LucasArts

LucasArts

LucasArts

They make Stars Wars games, right? Up to a point. Since its founding by
George Lucas in 1982, LucasArts’ library of titles has amassed to 50
games based on Star Wars (and Indiana Jones), with a further 42
original games.

Until recently, it was almost an article of faith that a truly
five-star Star Wars game was about as easy to come by as a Wookiee in a
necktie. But recently, indifferent or unexceptional titles like The
Clone Wars, Bounty Hunter, Jedi Starfighter, and Jedi Academy have
given way to the awesome Knights of the Old Republic series and decent
shooters like Republic Commando and Battlefront. MMO Star Wars Galaxies
managed to notch up 500,000 members in its first year of business, more
than a fifth of whom were playing every day. Much is also expected from
PC RTS Empire at War, due out later this year, and Battlefront II.

If LucasArts has produced its share of Star Wars duffers in the past,
it’s also given us some original pearls over the years. Back in the
1990s, we had The Secret of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango, both
groundbreaking adventures in their day. More recently, shooter
Mercenaries has proven a great hit, offering a great-looking 3D action
adventure.

LucasArts is yet another U.S. publisher with a new boss ready to make
what some might euphemistically refer to as “difficult
decisions”–meaning layoffs. Last summer, just a few months after his
appointment, Jim Ward laid off a slew of internal developers, stating
that outside developers would be the way forward under a strategy of
fewer but better products. New production and marketing chiefs were
also brought in help to manage the new regime. Mercenaries and Knights
of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords were both created by independent
developers (Pandemic and Obsidian respectively), while Galaxies came
from Sony Online.

But this trimming down is mere preparation for the next generation. The
company believes it can raise more revenues through fewer releases
based on Star Wars (and Indiana Jones), while growing through organic
development of new IP. Safely housed in the Lucas complex in San
Francisco’s Presidio, the empire is preparing to strike back.