Disney’s acquisition of LucasFilm – one that fetched a handsome $4 billion – made waves across the internet. Some decried the notion of a Disney-produced Star Wars film; others thought that as history had shown, George Lucas had already done an impressive job of running the beloved franchise into the ground. Somewhere in the mix, said internet glossed over what might become of LucasArts. As it happens, Disney has decided to shutter the studio – best known to those of my generation as the collective brainchild behind some of the finest adventure games of the nineties – while laying off staff and canceling production of current project, including Star Wars 1313. According to Bloomberg, Disney is currently seeking external partners to continue development.
In a statement, Disney said the following:
“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.”
So alas, like the Endor that didn’t make it, the Disney Empire has stormed LucasArts fields – and personally, I’m not terribly flustered by its loss. Granted, my heart goes out to those affected – everyone dreads the day they receive that layoff notice – but on the whole, the golden age of LucasArts adventure games died right around the dawn of the 21st century – bringing with it the elements that made the company great: originality, genuine creativity, and a cleverness matched by few of its competitors. During the ensuing years, the leg of Star Wars found itself thoroughly humped, and LucasArts adventure games were remade by companies with an actual interest in the genre. Slowly but surely, in the eyes of those such as myself, the digital behemoth collapsed under the weight of its own stagnation.
Yet to avert this trek down “Hater Avenue,” it’s worth remembering LucasArt’s contributions to adventure games – one that continues to this day. Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert honed their craft in the company. Schafer went on the found Double Fine Productions; Gilbert, after a handful of releases, joined his ex-collegue’s fold with The Cave, and the upcoming Broken Age. Meanwhile, Telltale Games – a company created by LucasArts employees who had been laid off after the cancellation of Sam & Max: Freelance Police – found themselves in the spotlight after developing episodic content for both Sam & Max and Monkey Island. Indeed, without the fame garnered from such endeavors, Telltale’s fantastic The Walking Dead might never have seen the light of day.