There was a time when Lucasarts was one of the most revered and respected names in gaming. In the 90s not only did they produce classic adventure games such as Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango, but they also harnessed the Star Wars license to deliver classics in the form of TIE Fighter and the Jedi Knight series. Twenty years later, Lucasarts has been reduced to nothing more than a marketing label that Disney is slapping on cheap mobile cash-grab games, and doing so is hurting a gaming license that was once solid gold.
Even a decade ago you could accuse Star Wars games of not being entirely original. One could call 2003’s Star Wars Galaxies just a 3D version of Ultima Online, while BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic was not more than a 3D version of their own Infinity Engine RPG games. But even at its lowest point, even when people were putting Masters of the Teras Kasi in their PlayStations, Lucasarts never simply “reskinned” an existing hit game with Star Wars graphics for a quick buck. But that is exactly what Disney is doing with their mobile Star Wars titles.
There are console and PC gamers who like to downplay and laugh at mobile, but the fact is that is where most of the “mass market” plays games these days. There’s an incredible amount of money to be made with mobile gaming, just ask companies such as Rovio or King. But there’s also a lot of junk out there, for every Flappy Bird there are thousands of clones released by scumbag developers looking to ride the coattails of a hit. And you know what? Disney has become one of those scumbag developers with what they’re doing with Star Wars on mobile.
Instead of developing an original game, they’re taking a popular title such as NimbleBit’s Tiny Tower and having the developer slap Star Wars graphics on it and release it as Tiny Death Star. Supercell’s Clash of Clans is a huge success, so Disney cloned that with Star Wars graphics and released it as Star Wars Commander. Everyone’s played a Tower Defense game before, and there are thousands of them on the App Store, so a quick and easy cash grab for Disney is to make a Tower Defense game titled Star Wars: Galactic Defense.
Clones. They’re all clones. They’re no different than the thousand Flappy Bird rip-offs the clog up both the Apple and Android marketplaces. Yet now Disney is doing it with the Star Wars name. No longer are Star Wars games seen as something special that does the license justice, now the name is nothing more than a lure to trick someone into downloading a cloned version of a game they likely already have installed on their device.
And there’s absolutely no excuse for this outside of pure greed. Current mobile devices, especially the new iPhone 6/Plus, have more than enough horsepower to replicate similar graphical conditions to that of a previous-generation console such as the Xbox 360. There’s absolutely no reason to tarnish and cheapen the Star Wars brand with dumb mobile clones when the Lucasarts name could again be used to create rich experiences on mobile devices.
How awesome would a classic Lucasarts-style point and click adventure game based on the Star Wars saga be? Telltale Games has shown the episodic adventure games can work, even on mobile, and Disney is throwing money away by not following that lead and producing an episodic Star Wars adventure game.
What about space combat sims? Don’t bore me with your “PC master race” BS on this one, as the PC is getting Star Citizen. There have been relatively successful space combat games on mobile, why not a Star Wars one? Even an arcade-style game like Rogue Squadron would work very well on these devices, yet Disney recently cancelled a game just like that. It was only in beta, but it was at least not another mobile clone.
Electronic Arts has the Star Wars license for console and PC games for the next decade, and is working on a new Battlefront as well as an action-adventure game at EA Visceral. So there’s hope there that we’ll see some gems come out of that. But with mobile having so much momentum and marketshare with the general public, will people even notice? More people play Angry Birds than have a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One combined, so as long as Disney continues these quick mobile cash grabs with the Star Wars name the license will quickly become lost in the sea of clones…