they’ve played it so carefully suggests that Disney isn’t letting EA run wild with the license, just as the rumor that the lootboxes in Battlefront 2 were nixed because Disney had a stern talk with EA about the Star Wars brand.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think EA is doing a good job with the license, but we should acknowledge that Disney likely has a heavy influence on how the license is used and that at least some of their intended Star Wars projects failed because the developers messed up, not because EA did EA.

    1. Lino says:

      The Old Republic was made long before they got the license. The updates it’s getting are due to it still having a playerbase (somehow). That still doesn’t excuse the fact that EA keep cancelling single-player experiences, mainly because there’s not enough of an opportunity to monetize them. Because that’s the reason they’ve given each time they’ve cancelled such a project. The case with Visceral was well explained in the article itself – the team hadn’t done anything similar, they were supposed to compete with one of the best games in that genre (Uncharted), made by a studio with much greater resources than Visceral. Jason Shrier’s article says there were numerous times when EA executives were asking “FIFA’s lootboxes make a billion dollars a year. Where’s your version of that?”, along with other delicious examples of utter incompetence.
      And yes, working with a property like Star Wars is hard – every single design needs to be approved by Lucas Arts lore experts. But every Star Wars game project has had to deal with such limitations in the past.

      1. Gethsemani says:

        TOR is indeed old and prior to the exclusive license, but continued support for TOR means that EA has an on-going Star Wars RPG to show. It is important because TOR is arguably still tying down significant resources at BioWare and that’s an important aspect of EA’s license management. They have to constantly evaluate opportunity and they obviously feel that TOR is a better focus then having BioWare do another Star Wars game.

        As for Visceral, EA obviously did some bad choices there. However, the onus of it is still on Visceral. It was Visceral who decided to go for a game that would pit them against an industry giant, it was Visceral who did all the design, programming and testing. EA pushed for profitability, which is the first and foremost concern of the publisher, but eventually they were also incredibly lenient with Visceral. They gave Visceral four years and a ton of resources, including hiring Amy Hening, to develop Ragtag and after four years of development all they had to show was a vertical slice so thin that it was little more than a glorified cutscene. That’s not a fault of EA, that’s a fault of Visceral’s management. Visceral failed Ragtag on several levels, most notably in that they aimed way too big in comparison to the resources (most notably staff) they had available. I’m sorry if this is crass, but Visceral got closed down because Visceral’s management made poor decisions. Arguably Visceral’s relation to EA postponed the inevitable shuttering by at least a year, seeing as how EA allowed more resources for both Battlefield: Hardline and Ragtag despite both being very troubled productions.

        Finally, let’s not conflate LucasArts lore-demands with Disney’s infamously over-controlling licensing-style. Look at the list John compiled below of Star Wars games from 2007-2012 for a good example of LucasArts relative indifference about the quality of Star Wars licensed material. Disney is notorious for demanding major oversight and extensive veto powers for anything related to their IP’s and since EA isn’t making stuff like “Jedi Ball ’19” and “Tie Racer 2020” we can be pretty sure that Disney is making sure that EA isn’t allowed to run wild with their ideas for the license. There’s a pretty good chance that Disney has a stipulation about all Star Wars games being flagship-titles, which would limit EA’s ability to push out games to a few select studios (DICE, BioWare, Motive and Respawn essentially, all four are currently doing Star Wars games, which is unlikely to be a coincidence), due to the quality demands of Disney.

        1. Lino says:

          TOR is indeed old and prior to the exclusive license, but continued support for TOR means that EA has an on-going Star Wars RPG to show. It is important because TOR is arguably still tying down significant resources at BioWare and that’s an important aspect of EA’s license management. They have to constantly evaluate opportunity and they obviously feel that TOR is a better focus then having BioWare do another Star Wars game.

          It’s apparently not tying enough resources for Bioware to be making a flagship AAA title to compete with Destiny…

          As for Visceral, EA obviously did some bad choices there. However, the onus of it is still on Visceral.

          I admit that my comment sounded like I’m putting the whole blame on EA, and I admit that the team was in way over their head. But Visceral’s situation was complicated, and EA is definitely not blameless in the matter. We still don’t know what happened to the most recent cancelled SW game, but the reason they cite is the difficulty they had cramming monetization in it. This was also a big talking point in Ragtag.

          There’s a pretty good chance that Disney has a stipulation about all Star Wars games being flagship-titles, which would limit EA’s ability to push out games to a few select studios (DICE, BioWare, Motive and Respawn essentially, all four are currently doing Star Wars games, which is unlikely to be a coincidence), due to the quality demands of Disney.

          Again, all of us are speculating, but based on the fact that Disney are making all kinds of Star Wars products – both of big, medium, and small scope, I just don’t think that’s true – why would they be adamant about not letting EA make smaller projects? And apparently they were hands-off enough to let EA put gambling into a Star Wars game that was aimed at minors.

          And yes, it’s true that from a financial standpoint, every project needs to be evaluated against all the other ways you could be spending those resources, and if the proposal doesn’t offer a good enough return, then it’s not worth doing. That’s why they’re always thinking of ways to cram every project with additional monetization.
          But one of the things Shamus argues is that this way of thinking is very short-sighted, and it hurts the IP in the long run.

          I’m sorry if I’m coming off as a bit confrontational, but I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and I loved the original Battlefronts, as well as many of the Star Wars games made before Disney. And everything that EA did with the IP has left me extremely disappointed, and I don’t believe things will improve in the near future. Or ever, for that matter :D

        2. Dreadjaws says:

          Maintaining an MMO is really not as much of a resource hog as people might think. Graphics don’t need to be improved, new voice actors or designers don’t need to be hired and working staff doesn’t need to learn new tools. Hell, it’s probably the dream job of certain people: minimal work and a steady income. MMOs are notoriously hard to kill, they have to already launch with a severe disadvantage for that to happen (note that the previous MMO, Star Wars Galaxies, was only shut down precisely because The Old Republic was coming in a few months).

