EA’s Star Wars exclusivity set to end as Lucasfilm partners with Ubisoft | VGC

Lucasfilm will end its Star Wars exclusivity deal with Electronic Arts, by partnering with Ubisoft on a new open-world game.

As reported by Wired, the new project will be developed by Ubisoft’s Massive Entertainment (The Division), marking the first time that a company outside of EA has worked on a Star Wars game in eight years.

The Massive Star Wars project is being helmed by Julian Gerighty, director of the first two The Division games, and will be powered by the studio’s Snowdrop engine. Development on the new game is said to have started nearly a year ago.

UPDATE: Electronic Arts has issued a statement responding to Wednesday’s news. A spokesperson told VGC:

“We are proud of our long-standing collaboration with Lucasfilm Games, which will continue for years to come.

“Our talented teams have created some of the most successful games in the history of the Star Wars franchise, including Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Star Wars: Battlefront and Battlefront II, Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes and Star Wars: Squadrons.

“We love Star Wars, and we look forward to creating more exciting experiences for players to enjoy.”

ORIGINAL STORY CONTINUES: The announcement arrives six months after Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson said the company intended to “double down” on the Star Wars license following a string of recent successful game releases.

EA had previously said that its exclusivity deal – signed in 2013 – would last for ten years. Lucasfilm would not confirm what had happened to the agreement on Wednesday, but EA’s comms director claimed that the deal is still in place, suggesting that Ubisoft’s game won’t release before 2023. EA will continue to create Star Wars games going forward.

“EA has been and will continue to be a very strategic and important partner for us now and going forward,” Disney’s games boss Sean Shoptaw told Wired. “But we did feel like there’s room for others.”

In a post on StarWars.com, Lucasfilm described the Ubisoft partnership as “a new direction” for Lucasfilm gaming and confirmed it was opening the doors to other developers that want to pitch Star Wars games.

Douglas Reilly, VP of Lucasfilm Games, wrote: “We’re looking to work with best-in-class teams that can make great games across all of our IP.

“We’ve got a team of professionals here at Lucasfilm Games who can work with the developers, shape the stories, shape the creative, shape the games, to make them really resonate with fans and deliver across a breadth of platforms, genres, and experiences so that all of our fans can enjoy the IPs that they know and love.”

On EA, Reilly said Lucasfilm was “really proud” of the games it’s created. “We will continue working with them and our relationship has never been stronger. While we may not have a lot of details to share at the moment, we’ve got a number of projects underway with the talented teams at EA.”

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Reilly promised there was more to come in terms of game announcements this year. “This is just the beginning of what I think is going to be a very exciting year for Lucasfilm Games,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of stuff we’re ready to start sharing with fans.”

In a statement, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said that working on Star Wars was “an incredible opportunity” for the Assassin’s Creed firm.

“The Star Wars galaxy is an amazing source of motivation for our teams to innovate and push the boundaries of our medium,” he said.

“Building new worlds, characters and stories that will become lasting parts of the Star Wars lore is an incredible opportunity for us, and we are excited to have our Ubisoft Massive studio working closely with Lucasfilm Games to create an original Star Wars adventure that is different from anything that has been done before.”

Creative director Julian Gerighty said: “This is a lore that we love, and we want to do it justice with a game and story that bring both lifelong and new fans on an immersive and outstanding journey that will stay with them for years.”

Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, added: “As we look to the next 50 years of Lucasfilm, we look forward to continuing the wonderful legacy in games, which has introduced so many memorable characters and stories.

“These new collaborations will allow the Lucasfilm Games team to pursue fresh and exciting directions in the storytelling of Star Wars and Indiana Jones in imaginative and different ways than those explored by our films.”

The Ubisoft news follows Tuesday’s announcement of an Indiana Jones game being developed by Bethesda’s Machine Games. The announcements were preceded by the re-formation of the Lucasfilm Games label earlier this week, which will oversee the firm’s game projects.

Electronic Arts’ stewardship of Star Wars has seen mixed results. In 2017, Battlefront 2 attracted significant criticism for its reliance on the loot box mechanic, a feature that the publisher removed just hours before launch.

It’s also cancelled a number of high-profile projects during this time. EA’s now-defunct Visceral studio spent two years developing a Star Wars heist game called Ragtag under prominent director Amy Hennig (Uncharted) before it was cancelled. Another Star Wars project, ‘Orca’, was then reportedly spun off of Ragtag, only for it to be cancelled in 2018.

However, EA has recently seen big success with its tie-ins. Respawn’s Jedi: Fallen Order exceeded expectations with over ten million sales and EA claimed in June that the first two Battlefront games have sold more than 35 million units combined.

In June, EA CEO Andrew Wilson said he felt the company had a strong relationship with Disney and that overall, he felt there continued to be “a really, really strong opportunity” in and around Star Wars games going forward.

In the same call, EA’s CFO Blake Jorgensen noted the trust EA had developed with Disney, most significantly demonstrated by its approval of new canon elements in Jedi: Fallen Order.

CEO feels there’s “strong opportunity” in the brand

“Vince [Zampella]’s team on Jedi: Fallen Order built an incredible partnership with Lucas and were able to build new characters and content that had never been seen, which is rare in the history of Star Wars,” he said.

“It just shows the creative partnership that we’ve built and credit to Vince, Stig [Asmussen] and the team… they’ve built a foundation for things that we could do there for many years to come.”

Electronic Arts recently suggested it will create a Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order sequel.