Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Disney shuts down gaming studio LucasArts

In the first significant set of layoffs following its acquisition of Lucasfilm last fall, Disney announced on Tuesday it was shutting down LucasArts, the company's gaming arm.

About 150 people were laid off, according to reports. Additionally, both of the studio's current projects ("Star Wars: First Assault" and "Star Wars 1313") were cancelled.

The company is still going to have Star Wars-branded games ship, just not ones developed internally. Disney said the following in a statement:
After evaluating our position in the games market, we've decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company's risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games. As a result of this change, we've had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles.
The closing of LucasArts was seen as a high probability. In September, the division froze hiring and product announcements, which many saw as the beginning of the end.

Disney's decision might be seen as a reflection of historic internal vs. external development. In the 2000s, the biggest Star Wars gaming hits were "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" and "Star Wars: Battlefront." Those, however, were both developed externally, by BioWare and Pandemic Studios, respectively.

LucasArts' last title to see mainstream success was 2008'sStar Wars: The Force Unleashed. A 2010 sequel didn't live up to expectations. The last game published by LucasArts was Kinect Star Wars for the Xbox 360 last year, a game widely panned by critics.

The division's biggest successes came with a string of hits in the 1990s. Star Wars-themed titles for the PC such as "Dark Forces," "X-Wing," "Rebel Assault," and "Tie Fighter" were joined by others such as "Afterlife," the "Sam & Max" series, and "Full Throttle."

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