Disney Shuts Down LucasArts, Cancels Star Wars 1313 And Star Wars: First Assault
Disney has laid off the staff of LucasArts and cancelled all current projects.
Staff were informed of the shutdown this morning, according to a reliable Kotaku source. Some 150 people were laid off, and both of the studio's current projects—Star Wars: First Assault and Star Wars 1313—were cancelled. Disney will still use the LucasArts name to license games, but the studio is no more.
Publicly, Disney is saying their current games could be licensed out to a different publisher or developer, but according to our source, that's unlikely. Our source says Lucas has pursued the option for "one or both games," but nothing happened. "With the teams now basically being dispersed I think both games are effectively dead forever," our source said.
A second source also told Kotaku this afternoon that the chances of Lucas licensing out 1313 are very slim. The odds are "effectively zero," the source said.
“After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games," LucasArts parent company LucasFilm said in a statement. "As a result of this change, we’ve had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles.”
This comes after weeks and months of rumors involving the studio, which was acquired by Disney last fall. In September, LucasArts put a freeze on all hiring and product announcements, which many staff saw as the beginning of the end. In February, we started hearing rumors that the studio might be shuttered. Today, it's official: the iconic development house is gone.
The company was acquired as part of a mega-merger last year where Disney acquired LucasFilm and its sibling company from Lucas. Maniac Mansion, one of LucasArts' first self-published titles, introduced the "SCUMM" game engine driving several well known point-and-click adventure titles the company published throughout the 1990s. The Secret of Monkey Island, created by Ron Gilbert and co-written by Double Fine's Tim Schafer, is one of the publisher's best-known graphical adventures using the engine.
The publisher's apogee was certainly in the 1990s, when a wave of Star Wars-themed titles for the PC—such as Dark Forces, X-Wing and Rebel Assault—were supplemented by games like the strategy title Afterlife, the Sam & Max series, and Schafer's Full Throttle.
In the 2000s, the company became more reliant on its Star Wars products and licenses sold to other developers as new efforts like Fracture failed to take hold. The decade's most notable successes—Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars: Battlefront—were both externally developed, by BioWare and Pandemic Studios, respectively. LucasArts' last title to see mainstream success was 2008's Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. A 2010 sequel didn't live up to expectations. The last game published by LucasArts was Kinect Star Wars for the Xbox 360 last year, a game widely panned by critics.http://kotaku.com/disney-shuts-down-lucasarts-468473749
In some ways, the news is not a surprise. LucasArts had seemed directionless in recent years. The company's core business of games based on the Star Wars license have been largely disappointing in both quality and sales. While the company had some success with games like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and the Battlefront series, both of those franchises seemed to have died on the vine. The cancellation of Star Wars Battlefront III was particularly ugly, which led to nasty public fingerpointing between LucasArts and developer Free Radical. The BioWare developed MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic (which was co-published with EA) won strong reviews but failed to maintain subscribers, and was eventually forced into instituting a free-to-play business model.
LucasArt's other big franchise, Indiana Jones, has failed to make much of a dent in games in recent years, with the exception of Traveller's Tales LEGO Indiana Jones series that, once again, was not developed by LucasArts. Meanwhile, series like Uncharted and Tomb Raider, which are both heavily influenced by the Indiana Jones films, have thrived.
More recently, LucasArts caused a stir at E3 2012 with an impressive looking demo for a new Star Wars project entitled Star Wars 1313. However, in the months that followed, the project seemed to lose steam, and rumors circulated that the game had ceased production. [Update: Today, a LucasArts representative spoke to us about the future of Star Wars 1313]
The company seemed to have a revolving door of management. In 2004, LucasArts president Jim Ward led a massive restructuring of the company, laying off many development staffers in the process. Ward left in 2008, to be replaced by EA's Darrell Rodriguez, who lasted only two years at the head of the company. Rodriguez's position was ultimately filled by Epic Games' Paul Meegan, who then stepped down in 2012. The company was co-led by Kevin Parker and Gio Corsi until it was acquired by Disney.
During that time, LucasArts attempted to inject new life into its in-house development by bringing in respected industry vet Clint Hocking (who helped lead the Far Cry and Splinter Cell franchises at Ubisoft) in as its new creative director. Sadly, Hocking lasted only two years in the position and left without completing the game he had been working on.
The last game published by LucasArts as a company is the sub-par Kinect Star Wars.
Ironically, many of the games for which LucasArts is best remembered for are not Star Wars games. Its genre-defining '90s adventure games created by Ron Gilbert and DoubleFine's Tim Schafer like The Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, and Grim Fandango are all still celebrated by fans to this day.
Our sympathies go out to those who have lost their jobs today.http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2013/04/03/disney-closes-game-publisher-lucasarts.aspx