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  • Daniel James

Disney is Pushing EA out of Star Wars. Who Should Replace Them?



It's been no secret that Electronic Arts has fallen into disfavor with the Mouse House. After Battlefront II's microtransaction controversy, EA CEO was reportedly summoned and reprimanded by Disney CEO Bob Iger. Considering Disney is pretty much the largest entertainment company in world history and its power doubles every full moon, EA is easily expendable to them.

It seems that Disney is fully aware of this, as movie/gaming site Cinelinx claims that Disney is currently in talks with Activision and Ubisoft to publish future releases. This would be a monumental shift for Star Wars games, but given that EA is now 0 for 2 with their current licensed titles, it seems warranted. Disney is doubtlessly missing out on a lot of Star Wars cash due to EA's mistakes. It doesn't help that 'The Last Jedi' saw the franchise's merchandise sales drop massively.

Currently, Battlefront is developed by DICE, while a future Star Wars title is in the works with the creators of 'Titanfall' and 'Call of Duty' at Respawn. A previous title from Uncharted director Amy Hennig was under development from Visceral Games, of 'Dead Space' notoriety. But with Visceral now closed, their game cancelled, and Respawn's game delayed into 2020 at the earliest, Disney has no Star Wars videogames to capitalize on, and EA is entirely to blame.

As interesting as the possibility of a Ubisoft or Activision published Star Wars game is, what fascinates me more is the plethora of studios that could develop upcoming titles. Unlike EA, both Ubisoft and Activision work with third-party studios for their AAA releases. Meaning: the field has just been unlocked to a whole host of talent.

So, here's a few studios we'd love to see take a crack at Star Wars, and the kinds of game we'd expect from them.


Fallout New Vegas | Obsidian Entertainment

Obsidian

Obsidian has been known for their unique RPG's. Each one has their own, unique flavor. Their most recent, Tyranny, takes an extremely in-depth look at evil through its campaign. Fallout: New Vegas is considered by many to be the many to the best of the Fallout series, largely because of its unique flavor and extremely reactive systems. Even Alpha Protocol, their weird corporatists cyberpunk action game, gained a small, but enthusiastic following, not least because of its unique injection of RPG elements.

Obsidian places player choice in places that aren't always obvious. This means the player is always in a fascinating set of shoes, faced with gameplay and choices that aren't easy to find elsewhere.

Arkane

Immersive sims have made a resurgence since the early 2000's. Between Dishonored, Dishonored 2 and Prey, Arkane Studios has breathed new life into the genre with their incredible mastery of quite literally everything that makes a game, a game. The last few years has made it apparent that they truly understand what makes an excellent game on a molecular level.


Dishonored 2 | Arkane Sudios

World-design is beautifully immersive, yet every inch is an essential facet of the level. The gameplay inside that world is mechanical perfection; the player can act with extreme precision as the sandbox supports a truly mind-boggling range of ingenuity and skill. It's hard to imagine that every single of the thousands of possible playthroughs hadn't been meticulously planned by the devs before release.

I want to get lost in the world of Star Wars with nothing by a lightsaber and The Force at my side. If anyone can pull off a convincing and empowering experience that'll blow people's minds, it's Arkane.

Remedy

It's okay to miss Star Wars 1313. It's an age-old wound that continues to inflict pain. A leaked demo of the game showed fantastic set-piece action mixed with cinematics that rival Uncharted. A third-person shooter set in the depths of Coruscant, the game's appeal came down to its grit and the potential of its unique world. Unfortunately, gamers were denied this when Disney cancelled the game upon acquiring Star Wars.


Star Wars 1313 | Lucasarts

Years after its death, it appeared a game like it was in development from Uncharted director Amy Hennig at Visceral Studios. Unfortunately, the 1313 curse followed it. After struggling with budget constraints, the game was canned by EA in late 2017, and the studio was shuttered.

The resulting outcry lead to speculation that single-player games were a thing of the past. Rumors appeared that EA had axed the game due to a lack of multiplayer and marketable licensed Star Wars characters. With 1313 and the Visceral follow-up both casualties of publisher disinterest, it seemed that Star Wars was destined for multiplayer only titles like Battlefront.

At this point, I've mentioned Uncharted repeatedly. So why isn't this listed as "Naughty Dog?" First, there's the reality that Disney would never allow a Star Wars game to be PS4-exclusive, and that Naughty Dog-as a Sony owned studio- would almost never be allowed to make a cross-platform release.

Beyond that, Naughty Dog's style just wouldn't work for Star Wars. Uncharted's extremely streamlined and linear gameplay works wonderfully for a character-driven, cinematic story. But the game lacks real player choice in gameplay, and it's not designed to be a modular sandbox with the variety of a game like Halo or Half-Life. The game exists to demonstrate Drake's ingenuity, not the player's. The game is linear because you're tracing his decisions, not forming your own.


Star Wars 1313 | Lucasarts

The problem is that the core selling point of a Star Wars game is that it’s a fantasy sold on empowerment. So we need a studio that can deliver an excellent, cinematic story that engrossed players AND can deliver top-tier gameplay that rewards and excites players.

In my mind, this is a clear pick: Remedy.

The creators of Max Payne created an icon. The streets of New York are soaked in noire atmosphere and grit. And Max Payne is the personification of player empowerment. His face contorts between smirks and scowls as he moves from level to level blowing bad guys away in slow-motion. He's the perfect vessel for player empowerment while still retaining an extremely vivid autonomy within the character presented in the story.

That's something that even Naughty Dog struggled to do with the Uncharted games, and why I still consider Max Payne to be the superior series, albeit by a hair.


Max Payne | Remedy Entertainment

Also consider Alan Wake, the moody, pulpy horror story. It's an ingenious recreation of the classic Stephen King style. They showed their ability to create memorable worlds in Max Payne, and they showed a mastery in the recreation of others' style in Alan Wake.

Remedy delivers atmosphere and empowerment alike, and that's why they're the perfect pick for the third shot at the Star Wars 1313 dream. Because the Star Wars 1313 dream isn't a specific game; it's the hope that one day we'll get a memorable single-player experience in the Star Wars universe.

Conclusion:

If Disney is truly wrestling the Star Wars license away from EA, the next few years could be a great time to be a Star Wars fan. Gamers have been let down by two lackluster Battlefront games. And with Visceral's game dead, and Respawn's delayed into 2020, the horizon is barren.

But there are a lot of studios that could deliver truly amazing Star Wars gaming experiences. I've only listed a few. What are your thoughts? Are there any studios you'd love to see given a shot?

Update: I got 'Syndicate' and 'Alpha Protocol' mixed up and accidentally wrote that Obsidian had made the former, when I meant the latter.