        3. Geebs says:

          I’m not sure that the theory that EA’s relatively tiny output is due to Disney specifying the type of games EA were allowed to make is compatible with the kind of games EA actually made. Disney’s Star Wars output has mostly followed their Disney Princess business model with a tiny bit of deconstruction and a whole lot of name-checking nostalgia thrown in. EA’s Battlefronts are essentially reskinned, plotless murder-arenas with a bit of power-fantasy lightsaber fan-service added (behind a paywall). I don’t think that’s really the sort of wholesome image that Disney have ever really wanted to project.

          As for Ragtag – well that’s a little from column A, a little from column B. EA were definitely going through their single-player-is-dead-multiplayer-is-the-future phase at the time and they were reportedly very keen on shoe-horning GAAS strategies into the game in a fairly heavy-handed way. Visceral has proven history of knowing how to make good plot-driven third person adventures, and Amy Hennig has pedigree in that area as well (although personally I think that Uncharted’s stories got a lot less generic, and a lot less stupid, after she left/was kicked out of Naughty Dog. The central mystery behind your swashbuckling adventure plot really shouldn’t be “there are blue dudes”, if at all possible).

          1. Guest says:

            The Battlefront games are intertextual. We know the context, it’s Star Wars, so the murder-fests aren’t some unwholesome thing, they’re just game versions of the big fight scenes, Endor, Hoth, Death Star assaults, it’s literally the core concept.

        4. Xeorm says:

          Now you’re looking at a chicken and the egg problem. Did Visceral do all that because they thought it was the best idea, or did EA force them into it? The article puts the onus of the problems on EA, and I’d heavily agree with that. EA’s history is fraught with being disappointed in studios because they couldn’t produce results after being heavily mismanaged under EA. Visceral was no different.

      2. Mr. Wolf says:

        I remember that FIFA quote. It’s stuff like that that makes people hate big business. I always thought that ending with more than you started with was a win, but the question for them never seems to be “will it make a profit?”, but “how much profit will it make?”.

        1. Richard says:

          Weeeell, that is what businesses – and heck, to some extent RPGs – are supposed to be about.

          Given 1000 currency units and 1000 time units, which of projects A, B and C will produce the greatest return?

    2. Sannom says:

      It also doesn’t tell us that Ragtag was most certainly backed-up by EA and its’ demise has little to do with EA and a lot to do with Visceral failing to deliver anything but a fancy 30 second concept trailer in 4 years of development.

      I’m sure Visceral had its faults, but looking at the whole story starting with Ragtag, EA still comes off as really incompetent : they cancel Ragtag and shutter the studio, then start development on a bigger game that is more open to micro-transactions and “game as a service” stuff, then cancel that to go back to a concept not too dissimilar to the game originally made by Visceral. The flip-flopping there doesn’t look good.

      1. Guest says:

        Yeah, and if your team isn’t making progress, that would seem to indicate a problem with the team, which is something that should have come up at some point, and questions should have been asked.

    3. Guest says:

      It doesn’t help that there’s like, is it 3, not sure, shuttered Star Wars projects that were in the works for a long time without result. The numbery one, the Visceral on, there was another that they pivoted that team to IIRC, that one was revealed to be a dud.

      And they couldn’t necessarily have seen those not working out, which explains some of the lack of games, but it takes some serious incompetence to have that happen.

      Like, I’m sure DIsney are strict, but “Give us one game that was pretty, but shallow, and another that’s more famous for controversy” doesn’t sound like them, I’d be expecting with the staying power of Battlefront 1, they would have wanted more, and they surely couldn’t mind a palette cleanser after the Battlefront 2 controversy.

  5. John says:

    I’m looking at the graphic in the Escapist column showing Star Wars games from 2002 to 2006 and from 2013 to 2017. It’s interesting, but I think it’s potentially misleading. The period from 2002 to 2006 was probably picked in order to provide the greatest possible contrast with the period from 2013 to 2017. To put it another way, I strongly suspect that there’s a reason that the graphic doesn’t use the period from 2009 to 2012. Let’s take a look at what our friend Mr. Wikipedia has to say. Here’s a list of Star Wars games published by Lucasarts between 2007 and 2012. (My apologies if I miss anything.)

    – Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron (2007) – a Battlefront spinoff for PSP
    – Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (2007)
    – Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (2008)
    – Star Wars: The Clone Wars-Jedi Alliance (2008) – a DS game based on the cartoon
    – Star Wars: The Clone Wars-Lightsaber Duels (2008) – a Wii game based on the cartoon
    – Star Wars Battlefront: Mobile Squadrons (2009) – a phone game
    – Star Wars: The Clone Wars-Republic Heroes (2009) – another game based on the cartoon
    – Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron (2009) – another Battlefront spinoff for handhelds
    – Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (2010)
    – Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (2011)
    – Star Wars: The Old Republic (2011)
    – Kinect Star Wars (2012)
    – Angry Birds Star Wars (2012)

    The period from 2009 to 2012 was clearly not a glorious one for Lucasarts or Star Wars games. In fact, I’d say that the entire period from 2007 to 2012 was fairly underwhelming. In six years, Lucasarts managed to publish just five games that I’d consider notable, two Lego Star Wars games, the two Force Unleashed games, and the MMORPG. The Lego Star Wars games are generally well regarded, the MMORPG less so–it went free to play rather quickly–and, well, I’m honestly not sure what the critical consensus on The Force Unleashed is.

    That said, Lucasarts clearly managed more than two Star Wars games every four years, so I suppose the graphic isn’t misleading in that sense.

    1. Lino says:

      The 2007-2012 period was probably during the talks for the merger – these things take years of planning, and Lucas Arts probably knew they’d be selling the IP, and weren’t very interested in developing it further – after all, why develop something you’re already planning on selling to someone else? How much more value could a few more games have added to the already beloved and recognizable property of Star Wars?

