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COMMENT: Can EA Possibly Make Star Wars Shine Once More?

Matt Gardner
DICE, Disney, EA, Star Wars, Visceral Games

COMMENT: Can EA Possibly Make Star Wars Shine Once More?

So the task of creating new gaming adventures from that galaxy far, far away has fallen to EA. To be fair to the company, they do have some sort of success in this area. SWTOR is not as much of a joke as some would have you believe, particularly in light of the recent financial report. EA misfired on the MMO, and it might have cost Riccitiello his job in the end, but the figures point to a turnaround since game took the freemium route.

But let us consider Star Wars simply as a tie-in licence for a moment, for really that is what it will represent to EA: a big name with a rabid fanbase, a large chunk of whom will probably buy into anything with those two words emblazoned on the box.

COMMENT: Can EA Possibly Make Star Wars Shine Once More?

And as a publisher who handles licenced products and tie-ins, EA has always been synonymous with mediocrity.

You will not find the likes of Batman: Arkham Asylum or Spider-man 2 here. The one franchise that EA has not yet butchered has been The Lord of the Rings, though Battle for Middle-Earth was far from spectacular. EA, if anything, have gotten much worse at handling properties making a transition from other mediums.

Look at Harry Potter. Remember the actually-pretty-good Order of the Phoenix title? Then contrast that with the final two tie-in games -- titles of such wretched obscenity that we had to scrape the bottom of the review score barrel to find a star rating (or absence thereof) that would fit.

COMMENT: Can EA Possibly Make Star Wars Shine Once More?

Moreover, EA struggle, outside of Battlefield and FIFA, to produce games that players really love.

Getting DICE and Visceral in on the act is both pleasing and worrying respectively. DICE have the engine, and let's face it Battlefront is basically just Star Wars Battlefield. Even the names are nearly identical! Frostbite 3 is a powerful engine, and DICE know how to use it. They're also not afraid to think outside of the box, as Mirror's Edge showed, and they're a reason to be excited for this  devil's dance between Disney and EA.

Let us not forget, however, that Battlefront was built by Pandemic, and EA is the reason that Pandemic no longer exists.

Visceral, on the other hand, have yet to make a good game (not just a solid game, but a good game) outside of the Dead Space franchise. They might resurrect Star Wars 1313, but that, in my opinion, will seal the deal on what was a borderline-interesting game in the first place. It'll become a normal, regular, by the book, completely unassuming third-person shooter set in a perennially wasted universe.

If you haven't guessed already, I'm begging to be proven wrong.

COMMENT: Can EA Possibly Make Star Wars Shine Once More?

EA have the resources to give a development studio the time and the tools to make something great, but whether or not they actually have the talent and the patience is questionable. The latter is fixable with clever development -- using smaller titles to pay for bigger ones and exploring flexible monetisation models in a fashion that benefits all parties involved. But the former point can't be ignored. Star Wars games have, throughout the years, both completely destroyed and utterly reinforced every cliche there is about licenced games. In recent years, they've tended towards implosion.

When Peter Moore came back at the Consumerist, and slammed their poll which placed his company at the top of the list of most hated US corporate consumer-oriented entities, he was right to do so. But he did it in completely the wrong way, failing to identify and address the problems that had frustrated consumers, and settling for unfocused and unbecoming smack talk. EA have to learn from their mistakes and play to the strengths outlined in their recent financial report.

They're on the rise when it comes to digital revenue, and that's where they should begin. Make First Assault a reality under a different name, explore the new middle-ground that digital distribution (and hopefully more open next-gen platforms) has created, present a successor to X-Wing/Rogue Squadron using an episodic model perhaps. Apply microtransactions in a way that makes sense to the consumer, not simply for horrendously transparent greedy purposes.

COMMENT: Can EA Possibly Make Star Wars Shine Once More?

EA have spoken of transition being a friend, but as with most of the stuff that issues forth from the head honchos at the company, aside from gloating over player figures in their biggest franchises, little that they say tends to translate into reality. It's time to lose the buzzwords and the doublespeak, and to make good on a pledge to "do better," as Moore puts it. That means building games around audiences rather than cattle, it means looking for areas in which risks might be taken and fostering creativity in gameplay rather than settling for homogeneous adequacy.

Above all, EA must realise that a licence such as Star Wars brings with it an opportunity for greatness, not just short-term cashflow. That demands respect rather than abuse. In spite of every misstep Lucas and co. have made, the love for the franchise is still enormous. Without creating such feeling themselves and truly earning it, EA once again have an IP that millions of people adore in their hands. Hopefully they'll treat it well.

Fingers crossed.


Add a comment 1 comment
nickkelly  May. 9, 2013 at 02:19

Simple answer: no.

Star Wars has to be the most over-used IP in history. It has been milked to death, then milked to death again, and then milked to death over and over again. Its *36 years old* and stale.

All of EAs major recent games have been disappointing and have under-delivered and undersold. Dragon Age 2, Dead Space 3, SimCity, Crysis 3 and SWOTOR all flopped.

Star Wars, EA and Disney is a disaster waiting to happen. If Star Wars wasn't past its prime already, it will be after EA manage to wreck it one way or another.

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