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Why Disney was always going to kill LucasArts

By on April 4, 2013
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Last year, Disney bought Lucasfilm from George Lucas, bringing the Star Wars franchise under the Disney umbrella. Yesterday, they killed LucasArts, the inhouse development studio responsible for seminal games such as X-Wing, The Secret of Monkey Island and Full Throttle.

LucasArts’  death was inevitable from the moment Disney bought it. Disney turned its back on console in 2010, closing Black Rock and Junction Point and moving firmly into social/mobile/tablet/browser. More importantly, Disney is a business that is incredibly skilled at exploiting IP. Its acquisition of Marvel was not about acquiring an IP creative powerhouse. It was about acquiring a rich seam of IP to mine. As I wrote in 2009, when Disney bought Marvel:

“Disney is paying for the recurring revenues coming from a proven back catalogue… Marvel is not a content creation machine: it’s a mine. A mine of gold and platinum sure, but a mine nevertheless.”

The same is true for Lucasfilm. It is a marvellous mine with many stories that can still be told expensively and profitably. But as Disney turns its back on console and PC games, it made little sense for it to keep these development skills in-house. Instead, it will focus on licensing the Star Wars universe out to other organisations who, I hope will do amazing things with it.

It is a terrible thing to be made redundant, and I hope that all the staff at LucasArts find new roles or found new studios soon. I mourn for the death of a publishing imprint whose games rank amongst the highlights of my teenage gaming experiences.

But I am not surprised at this outcome, and nor do I think it heralds the end of high quality games set in the Star Wars universe.

For a dose of 20 year old gameplay nostalgia, check out this video of an X-wing mission. I might have to dust my copy off.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com
  • LucasArts long ago abandoned experimentation in favour of exploitation. Let’s hope this final closure spawns another TellTale.

  • I believe that Disney buys IP, not talent, so you are probably right.

  • The lesson I take from this: if Disney acquires you then start looking for a new job.