      1. John says:

        Lucasarts has never owned Star Wars and never been responsible for managing or building the IP. That’d be Lucasfilm, the parent company. (Lucasarts was originally called Lucasfilm Games.) No one at Lucasarts would have been involved in any negotiations with Disney. I think that the company’s lackluster output during this period was more likely due to internal problems. They went through several bosses, restructurings, and rounds of layoffs during this period.

        1. Lino says:

          I also remember a cancelled Darth Maul game due to production problems, one of which was George Lucas’ desire to include a character who’s supposed to be born hundreds of years after Maul’s death :D

          1. Ciennas says:

            Hundreds of- But I thought the canon of Star Wars only had the Original Trilogy (And now the Sequel Trilogy) as broadly speaking ‘the present’, and that was roughly when all the story was.

            (Ignoring the Old Republic, which is broadly speaking, ‘the past’.)

            And Maul himself was…. what, forty-ish years before the Original Trilogy, more or less?

            What the heck does Star Wars Future look like?

            1. guy says:

              It looks like a New Republic run by a rotating cast of people who make bad decisions, until a big extragalactic invasion gets it replaced by the Galactic Federation after the fall of Coruscant, which buys a temporary respite from the bad decisions, but by a couple hundred years later it gets conquered by a resurgent Empire and its army of force-using Imperial Knights, which gets promptly taken over by a Sith coup.

              1. Lino says:

                Like guy said – Star Wars got lore… weird* after the movies. I think a big part of it is the fact that Star Wars never really got the Marvel and DC treatment where they reset their universe every 10 years or so. That way writers can get as crazy as they want, and whenever new writers come in, they can just reset everything and start doing crazy shit all over again. Up until Disney, Star Wars never had that opportunity, and crazy shit just kept piling up ever since A New Hope was released in 1977. Can you imagine Marvel or DC never rebooting their universes, and expecting every new writer to navigate all the contrivances the previous writers had piled up? It would be a nightmare!

                * For the record, I’ve never actually read the Yuuzhan Vong stuff, but I’ve heard it’s pretty good

                1. Guest says:

                  Yeah. While there’s a lot of criticism you could level at late EU fare, the early stuff gets really bizarre, and is stuck in this sort of “Legal fanfiction that’s sort of canon”. There’s a clone of Luke called Luuke, a clone of the Emperor, Luke has an apprentice, who dies, and is posessed by a jedi ghost, who he has a relationship with, there’s a bunch of stuff with the Imperials which makes uh… little sense after the end of the Civil War (It’d be like if they gave the Confederates Texas, or if Germany remained the Third Reich after WWII).

                  They tried to make interesting characters and stories out of it, I enjoyed a lot of them, but there is a whole load of trash, and they’re building on the foothills of that trash mountain.

                  The Yuuzhan Vong stuff is ok. I like “Edge Of Destruction I”, “Sacrifice” and the last couple. The big problems the series had were filler, it was just way too long, and that meant some of these books were short on action, both action scenes, and things which moved the plot forward interestingly. The Vong are an interesting addition, not sure that they entirely work across the board, they’re a bit inconsistently written, but the idea of the Jedi fighting organic-tech warriors who fight with snake-swords that are impervious to lightsabers, as the Vong are to the force? Well, it was a fun idea. I didn’t much love Legacy that came after tho.

    2. Hal says:

      I’m digging into my memory on Force Unleashed; I didn’t play it, but I read enough about it. The reviews are middling (71% on Metacritic). People seemed to enjoy the mechanics, but the narrative is regarded as rather over-the-top grumbly male empowerment fantasy. I mean, the protagonist’s name is “Starkiller,” and he uses the force to pull a Star Destroyer out of orbit. I’d imagine there was quite a bit of pullback after all of that.

      1. Lino says:

        It was a God of War knock-off, but it was still kinda fun to play. Story-wise, it had some cool character concepts, but that’s about it, unfortunately.

        he uses the force to pull a Star Destroyer out of orbit. I’d imagine there was quite a bit of pullback after all of that.

        Initially yes, but given what we see in the Clone Wars series and some of the comics and books, let’s just say that one (in my opinion, the only) good thing that came with Disney was the fact that they rebooted the whole universe. All those years had brought quite a lot of “jumping the shark” moments, and I was initially very glad they were starting from scratch.

        1. Sannom says:

          Are we talking Clone Wars or The Clone Wars? Although the first isn’t canon anymore (and hadn’t been for a while when Disney bought LucasFilm), the second is still part of the canon.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        To be fair Force Unleashed was not the only story that took Yoda’s “size matters not” to a logical extreme. EU was like that at times too. Also, as a bit of trivia, I always assumed that the name of the protagonist was actually a bit of a wink to SW fans, the original movie, now known as New Hope, was initially going to be titled “The Adventures of Luke Starkiller” and it was indeed meant to be the protagonist’s name.

      3. krellen says:

        You can’t fault the game for “Starkiller”. That was the draft version of Skywalker from Lucas’s original script.

        1. Thomas says:

          Didn’t they ask Lucas to give Starkiller a Darth name and then when Lucas picked “Darth Icky”, they decided to forget that they’d asked

    3. Chris_ANG says:

      I think the 2002 to 2006 period is good to use even if it’s cherry-picked because it shows what the license is capable of if firing on all cylinders. The comparison shows that EA isn’t even coming close to getting peak performance out of it.

      And yeah, even in their less-stellar years Lucasarts wasn’t punching themselves in the face quite as spectacularly as EA has been.

    4. GoStu says:

      2009-2012 didn’t deliver as many well-loved games, but that’s still 13 titles across multiple genres. A lot of these games are indicative of the trends in the industry when they came out though:

      – Star Wars: The Old Republic was announced in 2008 and came out in 2011. Remember what else was going on in that time period? That was right around when World of Warcraft dropped Wrath of Lich King and the bandwagon of also-rans came out to try their hand at being “the next WoW” (and promptly had their lunches eaten by the reigning king). The creation and relative failure of this game was basically inevitable.

