In a press release on Monday, January 11, 2021, Lucasfilm announced that all of its official gaming titles would fall under the new identity Lucasfilm Games. This is an evolution of the interactive division under Lucasfilm VP Douglas Reilly. StarWars.com reports that Lucasfilm Games “encompasses the company’s rich catalog of video games and its eye toward the future.” To launch the hype train, Lucasfilm Games rebranded the Star Wars Games social media channels to @LucasfilmGames on Twitter and @LucasfilmGames on Facebook.
The announcement was accompanied by a sizzle reel for Lucasfilm Games that shows scenes from current titles available across consoles, PC, and mobile platforms:
My head filled with questions: What does this mean? Is Lucasfilm going to establish its own in-house game development? Or is this just a new way it’s working with its game developers at EA?
I initially thought that this rebranding was representing a change in how Lucasfilm wants to manage the story content in their licensed games. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (2019, EA and Respawn Entertainment), which got a next-gen console optimization this week, was likely a testing ground for the development approach they want to take with games moving forward. The new Star Wars: Squadrons is following in its footsteps, as is the Star Wars: Journey to Batuu game pack for The Sims 4.
Fans may know that the stories in these games are considered part of the official Star Wars canon. Fans also know, some begrudgingly so, that canon is carefully controlled by Lucasfilm with the Lucasfilm Story Group serving as the advisory panel. If Lucasfilm wants to keep all games’ storytelling within canon, it seems natural that they would establish a new identity around that effort and involve the Story Group.
As the week progressed, I learned there was a bit more to it.
The hype train continued on Tuesday with a teaser from Bethesda for an Indiana Jones video game that’s in the works:
— Bethesda (@bethesda) January 12, 2021
My first thought: Indiana Jones, yes! But wait, what happened to that EA exclusivity with Lucasfilm?
Bethesda Softworks is currently a subsidiary of ZeniMax Media and is known for publishing the successful franchises The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, Rage, and the Doom reboot games. In that same Twitter thread announcing the new game, Bethesda described it as “an original story… from our studio MachineGames… in collaboration with Lucasfilm Games.” They said it will be some time before they have more to reveal, but that they’re excited to share the news.
What kind of game will it be? Though Bethesda has a lot of success in the action RPG space, MachineGames is best known for its work on first-person shooter Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014). Given the overlap between that game’s World War II era alternate universe and Indiana Jones’ time setting, my prediction is that we’re looking at either a Wolfenstein reskin or something new that’s strongly influenced by their work on Wolfenstein.
Keeping the hype going on Wednesday, Lucasfilm Games announced that they’re working with Ubisoft on a new story-driven, open-world Star Wars adventure game:
We’re thrilled to announce we are working with @Ubisoft and @UbiMassive to develop a brand-new, story-driven, open-world Star Wars adventure!
Learn more about the future of @LucasfilmGames in the Star Wars galaxy and beyond: https://t.co/uO1K1pivl2 pic.twitter.com/wRDccZvi3o
— Lucasfilm Games (@LucasfilmGames) January 13, 2021
My first thought: I love Ubisoft! This is going to be awesome! But again, what happened to EA?
My answer came in the link from that Tweet to a brief interview with Douglas Reilly about this new Lucasfilm Games venture. He reports that they’ve been working quietly behind the scenes for a while, but that they’re now ready to start making announcements.
Reilly states, “We’ve got a team of professionals here at Lucasfilm Games who can work with the developers, shape the stories, shape the creative, shape the games, to make them really resonate with fans and deliver across a breadth of platforms, genres, and experiences so that all of our fans can enjoy the IPs that they know and love.”
What about that old exclusivity with EA? Well, Reilly says they’re still proud of the games they’ve made with EA and that the relationship they have with EA is “stronger than ever.” But Reilly’s team is now extending that same partnership to other developers, like Bethesda and Ubisoft.
A big theme in that interview was storytelling. Reilly repeated a few times that they were looking to help more people bring their story ideas into the Lucasfilm spotlight. I think we can expect the new era of games under the Lucasfilm Games identity to focus on new stories and expanding the franchises we already love, particularly Star Wars.
As a nine-year subscriber and avid player of Star Wars: The Old Republic (BioWare, 2011), I also wondered how this might impact previously non-canon stories from the Old Republic games. Characters like Revan and historical references like the Mandalorian Neo-Crusaders from video games and comics were moved into the Legends category. Lucasfilm’s Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo have each made references to Old Republic people, places, and events in their work. But will those things ever find a broader, more permanent place in canon lore?
We now seem to have a partial answer to that. First, the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion of SWTOR was part of the sizzle reel. As I mentioned in my article Storytelling Across Both Games and Film, the Lucasfilm Story Group consulted on the story in that expansion. Second, BioWare has been hyping its predecessor Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003), with both KOTOR releases still widely available, and with KOTOR II being reimagined for mobile platforms. Fans are also clinging to rumors that future films or Disney+ series will include stories and characters from KOTOR and SWTOR.
It’s only Wednesday as I’m writing this. What else will Lucasfilm Games announce as part of this hype train? Let’s keep an eye on those social media feeds to find out, then dish about the hype in the comments here!
What are you thinking so far? Are you feeling the hype yet, or are you still waiting to hear more?