By now you've undoubtedly heard that Disney spent $4.05 billion to purchase LucasFilms from its owner, George Lucas. The buyout will make Mr. Lucas one of the top 100 richest people in America, and sets the stage for an entirely new generation of Star Wars films. But while most of the media has been understandably preoccupied with the prospect of a few new Star Wars movies, that's certainly not the only notable franchise affected by the deal.
For many, myself included, the films in Lucas's catalog are significantly less important than the enormous library of gaming titles that have been gathering dust in the LucasArts vault. Franchises like Grim Fandango, Full Throttle and a massive collection of Star Wars titles have been noticeably disregarded for decades, and since LucasArts is a subsidiary of Disney's newest acquisition, they now have their hands on some of the most beloved franchises in gaming history.
This should worry you.
See, Disney Interactive, the gaming arm of The Walt Disney Company, isn't exactly known for creating high-quality games. Sure, they've had a few success stories (Epic Mickey and Kingdom Hearts come to mind), but for the most part, game development hasn't been Disney's main concern. That is, unless you count Where's My Water, which they seem to be obsessed with.
Now, I understand that LucasArts isn't going to be overseen by Disney Interactive, so some might say that I'm being unjustifiably nervous, but we're just a few days into this merger and Disney's lack of interest in gaming is already starting to bleed all over the Lucas brands. When asked about the future of LucasArts’ games, Disney CEO Robert Iger said, “We’re likely to focus more on social and mobile than we are on console. We’ll look opportunistically at console, most likely in licensing rather than publishing, but we think that given the nature of these characters and how well known they are, and the storytelling, that they lend themselves quite nicely, as they’ve already demonstrated to the other platforms.”
So, if Disney sticks to their current plan, we can expect to see a string of Facebook games, which is probably going to be even lamer than it sounds.
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for supporting the casual gamer by rolling out a few social media and mobile titles, but chaining that Lucas IPs to a social media platform within a week of Zynga, the social gaming superpower, laying off 5% of their workforce seems a bit risky. Though, concentrating on mobile game development is probably a pretty safe bet at this stage of the game.
But this merger seems like Disney's opportunity to pull their gaming division out of the red and put a big Mickey Mouse smile on the faces of their investors after posting an $86 million loss in 2011. But it looks like we're just going to have to settle for something akin to a Star Wars-themed Farmville.
However, there is a microscopic fiber of hope in Iger's comments. Until recently, LucasArts has had a strict policy against subcontracting with other developers, which is why games like Full Throttle 2 never quite hit the market. But with Disney's willingness to subcontract with anyone and everyone, we might see an expansion of Lucas games being developed by all of our favorite developers. That is, if we can convince Disney that the need exists.
In actuality, there's very little chance that Disney is planning to do anything with their newfound collection of IPs. The fact that so little attention is being paid to any non-Star Wars franchise means that Disney has a laser focus on rushing the Jedi back to the big screen—even Indiana Jones got the silent treatment. So, I think it's probably safe to assume that any future social media and mobile titles will be set in a galaxy far, far away.
But I've still got my fingers crossed for a new Manic Mansion title. And you should too.
Date: November 1, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*