      – Lightsaber Duels: well, yeah. That was when everyone was trying to make Wii games to really ride out the motion-control craze. The Wii showed up in late 2006 and after a couple years no wonder someone tried to get a game out that did what basically everyone was trying to do with a wiimote anyway.

      – Kinect Star Wars: see above. People were doing Kinect games. Wasn’t a great idea but it was trendy.

      – Assorted Mobile Games: Again, trend-chasing didn’t really pay off, but it was still more games tried.

      The point is, Lucasarts was still up and swinging. Games came out. Some did okay. Some did poorly. EA’s tenure is still terrible by comparison… two games in a single genre, in 2015 and 2017. Not one game that isn’t a multiplayer online shooter. No RPGs, no strategy games, no swings at the MMO market (this might be smart), no attempts to get into the mobile market again despite its immense growth… freaking nothing.

    5. Thomas says:

      It’s also misleading, because it’s started from when those games were published, not when they were developed.

      It takes 3-5 years to develop a game from scratch (unless you rush it out using existing resources and mechanics ala Battlefront). EA couldn’t develop Star Wars games before they got the license, so they only started making these games 4 years ago. And that’s assuming all their studios were magically free and not working on other projects. It’s also not too fair to expect EA to wildly sub-license, whereas Lucas Arts did.

      If the infographic was “Games that started development in 2002 and were published by 2006”, there would be much less games in that list.

      But then again, it’s not like we’re suddenly going to see 5 Star Wars games by EA showing up in the next few years. We’re going to get the Respawn game Soon^TM and the recently rebooted one in 2021-2022. By that time, EA really should have done better.

      1. Mistwraithe says:

        A very good point.

        As you say, EA don’t seem likely to significantly improve their score in the next few years (unless there is a lot they aren’t telling us about) but the original comparison is unfair.

  6. Danny says:

    A bakery near me had Mountain Dew and Cheetos cupcakes. They were delicious. I would eat the crap out of Mountain Dew and Cheetos ice cream.

    1. PPX14 says:

      Is this true?

      1. Lino says:

        It’s moments like this, when, as a society, we should ask ourselves: “Has science gone too far?”

        1. BlueHorus says:

          We were so busy whether we could make Mountain Dew and Cheetos cupcakes that we never asked whether we should make Mountain Dew and Cheetos cupcakes!!!!!

          /melodrama

          To me that sounds like a horrible cupcake. But sure, if you like it…

          Thing is, the EA model would be ‘Hey, our Mountain Dew and Cheetos cupcakes are selling well. Let’s make Mountain Dew and Cheetos steak sauce, Mountain Dew and Cheetos-flavored fish batter and Mountain Dew and Cheetos pasta!
          Then release them all at once, an be amazed when they don’t sell.

          1. Ciennas says:

            You can use Mountain Dew in cake baking- it leaves the result pretty dense and lightly citrus-y. Kinda day-glo green.

            I see no reason why cheetos can’t be ground back in to flour or crumbled and used as little bursts of ‘cheesy crunch’.

            Put simply- if you can combine those things directly and not have a problem with the taste combo, than it’s not inconceivable for them to be blended directly.

            1. Lino says:

              I see no reason why cheetos can’t be ground back in to flour or crumbled and used as little bursts of ‘cheesy crunch’

              And I see no reason why we shouldn’t bring back the Spanish Inquisition!

              BTW, I’ve never had Mountain Dew (we don’t have it in my country, and when I go abroad, I try to drink local stuff), but I’ve heard it’s very sweet. Won’t it just drown out all the taste from the cake?

              1. baud says:

                The inquisition do still exists (at least an organisation that, a few century ago, was called the Inquisition).

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congregation_for_the_Doctrine_of_the_Faith

              2. Ciennas says:

                Surprisingly, no. You need to plan for it though- a lot of the flavor is diluted, but it permeates the end product. Most of the sugar boils up to the top and makes a cripsy crust, and the flavorant permeates the cake layer.

                It makes a decent pineapple upside down cake, if that helps.

  7. Darren says:

    I think Disney would be better off adopting the current Games Workshop model: license your properties out to anyone who has a halfway interesting idea that doesn’t completely step on another product you’ve licensed and then see what you get.

    People talk about how “most Warhammer games are bad,” but we’ve gotten so many in the past few years that the bad stuff fades into the background and conversation is dominated by the relatively few really good ones: Total Warhammer, Vermintide, Adeptus Mechanicus, and Battlefleet Gothic represent four very different games with fairly different audiences (three of those games are strategy games, but each one is a different type of strategy game), but the consensus is that each one is pretty great at what it’s trying to do and they’ve all done reasonably well and generated some buzz. And that’s excluding the myriad “not bad but more niche” Warhammer games currently available, like Gladius and Blood Bowl.

    It’s pretty much the precise model that you’d expect to see from Star Wars, and I’d even go so far as to say that there’s a better hit-to-miss ratio than back when LucasArts was churning out undifferentiated Star Wars junk. I would like to know how much Games Workshop and Disney have profited from their respective approaches.

    1. tremor3258 says:

      The exclusivity deal shocked and continues to shock me – why not spread it around for more money? It’s Star Wars, no one is expecting artistic integrity in the merchandising!

      1. Thomas says:

        That’s not the Disney model though. Disney manage their IP and how the public see it. Staff at EA studios have complained to Kotaku about how much back and forth they have to have with Disney. They’re Apple, not Windows.

        I get why they didn’t sign individual deals too – they don’t have anyone with game publishing experience, and it’s easier for a game to go wrong than to go right.

        But I do think they could have done better. Found a publisher willing to commission work from other publishers (with the right publisher and the right incentives maybe that could work), or give EA a smaller time window exclusivity whilst Disney create a publishing arm.

  8. Dreadjaws says:

    The difference is that Disney knows what it’s doing and EA doesn’t.

