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Star Wars: The Old Republic Column: The Disney Deal

By Michael Bitton on November 01, 2012

George Lucas has always kept an iron grip over his Star Wars IP. His struggles with the big studios in Hollywood when trying to bring the original Star Wars film to market and his desire to be independent are well documented. Naturally, then, it came as a bit of a surprise to me when I found out that media conglomerate Disney had purchased the entire shebang from Lucas. This deal includes Star Wars, Lucasfilm, Industrial Light & Magic, Skywalker Sound, LucasArts, everything. All for the sum of a cool $4.05 billion.

From reading reactions around the internets, it seems that most people are reacting fairly well to this news. Honestly, when it comes to Star Wars, George Lucas essentially retired (with regards to Star Wars) after the original trilogy. Heck, maybe even after the first film! Aside from the prequel trilogy, George only directed A New Hope, after all. In the years since the original trilogy debuted, it seemed to me that George simply kept a tight grip on his IP and would occasionally tweak the films out of, I don’t know, perhaps boredom, but often to fans’ displeasure. George eventually got the idea that he was ready to direct the prequel trilogy and we all know how that turned out.

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Basically, Disney can’t do anything worse to Star Wars than George Lucas has done himself. To some, Disney’s primary association is with its ‘kiddie’ properties such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, etc. Naturally, this has resulted in quite a few Star Wars meets Disney jokes since the announcement. (Anyone want to see Goofy and Jar Jar’s Great Adventure?!) But let’s not forget that Disney has been making these large (and expensive!) purchases of studios and their properties for a number of years now. In 2006, Disney purchased Pixar and just three years later, picked up Marvel. Both of these deals resulted in mixed, if not negative reactions, at least at first. However, Disney went on to put out blockbusters such as “Cars”, “Toy Story 3”, and “The Avengers”.  It seems as though both the studios purchased and Disney itself have benefited a great deal from the deals made and I don’t suspect Star Wars will fare any differently here.

Mostly, I’m happy that we may get to see a new trilogy of films, beginning with the announcement of an Episode VII, set to be released sometime in 2015. If all goes according to plan, Disney has stated we’ll see episodes eight and nine and then a new Star Wars film every two to three years after that. I don’t know how I feel about the latter bit. More Star Wars sounds great, but I don’t necessarily want to see the thing run wild.

So, what kind of film can we expect Episode VII to be? The popular suggestion is that we’ll see a new trilogy based on the Expanded Universe’s Thrawn Trilogy novels by Timothy Zahn. To me, this would be the most ideal way to move forward, but unfortunately, this may have been shot down already. Episode VII will be an original story, according to a source at Lucasfilm. Bah!

Of course, there’s also the potential impact of this deal on Star Wars games, and more specifically, Star Wars MMOs. Obviously, this deal means more Star Wars videogames in general, simply by virtue of the fact there will be more opportunities to tie-in new games to the new films coming out. For Star Wars: The Old Republic, in particular, I don’t see this move having much of an impact. Generally, expect to see the annoying return of anachronistic tie-ins associated with new Star Wars films along the lines of what we've previously seen with Star Wars Galaxies when the prequels were coming out. For example, the best starships in SWG’s Jump to Lightspeed expansion ended up being ships based on prequel designs (such as General Grievous’ fighter or the Jedi Starfighter) instead of ships based in the game’s Galactic Civil War (Original Trilogy) setting, which would obviously be more advanced. This may not be a big deal to some, but I found these tie-ins particularly annoying in Star Wars Galaxies.

Given the lukewarm response to Star Wars: The Old Republic in the MMO community, the most exciting implication of this news is the potential for a new Star Wars MMO. I’d say the chances of this are pretty damn high. Unfortunately, I don’t think that a new Star Wars MMO would be much better received than SW:TOR was. MMOs are costly, high-risk endeavors, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that licensed IPs provide the least flexibility when looking to really push the envelope, something it appears MMO fans really want to see. Gamers looking for an MMO that really takes some chances and aspires to blaze a new trail in the genre should probably be cautious about resting their hopes on games based on a licensed IP, and this includes Star Wars. If a new Star Wars MMO is announced, you can bet that Disney will greenlight the idea with the intention to maximize profit (they are a business, after all) and this doesn’t always jive with taking extra risks on new ideas.

Ultimately, as a Star Wars fan, I’m feeling pretty good about the Disney deal. George just wasn’t really doing much of note with the IP, I’m looking forward to seeing what Disney does to revitalize Star Wars, and hopefully it will leave the Gungans out of the equation.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!


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