Star Wars seems readymade for video games. Lightsabers, blasters, force powers, space vehicles up the Sarlacc pit – making games out of this property is a no brainer. And it’s been done countless times since the early eighties: between 2D platformers that used the source material of the original trilogy liberally (to say the very least,) to X-Wing simulators, to full blown RPGs, Star Wars has seen it all. It’s unfortunate, then, that ever since Electronic Arts was given exclusive rights to Star Wars games in 2013, they haven’t done all that much with it. What’s worse, it doesn’t seem like they have much planned for the future. At least, they haven’t shown us those plans yet.
EA has done quite a bit with The Old Republic, an MMO based off the stellar Knights of the Old Republic series started by BioWare back in the day, but that project began and was initially released prior to EA scoring its Star Wars exclusivity deal. Then DICE’s reboot of Star Wars Battlefront underwhelmed with its initial release in in 2015 – the consensus was that the game was rushed to release close to The Force Awakens and was subsequently barebones when it first hit the market. Star Wars Battlefront II came two years later and it should have been easy for EA to knock this one out of the park – unfortunately, an initially horrible series of overpriced and predatory micro-transactions, mixed with a game that didn’t entirely feel like it built off its predecessor, gave EA bad press and even angrier fans. These major Star Wars games have sold well, and kept many fans pleased, but they’re all based off of existing Star Wars properties. What we need is something fresh – or, at the very least, more variety.
That something fresh should have been (and still could be) the Visceral Games third-person, action-adventure title that was once led by Amy Hennig of Uncharted fame. The game is reportedly still in development, but with the shuttering of Visceral, it’s now being helmed by EA Vancouver and rumor has it that it’s now a multiplayer game. Because EA is so good at reacting dramatically to backlash they receive, maybe the project will once again shift to a single-player focus, but without Hennig and much of the original talent behind it, don’t expect the same results they may have produced.
Respawn Entertainment, the former Call of Duty developers responsible for the Titanfall games, is working on a separate third-person action-adventure Star Wars game with EA. They announced this project on Star Wars Day 2016, but not much has been revealed since about the game. It’s supposed to take place in a different era than EA has been focusing on (so it either takes place long before or long after the three Star Wars’ film trilogies), but that’s not a whole lot to go off of at the moment. During a recent sales call, EA revealed that the game is scheduled to release in fiscal year 2020. The people at Respawn are talented and have a great track record, so this is currently the game that most Star Wars fans should place their excitement behind. It’s a solid start – even if does end up being released seven years after EA gained their franchise rights. Slow and steady, right?
There have been a couple of free-to-play/mobile Star Wars games released since then, and while they have been financially successful, they aren’t quite what hardcore gamers are looking for in a Star Wars game. EA hasn’t yet “decided the exact timing” for when Star Wars Battlefront III will be released, but if they follow the two year cycle they’ve established, 2019 is a sure bet. Hopefully they’ve learned their lessons from both of the Star Wars Battlefront titles they’ve released so far, and the backlash they’ve received, but we’ll just have to wait and see. Between this and even more The Old Republic content being released in the future, multiplayer Star Wars games are accounted for. It’s those single-player experiences that fans want to see and hopefully that’s what EA has up their sleeves.
We’ve already gone on at length about it being time for EA to bring back Knights of the Old Republic and we stand by that. Sure, the original two games (the first by BioWare the second from Obsidian) are no longer cannon, but Disney can decide to undo that decision at a whim, and considering those games take place roughly 4,000 years before the Star Wars films, there’s not much in them that would likely affect new Star Wars properties. Remasters of those two games would be great, and would help satisfy (rightfully) salty fans, but a third game, helmed by BioWare itself, would be ideal. Most of BioWare proper is working on Anthem at the moment, but the BioWare team in Montreal who worked on Mass Effect Andromeda is theoretically open to take on the challenge. Without EA’s mismanagement getting in the way, BioWare Montreal (which recently merged with Motive) could be ready to take on the challenge. This team was helping on the Visceral Star Wars game, but their current involvement is unknown, so they could very well be free to give it a go.
What this all boils down to is a series of complicated situations that don’t have to be so complicated. EA has a first-person shooter, an MMO and a third-person action-adventure Star Wars game in development at the moment, but the teams behind them are constantly shifting and merging, seemingly without proper direction half of the time. The possibility of another Knights of the Old Republic is exciting and would add a single-player RPG into this portfolio of Star Wars games. Furthermore, a flight simulator in the vein of Rogue Squadron could be a great addition to EA’s Star Wars collection. Heck, Criterion Games (known for Burnout and Need for Speed) has already helped out on the vehicle portions of Battlefront II and made X-Wing VR Mission for PlayStation VR – they’d be perfect for a new Star Wars vehicle simulator. Even straight video game adaptations of the new Star Wars films could be in order, though it looks like EA and Disney have decided to forego that route entirely – which, let’s be honest, is probably for the best.
The general output of Star Wars games from EA hasn’t been great since they’ve gotten the franchise rights, but that doesn’t mean things can’t improve from here on out. They’ve got a few projects in the oven that we know of and likely have many more on the way that we don’t. At the very least, EA hasn’t oversaturated the market with Star Wars games and it doesn’t look like they intend to any time soon. Star Wars games can be great once again, it’ll just take some time to see if EA has it in them to get back to that point.