    I disagree a bit with this statement in the article. If Disney knew what it was doing, it wouldn’t have made the deal with EA in the first place. All they saw was the money the company made and didn’t even notice the closed studios, increasing customer discontent and all the damaged brands left behind. Hell, they didn’t even notice the mediocre reception EA’s latest Star Wars game (The Old Republic) had.

    Furthermore, even if they reasoned EA could make good money out of Star Wars titles, there was no reason for them to make an exclusivity deal. They haven’t done that with toys, even when they play a major role in Star Wars profitability. Let other studios have their chance. The sole difference here is Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which probably got away with it by being a game based on Lego (who already own the license for the figures), and it was far better received (I don’t know if it sold more, I don’t have the figures).

    1. Shamus says:

      I actually agree with this. I’m pretty baffled Disney decided to go with EA.

      To amend: Disney knows [how to make good movies] and EA doesn’t [know how to make good games].

      1. We’re talking business here and not nebulous discussions of “quality”, and I’m sure you don’t want a huge discussion about that popping up here, so confining myself just to the business side, I’d point out that Disney does not necessarily know how to make good Star Wars movies either. Revenues are declining fast for every movie, to the point that last I heard, after Solo everything is on an indefinite hiatus, and I’ve heard only a very little about anything after that. (It’s very difficult for us to know whether a movie was “profitable”, and even without Hollywood accounting that can be a very complicated question, but it’s quite likely Solo was a net loss by reasonable standards.)

        The entire franchise is being mismanaged.

        I’ve seen people wondering if Disney is actually going to manage to acquire the Star Wars license and then somehow fail to make back the money they spent acquiring it, a feat nobody would have guessed possible when they first purchased it.

        1. Shamus says:

          “We’re talking business here and not nebulous discussions of “quality”,

          Actually, “we” really are talking quality. That’s the reason I posted the comment. I posted that Disney knows what they’re doing and EA doesn’t. Dreadjaws countered that they made some bad business decisions. I jumped in to clarify that I was talking about understanding their products when I made the comparison. Now, you’re free to branch off and talk about the business side of the company if you like, but you don’t get to dictate what I was originally talking about.

          Also, you call the discussion of quality “nebulous” and then base your entire argument on the quality of Star Wars. Are we talking about quality or not? Because even if we agree that the Disney Star Wars films are 100% dumpster trash, we’ve still got Maleficent, Frozen, Zootopia, Moana, Inside Out, Coco, Wreck-It Ralph, Brave, and every Marvel movie since ~2010. Fine, I’ll accept the premise that Disney messed up Star Wars. They still know how to make movies about a thousand times better than EA knows how to make games.

          1. KillerAngel says:

            Doesn’t that still come down to taste though? Looking at that list I still think Disney rolls out 95% hot garbage with a few good ones in between, the majority of which have come from their acquisition of Pixar.

            1. BlueHorus says:

              In a sense, Shamus is using the word ‘quality’ to mean ‘product that sells well’. Or, rather, he’s positing that the fact that Disney films do well is a sign of quality, and the fact that EA games don’t do as well as they could is due to a lack of quality.

              Whether or not you (or I, or Shamus) actually like the films Disney puts out or think they’re good is interesting*, but beside the point. Or whether they’re actually good.
              I mean, both Disney and EA would sell us our own turds back to us if they thought there was profit in it…

              *Hey Shamus, that TLJ retrospective is still happening, right? ;D

              1. KillerAngel says:

                But EA still has battlefield, fifa, madden, and other things that do well. Though I do take your point.

    2. Hector says:

      For all this it is obviously a massive media juggernaut, DIsney has never understood video games. I can’t explain this at all, but they just don’t get them, and have never been able to quite wrap their heads around the idea. This has led to ongoing mismanagement of Disney properties as far as video games go. It’s somewhat sad, and yet, hilarious, that the most notable “Disney” game in history is a weird crossover made by Square Enix so they could have their Final Fantasy action figures fight alongside Mickey to defeat Malificent. It’s cool in so far as it goes, but DIsney pretty clearly didn’t have that much to do with the thing.

      Marvel games are another obvious hole in their lineup. These should extremely valuable properties, but Disney simply has no idea about what to do with them. (Though we did get Spider-Man recently.) It’s really the same story with Star Wars; Disney needs to start a proper office for this, select the right partners, and ensure that the games are made to a high standard of quality. Arguably they ought to act as their own publisher.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        I think what you’re proposing is basically what Darren says above, about using the Games Workshop model.

        1. Hector says:

          That’s a possibility but what I mean to say is: The strategy itself is less important than Disney taking games seriously.

      2. Kylroy says:

        In theory, selling your rights to one of the biggest players in the video game industry would be the *perfect* thing to do if you don’t know video games – they do the thing they already do (but with your IP), and you cash the checks. The problem is that despite their size and line of work, EA *also* knows nothing about video games.

        1. Richard says:

          This indeed.

          My general suspicion is that EA are suffering from past success.
          All the top brass who actually understood the industry have left or retired.

          The current set are sat on top of a mountain of money watching the money tap pile it up higher, but have absolutely no idea whatsoever what’s on the other end of the money pipe. Yet they are certain that they do know how to make it bigger, faster.

          That said, they have maintained a reasonably consistent ~20% net margin since 2015.
          It does seem that period is ending now though, and their stock price fell dramatically in 2018 H2.

  9. PPX14 says:

    It is such a shame that with the current alleged resurgence of mid-range/AA games, the Star Wars licence is locked away :( I played and enjoyed so many of those games in that list.

    The years after 2006 were pretty bad for Star Wars games though. Force Unleased 1+2 were mediocre… and there was nothing else! Renegade Squadron was on handheld. Battlefront 3 was cancelled. I picked up Republic Heroes and realised my mistake immediately and returned it.

    My only hope lay in Star Wars 1313, when it appeared it looked like so much that I wanted from a Star Wars game setting. Every few days I checked back on the LucasArts website to see if there was news.

    And then Disney bought Star Wars. And in its wisdom shut down LucasArts. And cancelled 1313. And the EU. And gave SW to EA.

