No one’s ever really gone (pic: Lucasfilm Games)
Whatever the other pros and cons of Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, one of the most unequivocally bad things to come from it is that they instantly chose to shutdown storied publisher and developer LucasArts, who at the time were working on the highly ambitious Star Wars 1313.
Originally founded as Lucasfilm Games, the company started life way back in 1982 and has been responsible for a host of classic games throughout the generations… and now it’s back.
It’s ignoring the LucasArts name though and going with the old school Lucasfilm Games, with a brief post on StarWars.com indicating that the revived company will encompass, ‘the company’s rich catalogue of video games and its eye toward the future’.
The announcement offers no real details but does talking about working in ‘collaboration with the finest studios across the industry’, which suggest there are no plans to begin in-house development again.
While the video above is described as ‘celebrating the history of games from Lucasfilm’ it doesn’t do anything of the sort and only features recently released games and those featuring commercial tie-ins to Star Wars, such as Fortnite, Minecraft, and The Sims 4.
Lucasfilm Games’ history is far richer than that suggests and many of its best games had nothing to do with Star Wars, in part because, at its founding, Lucasfilm didn’t hold the video game rights because, like Marvel and its movies, they’d already been sold off to another company – in this case Atari.
That led to the creation of wholly original 8-bit classics such as Ballblazer, Rescue On Fractalus, and The Eidolon. 1986 movie tie-in Labyrinth was their first adventure game, with Maniac Mansion the next year redefining the graphic adventure genre which they went on to dominate with titles such as The Secret Of Monkey Island, Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis, Sam & Max: Hit The Road, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango.
They also began making WWII combat flight simulators in 1988, with the same team going on to create the seminal X-Wing series of space combat flight simulators. Together with Super Star Wars on the SNES and Rebel Assault on CD-ROM, these were the company’s first Star Wars games, with the licence going on to dominate the company’s output for its remaining years.
Even in the modern era though LucasArts was never exclusively about Star Wars, having published the likes of RTX Red Rock and Gladius on PlayStation 2, and Fracture and Lucidity on Xbox 360.
It’s hopefully this which StarWars.com is referring to when it talks about its ‘rich legacy’ but clearly we’re a long way away from them announcing a new Monkey Island or a brand new IP.
Apart from restoring the Lucasfilm Games name, the announcement is also interesting for the fact that traditionally Disney has not been interested in video game development, preferring to simply licence their brands off to other companies – which is exactly why LucasArts was shut down in the first place.
Why exactly they’ve been brought back now is a mystery but given the sudden increase in TV shows and other projects, announced on the back of the success of The Mandalorian, it seems reasonable to imagine that they’re also looking to expand their video game output in a similar manner.
It’s also worth noting that LucasArts never technically went away. They ceased to exist as a publisher or developer once Disney took over, but a team remained, including some company veterans, to oversee licensors such as EA and we ended up speaking to one during the press for Star Wars: Squadrons.
This team was also involved in facilitating things such as the remasters of Full Throttle and Grim Fandango, but how much Lucasfilm Games will really embrace their non-Star Wars heritage remains to be seen.