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Disney Closes LucasArts

Darth VaderSince acquiring the Lucasfilm and LucasArts empires last year, Disney has mostly made noise in the Star Wars movie department with plans for Episode VII, but the company isn't about to let the rest of the Lucas empire go untouched.  Famed developer LucasArts has been flailing for a while now with a glut of lackluster Star Wars video games on store shelves (Kinect Star Wars and The Force Unleashed II come to mind) and a bunch of promising projects waiting in the wings such as Star Wars: First Assault and Star Wars 1313.  Unfortunately, Disney has decided to close LucasArts and stick to licensing the Star Wars properties to other developers rather than maintain an in-house studio.  All current projects in the works at the studio have been halted.  Kotaku has the sad news.

“After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games," LucasArts parent company LucasFilm said in a statement. "As a result of this change, we’ve had layoffs across the organization.  We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles.”

This comes after weeks and months of rumors involving the studio, which was acquired by Disney last fall. In September, LucasArts put a freeze on all hiring and product announcements, which many staff saw as the beginning of the end. In February, we started hearing rumors that the studio might be shuttered. Today, it's official: the iconic development house is gone.

The gaming community is shaken by the news and there's lots of conversation about how Disney could do this to such an important developer.  Classic games such as Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island, Sam & Max, Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango, and other beloved titles have been listed under the heading of "how could they do this?!", but the sad truth is that all of those fantastic games were released a very long time ago.  As the old saying goes, what have you done for me lately?  The last few releases from LucasArts haven't exactly measured up to their previous level of quality.  The familiar talent from the old days have long since left the company (lots of them are at Telltale Games these days).  I hate to see the company go too, but I can see Disney's side of the story on this one.  They stand to make more money by licensing Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and the other properties under the Lucas umbrella to other studios.  The industry has been contracting lately and this is just another tightening of the belt.  Still, we'll always have Maniac Mansion.