    Who announced they would make a reboot of Battlefront, rather than a sequel. And I watched with interest and awe at Dice’s claims of “photogrammetry” photorealistic graphics, and Luke and Vader facing off in the snow. And then I played the beta, and discovered there was to be no single player.

  10. 0451fan0451 says:

    I’m not going to argue Episode 3 wasn’t a mediocre movie tie in game. Most of single player was boring and repetitive, but the devs really tried to make lightsaber combat interesting for duels. Its strength was more as a fighting game then an action game. I have fond memories of many nights spent dueling with my friends on an original xbox. My point is, even this game had something unique about it and now you can add fighting game to the list of genres that were made in that period.

  11. Paul Spooner says:

    Good articles, but the StarWars side-quotes clinched it for me. The memes are strong with this one.

  12. tremor3258 says:

    I can’t imagine we’re going to see a crash. Giant budget tentpole games seem to be going away a bit – this was not a good year for AAA projects, but I don’t see the industry folding down as much as a genre popularity correction. How many single-player FPS are out there right now, new?

    1. Kylroy says:

      I think we could see the collapse of AAA gaming, or at least a massive contraction. Getting a modern AAA game made can take $100 million or more, and securing that level of funding is only possible by dealing with people who have no experience with gaming whatsoever. When the “Andromeda”s start outnumbering the “Red Dead Redemption 2″s, I think the money people will stop risking their cash on anything that’s not a licensed sports game or microtransaction-laden FPS.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        If it happens I guess that’ll be the time we see how much the industry needs AAA releases. It could be very interesting since it’s also these titles that mostly drive the hardware threadmill as well so I wonder how that market would react.

        1. Richard says:

          I think we are starting to see a crash in the financial and AAA sense.
          The big studios are beginning to suffer – profit margins and stock prices are both falling.

          However, I think that this time the smaller studios will pick up the slack by making more interesting “A” games.

          While it is now orders of magnitude more expensive to make an “AAA” game, it’s also many orders of magnitude cheaper to make a ‘good’ game.

          The problem I see is curation – anyone* (or their dog) can spaff a “game” onto Steam or GoG.
          There’s already thousands upon thousands of utterly awful games, and it’s extremely difficult to find the gems.

          (*As long as they don’t live somewhere where it’s practically impossible to be self-employed and sell stuff internationally. Or Australia.)

  13. Ciennas says:

    I’d still argue that EA is overly greedy. EA is choked by its own greed, and is so focused on the immediate short term that they have no ability to plan longer than next quarters profits.

    Your Restaurant analogy is pretty emblematic of that thinking.

    But I’d also add;

    The kitchen crew, the waitstaff, and a majority of the rank and file employees watch the collapse of the restaurant and are still invested and pretty talented people- they keep trying new arrangements of decor (Even as it’s stripped away) they keep coming up with promising new dishes (That are scrapped without being sent out to menu, even though customers are super interested in these experimental dishes,) and are annoyed with how the restaurant owner is seemingly deliberately tanking the restaurant.

    1. Shamus says:

      I agree they’re greedy. I was just making the point that greed isn’t the source of their problems.

  14. Asdasd says:

    If I may say so, Shamus, you did a great jhaaaoorrhb writing this one.

  15. Mr. Wolf says:

    I’ve been arguing for a few years now that EA isn’t the greedy, profit-at-all costs company that it’s made out to be, for the simple reason that nobody who wants your money that much would run a store as lousy as Origin.

    1. Richard says:

      Somebody who doesn’t understand these new-fangled computermabobs and internetubes might.

  16. Viktor says:

    So, ideas that people have discussed here that would make massive money, plus a few of my own:
    Star Wars+Fortnite: Obvious, Fortnite is a cash cow, the playerbase expects lootboxes, and they don’t expect mindblowing graphics. Even if you don’t take over the market you still should turn a tidy profit.
    Lego Star Wars+Fortnite: Same, but you can lean into the building mechanics more and the graphics are easier.
    Racing game: Yes, ep 1 was a while ago, but racing games are easy, EA already has the mechanics, and the market is there. Why not have a studio knock something out?
    Dark Souls as a Jedi: You can’t go as disempowering as Dark Souls, but the feeling of triumph in those games maps well onto the “Lone Knight defeating darkness” archetype of the Jedi, and Jedi have a great mix of abilities for that sort of combat.
    Action-RPG: This is a bigger investment, but they have Bioware, why not use them? Take the risk.
    Any mobile game: Yes, not flashy, but those games keep the lights on.
    Assassin’s Creed but Jedi: Seriously, if you want to take on Ubisoft directly, there’s a bunch of AC fans who don’t like the leveling etc in the latest installments. A good IP is a perfect tool for snagging those fans, and Jedi have all the movement etc to make that sort of a parkour fighter really fun. This is a big investment, but there’ll never be a better time to take the chance on it.
    Spaceship combat: There’s basically no flight sims out right now, it’s a free market, and people loved the previous Star Wars versions of this
    RTS: Again, there’s no competition for this right now, and Star Wars can do it really well. Why not find some single-A dev and throw some money their way?

    I’m sure some of these aren’t actually viable, and there’s of course only so many that EA could do at one time, but seriously, this was 10 minutes of thinking. How do you as the largest games publisher in the world have what is possibly the largest IP in the world and make 2 games from a narrow portion of 1 genre over 5 years? This isn’t rocket science.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      I’m wondering if you’d even need to put this much effort in?

      Looking at the list of past Star Wars games, I see some games that people remember really fondly. EA could be really, really lazy and just reboot, say, Jedi Knight, or TIE Fighter, or something else that people liked back in the day.

      Revamp the graphics, make it work on the current console generation, bring the mechanics up to date, maybe set it in the new trilogy’s time period* and put cameos from the new cast in there – it wouldn’t be quite trivial to do, but it’d be easier than thinking up an entirely new game, which I assume would scare some people in EA witless.
      And you get to cash in on two types of nostalgia. Easy money.

