Disney and Lucasfilm are considering pulling the Star Wars license from EA and giving it to another publisher to develop future titles, according to a recent report.
Despite currently having an exclusivity agreement with EA, Disney and Lucasfilm have apparently reached out to Ubisoft and Activision in taking over its Star Wars license.
EA and Disney penned their exclusivity agreement back in 2013 and shortly thereafter opened DICE LA, but it sounds like the Star Wars games that have since launched haven’t exactly lived up to Disney’s expectations.
Part of problem might be the lack of Star Wars titles that EA has developed since the agreement. Two Star Wars Battlefront games and the mobile RPG Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes are basically all EA has to show for itself thus far. The biennial releases of Star Wars games doesn’t seem to jive with Disney’s annual film releases.
As far as the future is concerned, EA continues to support Star Wars Battlefront II with updates (even with conspicuously long periods of radio silence), but the only other Star Wars games in the works is Titanfall developer Respawn’s Star Wars title, which “most likely will drop” in the 2020 fiscal year, according to EA CFO Blake Jorgensen, meaning the next big-budget Star Wars game might not launch until sometime between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020.
This past year was particularly rough for EA’s Star Wars output. Following unprecedented backlash against its intended loot box system, Star Wars Battlefront II underperformed, selling 5 million less copies than its predecessor over the same period. In fact, Battlefront II‘s microtransactions were so controversial that Disney CEO Bob Iger supposedly called EA himself and instructed the publisher to pull the loot box system.
It also sounds like EA’s canning of Visceral Games and its cancellation of that studio’s single-player Star Wars title might have actually drawn more attention from Disney than previously thought. The nixing of Visceral Games’ Star Wars title left huge empty space, not only in our hearts but also on the calendar of Star Wars game releases, and reports say that Disney isn’t happy about 2018’s impending dry spell.
Of course, take all of this with a grain of salt. The rumors, while believable, rely on unnamed sources, and I’m not sure that Disney would find what it’s looking for in either Ubisoft or Activision.
EA basically axed the Visceral Star Wars title because its model didn’t leave much room for a “games-as-service” revenue stream (and also because production on that title was apparently a mess). Ubisoft and Activision have both recently doubled-down on their dedication to creating more “games-as-service”–type projects, especially with the growing financial gains to be made from microtransactions. In other words, Disney might just run into the same problems at either Ubisoft or Activision that it’s experiencing with EA.
It’s also possible that Disney is floating these rumors to put the fear of The Mouse in EA to make them work harder for its love, but that won’t make a Star Wars game appear out of thin air for 2018.
The simple fact is that there are more Star Wars movies coming out than ever and less Star Wars games launching, and this could mean bad news for EA’s Star Wars properties in 2018. Disney and Lucasfilm did sign a contract with EA, but with a license as big as Star Wars, there are almost certainly clauses that would allow Disney to renegotiate or pull out altogether. We’re coming up on the five-year anniversary of that contract, too—a nice round number for contract negotiation periods.
In the end, what really concerns me is that Respawn won’t be left in the lurch and victimized by EA’s well-known history for shutting down studios.