In a bold move, Disney has shut down LucasArts, the game division of Lucasfilm, and cancelled the division's latest projects: Star Wars: First Assault and
Star Wars 1313.
"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," Disney 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."
An estimated 150 employees were let go.
In a surprise move last fall, Disney announced that is was acquiring Lucasfilm (including LucasArts and the popular Star Wars franchise) from director/filmmaker George Lucas. At the same time, Disney said it would continue the
Star Wars saga for the big screen. However, that apparently did not pertain to game screens.
Bad news has plagued the visual effects industry of late, with headline after headline announcing closings and layoffs. It appeared that no studio was safe. And that includes game studios. And a venerable one at that.
LucasArts was founded in 1982 under the moniker Lucasfilm Games. Over the years, LucasArts has produced a range of titles, and was known for its adventure games. But at the turn of the millennium, the studio began focusing more and more on the Star Wars and
Indiana Jones franchises. And, it had been working with outside game developers more and more. In fact, the last
Star Wars title,
The Old Republic, was produced by BioWare (see "Star Wars: The Old Republic" in the February/March 2012 issue). So the new direction outlined in Disney's statement above whereby it would look to license the content to a third-party developer is somewhat familiar.
Disney still operates its Disney Interactive, which is the gaming arm of Disney.