Earlier today Disney announced the purchase of Lucasfilm for the amount of approximately $4.05 billion. Half of this amount is to be paid in cash, while the other is to be paid in the form of 40 million shares of Disney stock. Lucasfilm and its subsidiaries are wholly owned by George Lucas; while Lucas will remain serving as a creative consultant, he plans to retire leaving Kathleen Kennedy, current co-chairman, as president of Lucasfilm reporting to Disney chairman Alan Horn.
A new trilogy of movies was also announced, with the first set for a 2015 release and a plan to “release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years.” Kennedy will be the executive producer.
LucasArts, the video game developing subsidiary of Lucasfilm, was also part of the acquisition alongside Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound. However, there does not appear to be any present plans to reshuffle the employees at this time:
“Disney will also acquire the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies that have kept audiences enthralled for many years. Lucasfilm, headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.”
Likewise, a LucasArts representative told Polygon that “for the time being all projects are business as usual. We are excited about all the possibilities that Disney brings,” but Disney CEO Robert Iger also noted that console development by LucasArts may halt in the future, saying the following:
“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.”
It should be noted that Disney has closed two studios in the past 2 years, including that of Propaganda Games (Turok and Tron: Evolution) and Black Rock Studios (Pure and Split Second). However, Disney is also working behind the scenes on a gaming initiative codenamed “Toy Box”.
Analysis: Well, I’ve personally felt LucasArts has been dead for a couple years now given the layoffs back in 2010 and the quality of titles they’ve pushed out since then. This acquisition pretty much confirms its death, for me. Disney has been shuttering studios left and right, and Iger has made it clear that console development is extremely low on their list of priorities, favoring the social and casual realms instead. While I cringe every time I hear a CEO or representative say this, this is a pretty strong trend for large media companies. AAA development costs a lot of time, resources, and money; however, it doesn’t generally create enough profit to justify it.
As a result, if a company has stronger assets elsewhere, they’re hundreds of times more likely to focus on casual and social game development. This is because these games are relatively simple to develop compared to AAA games, tend to pull a profit in a much shorter time frame, and expose the company to a lot less risk. Minimizing risk while maximizing turnover time and profits are some of the most imperative goals of a large corporation, so it only makes sense that Iger’s comments reflect this.
Long story short, I wouldn’t expect much from this studio from now on. You’ll be lucky if Star Wars 1313 sees the light of day, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you start seeing Star Wars characters in the next Kingdom Hearts game.