The Star Wars Era
As expected the Star Wars developer coudn’t only stick to creating adventure games. Following the worlwide success of Star Wars in theatres worldwide the decision on which route should LucasArts follow was obvious. Transport the film franchise into gaming. The first Star Wars influenced game came in 1993was X-Wing, a series of space combat simulation video games set in the Star Wars universe that attempts to simulate the fictional experience of starfighter combat, while remaining faithful to the movies. 1993 also saw the release of Star Wars: Rebel Assault is a rail shooter video game which was the first CD-ROM-only game to be published by LucasArts.
The Doom influenced Star Wars: Dark Forces was released in 1995 for DOS and Apple Macintosh, and in 1996 for the PlayStation. The DOS and Apple Macintosh especially were praised for the level design and technological advances. Two sequels to Dark Forces, were released Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II in 1997 and Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (2003).
In July 2000, BioWare announced that they were working with LucasArts to create a Star Wars role-playing video game for the PC and next-generation consoles. The result from their collaboration was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic released for the Xbox on July 15, 2003, for Microsoft Windows on November 19, 2003, and on September 7, 2004 for Mac OS X. Set in a time period four thousand years prior to the Star Wars films, the game featured an entirely unique storyline that put players in an ancient era that is dominated by an epic struggle between the Jedi and the evil Sith. Knights of the Old Republic was considered as one of the most influential works of the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
A sequel was released a year later titled Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords by Obsidian Entertainmen which generally well received by critics but Producer Chris Avellone in an interview after the game’s publication stated that he wished “there had been more time” to work on the game, and that a large amount of content — a droid factory, an entire planet, and other locations — was cut.
Round the same period LucasArts also shows interest on the MMORPG genre by releasing Star Wars Galaxies. The game went through two major upgrades: the “Combat Upgrade” (CU) and later the “New Game Enhancement” (NGE), its final form. In April 2004, Jim Ward, VP of marketing, online and global distributions at Lucasfilm, was appointed president of LucasArts. Ward described the company’s state as “quite a mess.”closed down in-development games and reduced staff from about 450 to 190 employees.
2004 is also the year released Star Wars: Battlefront,which coincided with the release of the Star Wars Trilogy in DVD. Battlefront was what would be considered today an AAA title. It was successful enough that in 2005 the sequel Star Wars: Battlefront II was released along with the third person action Revenge of the Sith. In the same period we have the release of Star Wars: Republic Commando and Mercenaries. The Star Wars video game frenzy continues with the release of RTS Star Wars: Empire at War, LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. During this period LucasArts decides to develop a new IP, Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction (2005 PS2, Xbox,) a third-person shooter video game developed by Pandemic Studios which sprawled a sequel in 2008 titled , Mercenaries 2: World in Flames.
2008 sees Darrell Rodriguez takes control of LucasArts and a month prior to the release of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 cuts down costs and more employees get fired. Also in 2008 LucasArts joins forces with Bioware for Star Wars: The Old Republic, BioWare’s first entry into the MMORPG market and the second Star Wars MMORPG after Star Wars Galaxies, which was shut down in December 2011.
The Old Republic was released for the Microsoft Windows platform on December 20, 2011 in North America and part of Europe. After launch, the game’s subscribers rose to 1.7 million by February 2012. By May 2012, those numbers fell to 1.3 million. By July 2012, the subscriber base fell below 1 million, prompting EA to convert the game to free to play. EA stated that 500,000 subscribers were needed to make the game profitable saying that they were “well above” that number. On November 15, 2012, the free-to-play option went live on all servers.
Even though The Old Republic proved successful things continue to go bad for LucasArts, as the company had spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the years developing, releasing and marketing console games but lately it has been difficult to justify such expenditures given the trend toward online mobile games.Board changes become very regular and the sighns that the company will reach the infinite end become even more clear. The last game published by LucasArts was Kinect Star Wars for the Xbox 360 last year, a game widely slammed by critics.
Disney may have bought for $4 billion the Star Wars company but it already had a games division and unfortunately they didn’t need to try to fix LucasArts’ problems. We wish they could as even though LucasArts had its hits and it had its misses, their legacy extends beyond any one game, brand, or series. Their games not only defined genres but went on to define the entire industry.