There have been rumors flying about Disney possibly pulling their contract with EA lately after much of the controversy with Star Wars Battlefront 2. The loot crate debacle continues to plague the game world and EA could be seeing a huge hit from one of their top franchises. So, let’s say for example, that Disney pulls their license from EA within the next year, what does that mean for Star Wars games?
Is it the End of the Old Republic?
Star Wars: The Old Republic remains one of the consistent money makers for EA as a major MMO. Many people will tell you the game has slowed in its later years (it launched in 2011). However, the team continues to add on to the game and build out new expansions and content. The question becomes, if Disney decides to pull Star Wars, then what happens to this game specifically? Would it be taken over by Activision to run and maintain? Well, they certainly have a studio well versed in MMOs. However, Blizzard is very protective of their brands. So, you may not see Old Republic on the Battle.net just yet. You could see the game maintained though as part of a new package deal. It really depends on how this contract was structured and if the new publisher is willing to support such a title. If Old Republic is still pulling in strong revenue, then it may live on forever, or the plug may be pulled. We will have to see, but I'd suspect that EA would keep the licenses for existing games, until Disney deemed it no longer viable or EA missed a payment.
A Star Wars Online Game Similar to Destiny
Logically, Activision acquiring Star Wars would lead to an open world online shooter similar to Destiny. You could make the argument that Battlefront would lay the ground work for such a game. The thing is, Star Wars often times wants to include their iconic characters in the games as playable. So an alternate setting would be the way to overcome that. You do have options with Old Republic that has legions of fans or possibly the Legacy series which even though it is not considered canon, may still be an option.
Timing the Shift
The order in which Star Wars continues is something to take into account. Once we get Episode 9 of the original trilogy. There may be a gap in timeline before we start to see Ryan Johnson’s three part series and the team of Benioff and Weiss series kick off. These few years of development could lend a major publisher the time to create new games around these series. In the meantime, Lucasfilm would be launching movies like Solo (already set to release this summer) or possible Obi-Won to fill in the blanks. The success of Rogue One has made it clear that they can continue to develop stories as one-off films. Starting again with a new publisher would mean building out new studios and working on full game design ideas from the ground up. That takes time. Unless Lucasfilm does have an R&D team working behind the scenes right now that no one knows about?
Would the Fans Win?
Ultimately, it would be about the fans and if they would accept the new publisher and ideas. Let’s be honest EA does not have the best reputation among fans. This could lead to a huge win for the publisher that takes the reigns. However, the game design has to be solid. It has to work and monetization concepts have to be fair. There are a lot of smart people in the game industry and everyone would jump at the chance to work on Star Wars, but it really has to meld well to bring in new fans and appease aging fans who will make up your full player base. Can Activision or Ubisoft pull off this marathon? They have a less tainted reputation with consumers, but they're still considered "dangerous" due to nickel and diming on DLC and microtransactions.
Time will tell if Disney even decides to change the license with EA. I, for one, hope they do. I think Disney would benefit from licensing the Star Wars brand to as many studios as possible, given their projects meet the quality requirements. Exclusivity be damned.