With the recent dissolving of Visceral Studios and the stumbles with the development of its Star Wars game, it seems that EA has no idea of what to do with this great franchise. The recently chaotic launch of Battlefront 2 further corroborates this idea.
In recent years, Star Wars has come back as one of the most lucrative and influential franchises in pop culture. Its fans are one of the most enthusiastic groups out there, consuming every piece of lore they can each year while waiting for the release of the next Star Wars movie. This all seems like the dream of any publisher that aims to have an extremely lucrative franchise for years to come.
Except EA doesn’t seem to know how to handle such an enormous franchise like this one. Of course, we know EA can handle big franchises. Battlefield is one of the biggest first-person shooters out there and the foundation for the recent Battlefront games, the only Star Wars console games to come out in recent years. EA Sports also has some of the best selling franchises every year with its football game, FIFA, and its American counterpart, Madden. EA can handle itself.
And, as expected, all these great franchises are extremely focused on multiplayer. I won’t delve into the controversial loot boxes of Battlefront 2 (for now) or the “EA hates single-player” discussions everyone has heard in the previous weeks. Honestly? Do whatever you need to do. The last thing we want is studios closing because a game isn’t profitable or because it had unachievable expectations (and EA is pretty good at doing this). If a game like Battlefront 2 needs microtransactions to be profitable then implement them (in a way that doesn’t compromise the game of course). If a huge single-player Star Wars game isn’t a viable business strategy, don’t do it.
But that doesn’t mean there can’t be single-player Star Wars games. The keyword here is huge. The Star Wars franchise is huge, but that doesn’t mean your game should be. Of course, everyone wants to be a Jedi, to wield a lightsaber, hear every cantina song in the galaxy or kill Jar-Jar repeatedly, but the possibilities are pretty much endless in the Star Wars universe and there will always be something missing from that great investment you just made.
Instead of dwelling on what it could have been, let’s think back to June 2017. EA’s E3 press conference wasn’t extremely memorable. It was the standard EA Sports cake, with some Battlefront 2 icing and some sprinkled Need for Speed. But on top of all of that, there was a little treat called A Way Out that surprised everyone. It’s a smaller game that marries the almost dead couch co-op and the seemingly dying story-driven single-player experience into one and, somehow, EA is publishing it.
I trust EA’s greed enough to know they’re only publishing this because they think it’ll be profitable, or at the very least that it’ll improve their image in the public eye. So, why not make some smaller scale Star Wars game? Imagine a game like FTL where you’re a smuggler fleeing from the Empire, a racing game with podracers or even a flash game where you only kill Jar-Jar. You can even take a page of Nintendo’s playbook and make a game like XCOM set in the Star Wars universe. Sure, these may not appeal to all gamers but if they’re quality games, they’ll at least reassure Star Wars fans that EA cares about the license.
And yes, we know EA cares about Star Wars, but only because it’s a big license. We don’t feel any love coming from them. Battlefront 2’s mishandling, the inability to communicate clearly the decision to shut down a studio and simply the lack of news about any upcoming title are things that marked EA’s last two years and, seemingly, a couple more years to come. Did you know Respawn is making a Star Wars game? I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you didn’t because we have literally no news since the announcement in 2016.
The only Star Wars games that EA consistently updates us in is the Battlefront franchise. And this prodigy child of Star Wars games just delivered one of the worst microtransactions scandals of the latest years. The thought that unlocking everything either takes six months or 2100$ is pretty discouraging for most Star Wars fan that wanted to play the campaign and maybe dip the waters of multiplayer. It seems EA is trying to fix some of their mistakes, by initially cutting the hero prices and, more recently, disabling microtransactions for the game’s launch. It’s unknown when the microtransactions will be back but, even though it seems like they’re concerned about their player base, given these last few weeks it’s hard not to take this with a grain of salt.
As I said before, the Star Wars universe has endless possibilities, and this must be taken as an opportunity to deviate from what we’re expecting and surprise us. But, while EA keeps being afraid of upsetting the fans, by not providing them with anything other than a wallet taxing Battlefront and promises of a grandiose Star Wars game, they’re just achieving exactly what they want to avoid. Because, in all honesty, we just want good Star Wars games.
(This is a guest post from gamer, student, and an overall cool guy, João Narra.)