It’s shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Disney isn’t currently happy with Electronic Arts (EA). Back in 2013, it was revealed that EA obtained the exclusive video game rights to the Star Wars franchise, and that may be coming to an end soon if rumors are true. According to website Cinelinx, who sites sources close to the matter, Disney recently had a meeting with EA executives discussing the Star Wars license and recent issues. Not only that, but Disney may have also reached out to other potential game publishers such as Ubisoft and Activision.
Here is a quick look at what EA has done with the Star Wars license since 2013:
Star Wars Battlefront was a decent release. The game’s biggest problem was that it was severely lacking in content at launch. The new Battlefront game was rushed out in fall 2015 to tie into the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December of that year. Then, the company slowly trickled out content soon after for those who purchased the season pass.
Things only got worse as last year we learned that EA would be shutting down Visceral Games who was working on a single-player, story-driven Star Wars game. The game’s story was set between the events of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Uncharted head writer and creative director Amy Hennig was attached to the project. What was the reason given for the game’s cancellation? EA CFO Blake Jorgensen stated that players don’t care for linear or single-player games as “they did five years ago or ten years ago,” (which really means that they couldn’t have pushed heavy monetization in form loot boxes and microtransactions). Pushing loot boxes and microtransactions are elements that have made EA a lot of money in the last few years, and that’s what really leads to the root of the EA/Star Wars problem…Star Wars Battlefront II.
Star Wars Battlefront II was originally set to be a huge hit. That is until the beta came out, and those playing it noticed some glaring issues. The single-player mode felt like it was just put in for the sake of putting it in. The campaign was lackluster and squandered a story mode that could have been something to help expand the Star Wars universe. The game’s progression system was centered around loot boxes. Everything you needed to get stats and equipment came from having to obtain these loot boxes, which could take hours to earn or could be purchased in seconds with real-world money. Of course, since the loot box content is completely random, you are essentially gambling to get what you want. Even iconic Star Wars characters were locked behind a paywall. The paywall at one point could take almost 40 hrs of gameplay to unlock a single Star Wars character, or you could just buy a ton of loot boxes and expedite the process. People were furious.
Eventually, something we never really expected happened. Governments were getting involved and started putting forth legislation over controversial loot box practices by gaming publishers. Critics and political pundits argued that loot boxes could be seen as a form of gambling that exploits and could easily target young children and those with addictive personalities. Democrat Chris Lee, of the Hawaiian House of Representatives said last November in a statement to the press, “This game is a Star Wars-themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money; it’s a trap.”
And then Disney decided to step in, as The Walt Disney Company’s chief executive Bob Iger would contact Electronic Arts chief executive officer Andrew Wilson about Star Wars: Battlefront II, and you can imagine he wasn’t very pleased. EA would later temporarily pull microtransactions from the game, which are set to return next month, but you can imagine the damage has been done.
Disney’s licensing contract with EA for Star Wars reportedly has a clause that allows the company to cancel their exclusivity deal if EA fails to meet certain requirements. Having angered a whole Star Wars fan base might be more than enough to warrant a change of scenery for the franchise. Of course, sales numbers might be why you should take this rumor with a grain of salt. 2015’s Star Wars Battlefront reportedly sold nearly 12 millions units in its first month of release with over 14 million units sold to this day. Even with all the controversy surrounding Star Wars Battlefront II, it still managed to sell around 7 to 8 million copies sold worldwide.
The future of Star Wars at EA remains to be seen.