Why didn’t EA make another Knights of the Old Republic game?
Yes, I know EA has a nine year-old MMO called The Old Republic that features a ton of Star Wars-related content set in the same timeframe. But why didn’t it make a new KOTOR game on consoles and PC? Why would you acquire the Star Wars license and not make that game, when you own BioWare, the series’ original developer?
I’m sure there are lots of real-world, practical reasons why: various BioWare teams were focused on developing Anthem, Mass Effect: Andromeda and continuing a frustratingly long road to finally making Dragon Age 4. And, yes, that MMO has had significant updates in the meantime, even as the genre itself has declined in popularity.
Still, I can’t think of a game that would make more sense in our current age of The Witcher and Skyrim selling endless copies than a high-fidelity Star Wars RPG. Really, though, KOTOR 3 feels like just one of many opportunities EA has left on the table in the seven years since it landed the Star Wars license.
Now, though, I’m starting to wonder if EA has finally turned a corner with the Star Wars universe. The future doesn’t look that bright – reports say three Star Wars games have been canceled in the last few years, most notably Project Ragtag, a story-driven third-person game from Uncharted’s Amy Hennig and the long-defunct Visceral Games. But recent form from the massive publisher does suggest things are moving in the right direction.
According to an earlier Kotaku report, EA is following up last year’s smash hit Jedi Fallen Order with a sequel, which isn’t unexpected. And this week, EA announced Star Wars: Squadrons, a game that seems completely against type: a 5v5 first-person space combat game that’ll be released at a budget price, with full VR support.
This follows more than two years of well-received Star Wars: Battlefront 2 updates, after a famously bad launch. I don’t think that’s a particularly good shooter, personally, but it’s a very good Star Wars experience, and it’s packed with characters and worlds from across the series’ history.
DICE and EA turned that game around, and its availability on PS Plus should keep the player base healthy for years to come.
Has EA finally cracked Star Wars?
EA has four console/PC games to show for seven years of owning the licence, then. It’s not loads, but it’s not too bad either: as many Battlefield games have been released in that period, but that includes Battlefield 4, which EA was working on for several years before it acquired the Star Wars licence, as well as the spin-off Hardline.
Still, it feels like EA didn’t quite capitalize on the peak of interest in Star Wars that occurred around 2015-2017, when The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi came out.
There probably wasn’t enough time for EA to do much more than release its two Battlefront games in that time period, to be fair. It’s telling, though, that when Jedi Fallen Order arrived in 2019, there was enormous appetite for a (mostly) great singleplayer Star Wars game, even in a year when the worst Star Wars film of the Disney age hit the big screen.
Squadrons, meanwhile, almost directly recalls the golden age of Star Wars games. The Lucasarts X-Wing vs TIE Fighter games come to mind, when we’re talking about a meticulous space combat game that even supports flight sticks on PC. I really hope it’s as good as it looks, because it’s too specific a choice of project to feel like a cash-in.
EA’s Star Wars agreement with Disney apparently lasts for ten years, but if the next three years deliver a selection of great games that tell compelling Star Wars stories, maybe EA’s time with the license will be remembered for much more than just missed opportunities.
If it doesn’t, maybe it’s time to see what another big publisher can do with Star Wars.