EA took another hit last week with the cancelation of its Star Wars Vancouver project and, as a result, so did Disney. EA has long garnered its fair share of criticism, but, when the titan publisher received the rights to publish Star Wars titles, it was handed keys to the universe. Suddenly, a pantheon of developers had the chance to build on something uniquely special.
With endless lore to pull from, material that can be easily translated into video games, and existing IP to build off, EA should have had its next decade of titles in the bag. Sadly, Star Wars has only proven to be a burden for EA, and now is the time for Disney to act on the damage the game publisher has caused.
Perhaps the most controversial of EA’s Star Wars titles is DICE’s Battlefront series. Fans had been frothing at the mouth at the simple idea of a Star Wars: Battlefront reboot for decades, and EA had every intention to deliver. DICE was familiar with massive-scale battles thanks to its time with the Battlefield series and made for the perfect fit.
Some of the hype turned out to be misguided though, as both of DICE’s Battlefront titles faced varying levels of scrutiny. While the first Battlefront had a backbone comprised of stellar graphics and strong gameplay, the abysmal content offerings did little to justify a USD$60 price tag. The second Battlefront brought with it an entire single-player campaign, but also single-handedly stirred up the loot box controversy the industry is still facing. Either way, looking back on both titles in a positive light can be difficult thanks to the shroud of controversy. Nevertheless, rushed development and strange microtransaction choices are not necessarily the fault of the developer.
Overt and intrusive business choices are all over the Battlefront name and, by extension, Disney’s name too. The heads of the publisher were the ones overseeing everything at DICE and need to be held accountable for two fiascos in a row. A duo of Battlefront controversies is bad enough, but the parade of bad Star Wars decisions does not stop at the shaming of a single project.
DICE managed to please its publisher, which is more than the folks who worked at Visceral Games can say. When EA announced its Star Wars deal, Visceral, the developer behind the genre-defining Dead Space series, was among the few revealed to be working on a Star Wars project. Promises of a narrative-driven action game in the Lucasfilm universe had everyone on the edges of their seats. Even famed third-person action game director Amy Hennig signed on to steer the project. However, despite a promising view from the outside, the project may have always been doomed.
Kotaku reported back in 2017 that some employees felt EA had no desire to support single-player games anymore. Potential closure was a heavy burden to bare too, which produced an “unhealthy” working environment. Messy management on EA’s part was all over the development of the unreleased Star Wars project. Furthermore, Visceral had been on death’s door since Dead Space 3 failed to perform. Even so, EA seemed to have thought that shuffling around the studio’s scheduled projects by ham fisting a Star Wars game was the right call. Visceral was closed for good by late 2017 and, with everything considered, the shutdown seems almost inevitable.
Passionate people all wanting to put out the best title possible were let go. Regardless of the circumstances, what the public sees after a studio closure is a parent company that failed to care—not only for the business it puts out the world, but for the people who were sacrificed to do so as well.
What was to become of Visceral’s aborted final game? Well, EA decided to move the assets over to EA Vancouver so that the next team up on the chopping block had a chance to deliver on impossible demands. This series of events all led to what transpired behind the scenes last week. EA has proven to be a business bent on failing with the Star Wars brand: so much so that one may struggle to justify the continuation of the Disney deal.
Now that the Vancouver team had to finally scrap this long-running project, rumors have emerged that the same team has begun work on a much smaller Star Wars title. Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment is also working on its game, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. These tedious attempts to regain the trust of consumers is exhausting, so where does the buck stop?
Not one of the projects started so far have favored positively among fans. These games are not failures, but companies do not exist to create sub-par experiences that will only garner so-so sales. Star Wars is a name that floats, and EA is shooting holes in its own boat. Disney needs to step in because EA’s third strike is already up. Audiences want to see what Respawn can do with such a fitting IP, but Disney finding new management or talent is a better call than taking the same risks over and over again. Now is the time for EA to stop trying because its opportunity to “do or do not” is long gone.