      *Again, not hard. Replace the word ‘Empire’ with ‘the First Order’ and ‘Resistance’ with…’Resistance (but now with Flying Princess Leia!)’ and you’re pretty much good to go.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Dark Souls as a Jedi […] Assassin’s Creed but Jedi

      My breathing is so heavy I’m hyperventilating.

      1. Geebs says:

        EA were actually trying to make “Assassin’s Creed but Jedi”, but they managed to outdo even themselves in how hard they screwed it up. They set up a whole new studio (EA Motive), hired Jade Raymond away from Ubisoft to head it…. and then EA had them help out with the crappy single player campaign for Battlefront 2, and cancelled the “open world” Star Wars game the studio was making. Raymond (presumably) got sick of doing nothing for three years and left.

        EA put everything in place to make The Ubisoft Star Wars Game, which would have sold gangbusters even despite a wave of backlash complaining about how tower climbing suddenly featured so prominently in Star Wars lore. The only flaw in their plan was that they neglected to actually make the game.

        I don’t know if anybody could make a decent Star Wars version of Dark Souls, but I’d be very upset if they made it and didn’t give it the tagline “Prepare to Do, or Do Not. There is no Try”.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          ‘Git Gud, or Do Not. There are no Scrubs.’

          ‘Die, or Die Not. There is no Checkpoint.’

          ‘Star Souls: Prepare to Become More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine Edition.’

          I like this joke. It’s one that keeps giving.

          1. Geebs says:

            I think I’ve found the fatal problem with the whole Star Souls project, though…

            EA Manager: None of the testers has levelled up at all. In fact they’re all stuck in the starting area! Nobody’s even got to the real money shop yet. What’s going on?

            EA Dev: well, you see, when the player dies they lose all the Midichlorians they’ve collected, and they’re supposed to run back and get them again. Thing is, they reach the Midichlorian pile and then just turn around in disgust, muttering something about brain bleach and their childhood being ruined.

            EA Manager: what do we do?

            EA Dev: nothing we can do sir. Some things are just too awful to contemplate.

            EA Manager: OK, cancel it. Everybody’s fired.

            EA Dev: Sigh. Must be Tuesday…

            1. BlueHorus says:

              EA Manager: Wait, why not just offer them the chance to BUY back their midichlorians every time they die? We can bring the store to the player and get our microtransaction-linked bonuses faster!

              EA Dev: Well, that kind of goes against the spirit of a Dark Souls-like game, doesn’t it?

              EA Manager: No, no, we’re just making it accessible! Innovating to make a mainstream version! We can even advertise it as the ‘Casual Dark Souls’.

              EA Dev: I just don’t think players would want to use it.

              EA Manager: Nonsense! Customers don’t know what they want – we tell them that. Anyway, we can make it really persistent – how about a pop-up that pauses fights whenever you get hit by a particularly high-damage attack, offering to undo the damage for 50 cents?
              Or, if you cast a spell at <25% mana, there's a 33% chance the game will pause and spawn an add for extra mana potions! Y'know, so the customers know what the options are.

              EA Dev: Hmmm. That idea is…um…

              EA Manager: Genius, I know. Tell the team, we're doing that now. think of all the Company Assets we can buy!

              1. Lino says:

                Damn it guys, this is supposed to be a joke – not a transcript of an EA internal meeting! You could get sued for leaking info like this!

              2. Sleeping Dragon says:

                EA CEO: Interesting, where are the lootboxes?

              3. Nimrandir says:

                Does anyone else find it amusing that the Company Assets joke has reached the stage where no footnote is required to indicate what it means? It’s now assumed the reader knows we’re talking about cocaine and hookers.

                1. Droid says:

                  Well, what else could it be*?

                  *) hookers and cocaine

                  1. Nimrandir says:

                    In my more innocent days, I would usually go with stuff like ‘completing my Bentley-in-every-color collection’ or ‘solid gold toilets in the executive washroom.’

                    Oh, for the halcyon days when I thought a CEO might not be the Wolf of Wall Street.

        2. Sleeping Dragon says:

          I had a thought in the meantime, give SW license to Arkane. As much as I’d probably play SW Dark Souls my fondest memories of SW games are when I was running around having crazy lightsaber duels and flinging objects and people around with force powers as an unstoppable Jedi. As someone who just recently played Dishonored 2 I think Arkane know how to make a game that makes the player feel empowered and the job is about halfway done: windblast is force push, slow time is force speed, Emily’s far reach is almost force jump and telekinesis, Billie’s semblance has a lot of aspects of mind trick…

    3. Sannom says:

      RTS: Again, there’s no competition for this right now, and Star Wars can do it really well. Why not find some single-A dev and throw some money their way?

      Petroglyph is still there even!

      1. Terradyne says:

        They’re currently working on remastering C&C, so it’s not like it’s much of a stretch for them to be involved in something like that as well. Maybe they’ll get another chance.

    4. Marcellus Magnus says:

      Action-RPG: This is a bigger investment, but they have Bioware, why not use them? Take the risk.

      Silly Viktor, we can’t have Bioware creating an RPG while they’re busy making a Destiny clone that nobody (except the EA management) asked for!

  17. TylerDurd0n says:

    If I had to guess (quite literally, because I haven’t checked the revenue numbers in AppTopia), I’d reckon that their Star Wars-themed free-to-play mobile games don’t do too bad. There was an early deluge of them after EA got the license, but even that well has dried up.

    We might not like it, but _if_ greed becomes the sole motivator, we shouldn’t expect EA to put too much focus on console or PC games. Mobile is where the money is made.

  18. “Shamus was right. The world is changing. Games are changing, Star Wars is changing, even indie and AAA are changing. 1000 years from now there will be no indies and AAAs, just wankers. Sounds great to me. Just a pity nobody told EA.”

  19. wswordsmen says:

    The Wilson loot box was a great idea, the thing is Wilson thought it was such a great idea (I mean it made him CEO) he was willing to strip out literally everything that made it brilliant to shove it in everywhere it could possibly go.

