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A Disturbance in the Force: EA’s Force Choak

The year was 2013. The 'Star Wars' property had been transferred to the 'House of Mouse'. 'EA', who had previously worked on the 'Battlefield' series, agreed to a 10-year deal with 'Disney' that would change everything. Unfortunately, this change has not been for the better in the eyes of many a 'Star Wars' fan, which includes me.

By now the various controversies surrounding EA and their ‘Battlefront’ titles are common knowledge. However, new controversies have recently been circulating the world wide web. Most notably, another promising addition to EA’s fledgeling Star Wars portfolio has bitten the proverbial dust. To gain an inside perspective on the issue surrounding this disappointing cancellation, one need only look as far as the comments of Gary Whitta, co-writer of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Gareth Edwards, 2016).

“At least EA Execs Didn’t Try and Direct…”

In A Studio Far, Far Away

According to Whitta, when speaking to The Sixth Axis, EA’s current (Choak) hold over the Star Wars property “has been catastrophically mismanaged”. Although Whitta is not directly involved in any of Disney’s business decisions, he did manage to lay his eyes on a very early build of the first incarnation of the newly cancelled Star Wars game. In short, he described it as ‘Star Wars Uncharted’ and was very impressed with what he saw.

This particular direction should come as no surprise considering that ‘Amy Hennig’ of ‘Uncharted’ fame was at the helm of the game codenamed Ragtag. The big names do not cease here.

‘Visceral Games’, known for the ‘Dead Space trilogy’, were also involved in the creation of EA’s, at that time, next big Star Wars property. No doubt, this would have impressed. However, the closure of Visceral and Hennig’s departure from the project after an internal review quickly ensured that an ‘Uncharted Star Wars’ would cease to be a possibility.

The Now Canceled Star Wars 1313

In the wake of this devastating news, the project was passed on to the Vancouver branch of EA. This was when the Orca build began to worm its way into existence. The main hook of the game was that players could slip into the most likely well-worn boots of a bounty hunter and traverse various planets in the galaxy far, far away that we all know and love.

Although this particular game will not see the light of day, EA reportedly plans to work on ‘smaller’ titles. This was most likely done so that anxious Star Wars fans could potentially have a game in their hands as soon as 2020. Whether or not this highly contentious strategy will reap any benefits is yet to be determined, but Whitta is still cautiously optimistic about the potential of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order which has been slated for release late this year.

“All Aboard the Hype Speeder!”

Loot ‘Em and Leave ‘Em

It appears that EA cannot avoid controversy even when they achieve the quite difficult task of releasing a game. Since 2013, the company have produced a grand total of 2 games related to the always engaging world of Star Wars. Neither of which have been well received. The original Battlefront (EA, 2015) faced heavy criticism for not featuring a campaign, while the sequel received heavy criticism for its weak campaign. However, this is only the tip of the metaphorical iceberg.

Many gamers and critics alike were appalled by the copious amount of microtransactions mixed in with various loot boxes available for purchase bearing the brunt of the abuse. These loot boxes also contained power gains, meaning that players could pay to win should they have wished it.

“Andrew Wilson plays himself as a Space Pirate in Star Wars Episode IX”

In a surprising twist, EA would take responsibility on the issue and reboot this issue, but the sour taste in player’s mouths had been present for far too long. As a matter of fact, this issue went on to receive so much negative press that it contributed to the introduction of the anti-loot box legislation that would be enforced by myriad countries worldwide. The fact that EA missed sales targets with this entry made it a blunder that would be tremendously difficult to bounce back from.

The Man in the High Castle (On Mustafar)

Although the current CEO of EA, Andrew Wilson, oversees all the Star Wars properties, these were properties that he inherited rather than explicitly requesting. EA Labels president Frank Gibeau and former EA CEO John Riccitiello were the main men behind the deal with Disney.

However, as both of these men have now moved on, the responsibility of producing enjoyable Star Wars adventures in video game form lies with Wilson. Despite this, his interests seem to be divided. Kotaku has taken note that Wilson’s reign has seen the greater focus placed on EA’s first-party titles such as Titanfall (Respawn Entertainment, 2014) and the upcoming Anthem (Bioware, 2019).

“EA CEO Andrew Wilson literally force choking the Star Wars IP”

Those who enjoy a great deal of speculation may believe this to be a contributing factor to the cancellation of many an upcoming Star Wars title and the subpar quality of those already released.

Always in Motion, The Future Is

Depending on the strength of your optimism, the news of more Star Wars games helmed by EA may be greatly despairing. These games include a second Battlefront sequel, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and the game destined to take the place of EA’s most recent cancellation. Unfortunately, many are anticipating this unnecessary replacement to be a product that shall be rushed to store shelves, leaving its eventual quality to be questionable already.

Considering that EA does not seem to have a firm grip on what they wish to do with their Star Wars properties, are yet to accrue a reliable track record and likely have their full concentration directed elsewhere, the future does not seem bright for Star Wars fans. One can only hope that EA learns from their prior mistakes, which is certainly not impossible. For the time being, it is best to remain cautiously optimistic while keeping all expectations in check. From now, until we receive a Star Wars game worthy of praise… may the force be with you!

Imagine EA as Palpatine in the Senate of the Games Industry…

Sources:

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