At one point or another, most of us have wanted to wield a lightsaber, pilot an X-wing or just see what it’s like to be a Wookiee (especially when it's as cold outside as it is today). Short of a huge leap in technology, though, it's been in the world of games where budding Jedi Knight and Rebel pilots alike have truly been able to get to grips with the universe. But while there have certainly been a lot of Star Wars titles over the years, it’s been a while since the last truly memorable one. Following old PC classics like X-Wing and Dark Forces, we had the slightly more recent Battlefront, and of course the LEGO games, but it's safe to say the Star Wars brand has been in decline in recent years - at least in the world of games. The cause wasn't exactly helped when Disney bought out Lucasfilm early this year, and almost immediately shut down their games division, LucasArts - but now, the Star Wars games have a new hope. Enter Electronic Arts, one of the world’s biggest videogame publishers, which has struck an exclusive, multi-year deal with Disney to publish ‘core’ video games (whatever that really means) based on the Star Wars franchise. According to the press release, these upcoming games will borrow elements from the films, but will be ‘entirely original with all new stories and gameplay’.
While EA’s various development studios including DICE (Battlefield), Visceral Games (Dead Space) and BioWare (Star Wars: The Old Republic) will handle traditional Star Wars PC and console games, Disney Interactive will take it upon themselves to create more casual games set in a galaxy far, far away for players on social, mobile, browser and tablets to get stuck into.
While no specifics have been announced so far, it goes without saying that EA’s upcoming Star Wars games will certainly be good looking, as they will all be based on DICE’s latest and greatest graphics engine, Frostbite 3 - great news for Star Wars fans who own a dedicated gaming PC, or are eagerly anticipating the PlayStation 4 or new Xbox. However, despite having played host to some classic Star Wars games in the past like Super Star Wars, Shadows of the Empire and Rogue Squadron, Nintendo's Wii U looks set to miss out yet again, as EA have confirmed the next generation of lightsaber swinging action won't be making their way to Nintendo platforms. According to developers DICE, Nintendo’s Wii U is simply not up to the challenge of running the Frostbite 3 engine - and EA are reluctant to put the effort in to scale things down. As more and more developers are neglecting the Wii U, this news comes as a bit of a blow for Nintendo, which could really use some strong third party games to support its admittedly excellent in-house efforts - and with Star Wars fever set to ramp up again in anticipation of the upcoming Episode VII, EA’s new games will undoubtedly be big sellers.
While it’s likely to be 2014 before we see anything of the new games, it’s fun to speculate about just what may be coming our way from EA. Star Wars: Battlefront III would seem like a shoe-in from DICE, as an online, multiplayer focused first person shooter; a new single player entry in the acclaimed Knights of the Old Republic role playing series from BioWare seems like almost a given; while the potential for Visceral, who have experience with third person action games to pick up development on the impressive-looking-before-it-was-canned Star Wars: 1313 would please most fans, who were blown away by its unveiling at the E3 games expo last year. With promising looking gameplay, and a story set to revolve around fan-favourite bounty hunter Boba Fett (at George Lucas’ request, no less), 1313 looked promising, before Disney unceremoniously scrapped it after buying Lucasarts. While we’d hate to see an overabundance of Star Wars themed ‘run and gun’ games as a result of the EA deal, 1313 looked to be something a bit special, and it would be great if development were to be handed over to one of EA’s teams. While a new Star Wars space sim still sadly seems something of a dream, as Yoda would say, ‘always in motion is the future’ - so for now we’ll just have to wait and see.