    Look at what the original and even other early Wilson loot boxes had:
    1. A separate game mode from the main appeal of the game.
    2. A more or less separate dedicated following who really like that mode.
    3. A game that was good (most cases anyway) independent of any system involving the loot box.
    4. Potential for unlimited revenue multiplier.

    Now again, as Shamus says we don’t care about good we care about greed, so 1 and 3 combine to get the game aka the loot box delivery system into a lot of people’s houses increasing the chance that the game is exposed to the sort of people who will fall into category 2. The more people who fall into 2 the bigger potential 4 becomes. This is a reinforcing cycle good game->sales->loot box revenue->make next game better. However Wilson decided that 4 was the only important thing, which is logical at first glance, so he moved the loot boxes out of their own game mode into the main game. This causes everyone who doesn’t like the collectable nature of loot boxes to be turned off from the game meaning the game sells worse, plus design changes probably do reduce how good the game is (see Jim Sterling for examples). Also by placing the loot box front and center means that you risk the public getting rowdy enough to backlash against your massive money making machine. Ultimate team fans were never going to do this, but now since the sleeping giant got woken up there is a chance that the goose laying the golden eggs will be killed.

    1. Asdasd says:

      Good point. If Battlegrounds II had a separate ‘ultimate alliance’ mode where you assembled a base of personnel and weaponry like a hand/deck of unpacked cards that boosted your combat performance, well, it might not have been the revenue sensation a la FIFA but it wouldn’t have caused anything like as much backlash.

  20. I disagree with your article saying that a big-budget movie and a video game have remotely the same credits list still. There’s still a big section on movies that consists of people that involves moving/carrying/building/cleaning PHYSICAL things that video games simply don’t have. The art team making armor for orcs in your average video game is not REMOTELY as big as the team of people making COSTUMES for orcs in a MOVIE.

    Now, if you’re talking about games with a list of Kickstarter donors to give credits to, okay, then I’ll bite, because, yeah, if you watch the credits for a game like that, holy cow. That’s a lot of people. But (big-budget spectacular) movies involve a lot of physical logistical issues that video games simply DON’T, even when you get into mocap for cut scenes and that sort of thing. Also if you’re talking smaller movies that aren’t giant spectaculars, yeah, that too. There’s certainly a point at which they cross, especially since your big-budget spectacular movies rely increasingly on CGI instead of real stuff. But I don’t think we’ve quite reached total crossover yet.

  21. Misamoto says:

    Heh, I remember when hearing that “EA Games. Challenge everything!” tingle made me expect good experience.

  22. RCN says:

    Just a slight nitpick. Star Wars Republic Commando has you playing with a squad of CLONE TROOPERS, not Stormtroopers.

    It is a difference fans will likely point out if they haven’t already.

    Also, it is a pretty good squad game.

  23. Taellosse says:

    The restaurant analogy in your post here was brilliantly funny – kudos.

    I think you give Disney a little too much credit, though, in your Escapist column. Your argument about them not wanting to “spin up” a games division to exploit Star Wars would work except for a rather large and glaring flaw: LucasArts. While not as much of an industry juggernaut as EA or Activision, LucasArts was a major games publisher and development studio, had put out games in a myriad of genres over many years, and in particular had broad and deep experience with the Star Wars franchise. Granted, the company had been troubled by mismanagement for a few years, but it was still THERE when Disney bought LucasFilm, and came with the parent company. Disney CHOSE to shut it down, in the process cancelling multiple promising titles in development (at least 1 of which, 1313, sounds a LOT like the game Visceral was apparently working on more recently) and outsource the Star Wars gaming license to a larger but demonstrably less competent publisher in EA.

    I’m not really sure why Disney is afraid of video games, but they seem to be, even as they recognize the industry is an increasingly fundamental part of the broader sphere of entertainment that is so much their wheelhouse. It’s worth remembering that the shuttering of LucasArts pretty closely coincided with their departure from the gaming industry in other areas as well. Personally, I think they’d have been better served to clean house at LucasArts, use its reputation – and strong stable of IP – as a lure to bring in fresh leadership and stronger talent. They could’ve reorganized their other gaming ventures to fall under that umbrella, and made themselves into a real player in the industry, bringing to the table their understanding of how to play the long game with preserving a brand’s identity to build strong IPs into reliable moneymakers. That, of course, is Disney’s biggest strength, and why acquisitions like Marvel and Henson have done so well under their ownership. Just imagine what the game industry would look like with a Disney-backed LucasArts competing with EA, Activision, and Ubisoft, all bent on pillaging all good brands for every cent they can extract from it as rapidly as possible.

    1. Viktor says:

      Yeah, Disney putting one of their own people over LucasArts(not someone with gaming experience in all likelihood, but at least someone with a history of maintaining and improving an IP for long-term value), putting out a few good Star Wars games, then pouring extra money into LucasArts and spinning off a division to try to make a good Marvel game or two, maybe a tie-in for whatever Princess movie is next on their list, etc, sounds like a recipe for turning Disney Gaming into an industry titan very quickly.

  24. oblivion437 says:

    According to a report I read on Seeking Alpha (don’t know if I can post links but the title is Avoid EA: The Fun Is About To End) a large number of EA employees have been dumping their stock. I’m not saying that’s a dire warning sign or something but I am saying that, oh, what’s this I have here, a pithy quote that may or may not be pertinent?

    “When the water reaches the upper deck, follow the rats.” –HL Mencken

    Make of that what you will.

  25. Doc M says:

    I wonder, how on earth did nobody ever get around to making a Star Wars themed GTA variant where you play as Boba Fett (or some other bounty hunter) and perform missions for various galactic crime lords and corrupt Coruscant politicians? Sort of like an open world sequel to Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, I suppose. I’m not necessarily saying that would’ve been a great game, just that it seems like such a thing would’ve been a no-brainer in the mid to late ’00s and yet it never happened.

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