We were stunned by the recent revelation that Wolfenstein developer MachineGames and Bethesda are working on a new Indiana Jones game, but nothing prepared us for the news that Ubisoft is working on a new open-world game set in the Star Wars universe.
The details of Ubisoft’s Star Wars game are thin at the moment, but the only detail that really matters right now is the fact that Ubisoft is making a modern Star Wars game in the first place despite the fact that Disney and EA previously struck a deal that seemingly granted the publisher exclusive rights to the franchise.
So how did this happen? Will other developers now be allowed to pursue the development of Star Wars games? Will EA still make Star Wars games? We’ll try to answer some of those questions below as we break down what we know about this potentially monumental moment for the future of Star Wars games.
What Were The Terms of EA’s Star Wars Deal?
To spare you a lot of drama, the simplest answer to that question is “We don’t really know.”
There was a lot of talk surrounding the deal at the time it was made in 2013, but the full details of the agreement were never publicly revealed. At the time, though, the popular suggestion was that EA had acquired the exclusive rights to publish games set in the Star Wars universe. It was also strongly suggested that Disney approached EA with that offer. More on that later.
Yet, it always felt like the deal was never really as simple as some made it seem. For instance, we know that Disney retained the rights to pursue certain social and mobile Star Wars projects outside of EA. WB also published a Lego Star Wars game in 2016 and plan to publish another in 2021. That alone would seem to suggest that there were provisions in place that afforded Disney and other game studios more flexibility than some had suggested. It’s also certainly possible that what we’re seeing now is somehow the result of a modification of the original deal.
When Does the EA Star Wars Deal Expire?
EA signed a 10-year deal in 2013, and there has been no indication that Disney approached EA to extend that deal in the years since it was made. If either side did approach the other in the interest of extending the deal, it certainly seems that they never reached an agreement.
So, the EA Star Wars deal does officially expire in 2023. As we noted above, though, the exact terms of that deal are vague enough to raise some questions about what that expiration actually means. While some suspect that means Ubisoft’s Star Wars game won’t be released until 2023 or after, there’s no confirmation that’s the case. Besides, it might just take that long for Ubisoft to actually make the game given how early that project seemingly is in the development process.
That 2023 date and this recent announcement also raises another important question…
Will EA Still Make Star Wars Games?
While we previously suspected the answer to that question is “Yes” given that 2023 expiration date, Lucasfilm Games VP Douglas Reilly confirmed to StarWars.com that is the case.
“We’re really proud of the games we have created with EA,” Reilly says. “We will continue working with them and our relationship has never been stronger. While we may not have a lot of details to share at the moment, we’ve got a number of projects underway with the talented teams at EA.”
EA later commented on this move in a separate statement released to various media outlets.
“We are proud of our long-standing collaboration with Lucasfilm Games, which will continue for years to come,” EA says. “Our talented teams have created some of the most successful games in the history of the Star Wars franchise, including Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Star Wars: Battlefront, Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, and Star Wars: Squadrons. We love Star Wars and look forward to creating more exciting experiences for players to enjoy.
So EA isn’t outright “losing” the ability to make Star Wars games and will seemingly continue to develop Star Wars games until 2023 and possibly beyond. While there’s no word on what those “number of projects” refer to, we do know of at least one major EA Star Wars game that is still in development.
Has Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order 2’s Release Date/Development Been Affected?
Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was arguably the best thing to come out of the EA/Star Wars deal, and many fans were thrilled to learn that the studio will likely be working on a sequel to that hit (if not yet another game set in the Star Wars universe).
As we suggested above, there’s been no indication that these new arrangements will affect the hypothetical release of Fallen Order 2. There’s been no official word on when that sequel (or Respawn’s next Star Wars project) could be released, but early rumors strongly suggest that the game could be released as early as 2022. Even if the game is delayed beyond the expiration of EA’s original deal, there’s absolutely no reason to believe that EA and Respawn’s ability to make that game would somehow be taken from them.
Will Lucasfilm Games be the New Publisher of Star Wars Games?
This is the biggest unanswered question at the moment regarding the future of Star Wars games, which makes it that much more frustrating that the answers remain so vague.
At the moment, it certainly appears that the plan is for Lucasfilm Games to serve as the gatekeepers to future video game projects based on Lucasfilm properties. That will seemingly afford Disney and all other associated parties the chance to more freely choose who they work with. We’re already seeing examples of that.
It sounds like the plan is for major companies like EA, Ubisoft, and Bethesda to at least be able to co-publish the games they make in association with the Lucasfilm Games brand, with EA retaining their publishing rights at least until their previous deal expires. How the financial aspects of those partnerships will work remains to be seen and, quite frankly, may never be publically disclosed.
For the moment, though, the most important takeaway is that we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel of EA’s 10-year deal.
When Did the EA Star Wars Deal Fall Apart?
There’s a lot to be said on this subject, but it’s worth noting that this deal was rocky from the start.
The Disney/EA deal came at a time of great transition for all parties involved. Disney had only recently acquired Lucasfilm and Andrew Wilson would take over as EA CEO the year the deal was made. There seemed to be a mutual interest to get some kind of deal in place despite the fact that sources long claimed that Wilson and others believed it was ultimately a bad deal that some within EA (and potentially Disney) were never really thrilled about. In fact, it was suggested that former EA executive Frank Gibeau was the one who pushed for EA to take the deal in the first place, and he left the company in 2015.
So while things like Battlefront 2‘s loot box drama and EA’s multiple canceled Star Wars games almost certainly soured the relationship, it’s very important to note that EA may not see the loss of any exclusivity arrangements as a strictly bad thing. Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier summarizes EA’s likely mentality at this time rather well:
So while all parties involved would struggle to honestly say that the EA Star Wars deal lived up to the highest expectations, what we’re seeing now seems to be a logical part of the process given the deal’s expiration date rather than any kind of emergency button pushed to get EA away from Star Wars as soon as possible.