This month’s topic for Band of Bloggers is about cancelled projects in observation of the effects of the global pandemic. Shoggoth premiered the theme with a blog about several retro games that were either cancelled or excessively delayed and even managed to drop a second blog about Jazz Jackrabbit 3, a cancelled game he managed to play via a demo. LaTerry followed up with a blog about the Dragon Quest franchise and the frustrations of not getting North American ports of various Japanese releases. Band of Bloggers is now closing out the month with a look at the Star Wars franchise, which fell off from being one of the most popular franchises in gaming to a nearly-absent presence for a time.
In 2005, the Star Wars saga was seemingly completed with the release of the Revenge of the Sith film. In a 2008 statement, George Lucas confirmed that he did not have any plans to make future films. It marked the end of an era for major Star Wars releases, but the franchise continued to produce new content like books, comics, toys, games, and The Clone Wars animated TV series for hardcore fans. As far as George Lucas was concerned though, he had already accomplished his main goal of telling the tale of what happened in a galaxy far, far away.
The main drought for Star Wars video games occurred between ~2010-2015, which was a direct result of Disney’s acquisition, but the number of development projects for Star Wars had noticeably begun to dwindle as early as 2008. This was likely due to the general lack of interest in Star Wars at the time since there weren’t any new films to peak interest in the franchise, but the financial collapse of 2008 didn’t help either. In late 2010, LucasArts laid off a large number of its staff after failing to produce or publish any major games for several years, and continued to struggle with releasing anything noteworthy for core gaming audiences besides Bioware’s MMO The Old Republic in 2011 and yes, Lego Star Wars. LucasArts seemed to remain in a state of ambiguity until the Disney acquisition and the cease of operations in 2013, when Disney announced that EA had obtained the exclusive license to produce Star Wars video games (as a third party) through 2023. Nearly all of LucasArts’ remaining staff were subsequently laid off by Disney, and all of the studio’s projects were effectively terminated.
“Have you ever heard the tragedy of LucasArts?
It’s not a story Disney would tell you…”
Unfortunately most of the blame belongs to LucasArts, who failed to deliver a meaningful Star Wars experience to the core gaming market for years on end. The company was responsible for a long list of mediocre releases that failed to grab much attention and they shelved more than a few projects that could have been successful with proper guidance and execution. Fans will never know all of the details about Star Wars games that could have been, but some of the cancelled games did have initial public reveals, and a fair number of other projects have leaked out to the internet over the years. Listed below are some of the more infamous projects that were sent to the chopping block.
Developed by: LucasArts, ILM, Lucasfilm Animation, Skywalker Sound
Terminated in 2013
This was a game that surprised everyone, and made fans giddy with joy. The trailer for 1313 dropped at E3 in 2012 to reveal an “Uncharted” style action game running on a very impressive graphics engine for the time. The game was set to take place in the depths of the ecumenopolis known as Coruscant. More details were later revealed that suggested the protagonist would be none other than a young Boba Fett. The project unfortunately met a sad fate in 2013, which was a result of the Disney acquisition. Needless to say, the decision outraged fans. In response, Disney boss Kathleen Kennedy decided to reassess the viability of the game, but those plans were inevitably quashed in 2015.
Star Wars Battlefront 3
Developed by: Free Radical Design
Terminated in 2008
The original Battlefront series from the early 2000’s was immensely popular and beloved. A third installment in the series seemed like a sure hit, but it was canned when the publisher felt dissatisfied with the quality of the project. Rumors suggest that Battlefront 3 was nearly finished, so there must have been some serious issues with the game or the funding for it to be abandoned.
Republic Commando 2
Developed by: LucasArts, (?)
Date of termination uncertain
The first Republic Commando title arrived in 2005 and was a huge success, which prompted the sequel. Very little information has ever surfaced on this project, but that is because Republic Commando 2 was cancelled in the early planning stages of development, due to ongoing financial problems at Lucasfilm.
Battle of the Sith Lords (Darth Maul game)
Developed by: LucasArts
Terminated in 2013(?)
Darth Maul was an instant fan favorite when he stepped onto the Star Wars scene in The Phantom Menace film. The villain even went on to cheat death (a very brutal death I might add) and return to star in The Clone Wars and the Rebels animated TV series. It’s no surprise that LucasArts decided to give one of the most bad-ass lightsaber duelists in Star Wars a spin-off video game. Battle of the Sith Lords was discontinued while still in the early planning stages, but it did seem like LucasArts was on the right track towards developing something that fans would have wanted.
Developed by: LucasArts
Terminated in 2013
This game looked to be like a high intensity FPS experience with an emphasis on multiplayer. Players took control of Imperial Stormtroopers and had access to an array of weapons and equipment for battle. A tech demo aired on Xbox Live, and anyone could actually download and play it, though it was a bare-bones build that lacked multiplayer support or enemy bots to shoot at.
Unnamed linear, “Uncharted-style” action RPG
Developed by: Visceral Games, EA
Terminated in 2017
This unnamed project deserves an honorable mention, because it was a highly anticipated game that would have been the second major (non-Lego) Star Wars game to come out since The Old Republic (2011). The project was also under the direction of Amy Hennig who is famous for her lead role in the Uncharted franchise. The project was cancelled by EA after several years of development, because the publisher believed it would not be successful enough to be worthwhile.
Knights of the Old Republic 3
Developed by: Bioware
Terminated in 2004
Another honorable mention, though this game was actually cancelled due to separate financial problems with Lucasfilm back in 2004. The game was cancelled because Bioware was still an independent studio at the time and lacked the funding to produce the game independently. While the cancellation of KOTOR 3 came at a time when there were still plenty of other good Star Wars games being released, it never sat well with fans. More than 15 years later, plenty of fans are still begging for a third installment to be produced.
Forging a New Empire
Both Disney and EA’s handling of new Star Wars games has been controversial so far, but they did manage to improve public opinion over the last year by supporting Battlefront 2 despite a disastrous launch. Jedi Fallen Order was well received by critics and audiences alike too. However, many fans have been disappointed that only three major Star Wars titles have shipped since 2013, and that none of LucasArts’ concepts survived the acquisition process. It will be interesting to see what EA plans to do before their exclusive 3rd party license expires in 2023, and if licensing will open up to more publishers and developers in the future. Last year’s Vader Immortal VR series from ILMxLAB (a Lucasfilm subsidiary) drew a lot of attention and proved there is plenty of demand for more Star Wars games. It’s uncertain what’s next for Star Wars though; the Force works in mysterious ways.