Throughout the late 1990s and 2000s, LucasArts were behind some of the greatest, most ground-breaking video games in the industry. As well as being point-and-click adventure game trailblazers, LucasArts were the sole proprietors of Star Wars games during their golden age. With dozens of classics under their belt, it was a dark day when Disney closed the studio's doors in 2013 following their acquisition of Lucasfilm. Eight years later, however, Disney have reopened the company as Lucasfilm Games.
In 1979, George Lucas decided to explore new areas of entertainment. He formed the Lucasfilm Computer Division; a company that had a department for computer game development, and another for graphical animation. The company would later divide, with the graphics department becoming the legendary Pixar Animation Studios. The video game department, meanwhile, remained under Lucas’ watch as LucasArts. It went on to oversee some of the greatest video games of the next three decades.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, LucasArts was best known for its adventure games. With a knack for humour and puzzle-making, the company is considered the greatest pioneer of the genre by many. The Monkey Island series, Grim Fandango and the Indiana Jones adventure games were all released during this period. Some of these titles remain all-time classics and were enough to cement the company’s legacy alone. However, LucasArts stepped it up in the ‘90s when they took control of the Star Wars IP.
Knights of the Old Republic, Rogue Squadron, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, Republic Commando, Force Unleashed and the original Battlefront games are just a few of the LucasArts titles in the Star Wars setting. To many, the narrow twenty-year period in which most of these games being released is considered one of the best development runs in video game development history. The streak was unfortunately put to an end in 2013 with Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm.
Disney’s ownership of Lucasfilm has been controversial at best, with Star Wars right at the heart of the debate. Alongside a polarising-at-best response to their films, Disney have only managed to put out three major releases in eight years due to their exclusivity deal with EA Games. Comparatively, between 1991 and 2013, LucasArts released nearly seventy Star Wars games of varying size and relevance. Due to the IP's huge franchise potential, the scarcity of games has been disappointing to fans. Despite the lack of quantity, however, Battlefront 2 and Jedi: Fallen Order have shown that the quality of old Star Wars games can still be achieved.
For a long while, fans of LucasArts accepted that they would not see the return of what the company they loved. Fast-forward to January 2021, though, and LucasArts has officially made its return under the name Lucasfilm Games. The announcement made it clear that the company intends to recreate the magic captured in LucasArts’ heyday, with EA’s exclusivity deal ending in 2023. Immediately, a new Indiana Jones title was teased in collaboration with video game giants Bethesda, as well as a new Massive-developed Star Wars open world RPG.
The new announcement tells us a few things about the future of Lucasfilm. Firstly, it will be operating primarily as a licensor – working with a multitude of developers to create a higher quantity of games. Alongside the two new announcements, and EA stating that they plan to continue their partnership, it seems that Lucasfilm Games are only getting started. "We've got a lot of stuff we're ready to start sharing with fans,” Douglas Reilly, company VP, told StarWars.com.
“This is really the culmination of years of preparing to come out and say, ‘We’re here, we’ve got a team of people, we’re going to make a lot of great games, and here’s some new things you weren’t expecting from us to do that we’re now starting to do,’” Reilly said. “And that’s going to continue throughout the next year or so, where we’re going to continue to announce projects that are more representative of the legacy of the old Lucasfilm Games that we’re now trying to live up to.”
If Bethesda’s Indiana Jones title is anything like the ‘90s LucasArts games, the doors begin to open for more reboots. As a precursor to some of the greatest RPGs of the modern era, could a long-requested Knights of the Old Republic remake be on the way? Suddenly, a new installment to the fan-beloved adventure series Monkey Island becomes feasible. Even the fabled 1313 Boba Fett game might finally see the light of day. The best part of all of this is that Lucasfilm Games is seeking out the ideal developer in each case, rather than creating a range of games with the same team.
Only time will tell what Lucasfilm Games does with their insane newfound power. The likelihood is, though, that there are at least a few fantastic games on the way.