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'Star Wars' Saga to Continue in the Game

31 May, 2005 By: John Gaudiosi

Star Wars Battlefront II

With the “Star Wars” film saga now complete (save for the 3-D theatrical versions that George Lucas said he will do), the future of the series will continue on the small screen through new video games and a pair of TV series.

On the game side, LucasArts has been restructured under President Jim Ward, who also serves as VP of marketing and distribution for Lucasfilm.

“We want to put the Lucas back in LucasArts,” Ward said. “George stands for creativity, storytelling and pushing the envelope on technology in order to tell better stories. We want to take our strong technological background, marry that with great game storytelling and characters, and get people excited about LucasArts games again.”

LucasArts is riding a string of successes in its “Star Wars” franchise. Star Wars Battlefront, which sold 1.5 million copies in its first month last September, has a big sequel shipping this fall. LucasArts is expected to cross-market Star Wars Battlefront II (Xbox, PlayStation 2, PC and PSP) with the release of the Star Wars Episode III DVD, which Lucas confirmed would ship before Christmas. LucasArts included an Xbox game demo on the Star Wars Trilogy DVD set last September, which helped turn that title into the best-selling “Star Wars” game of all time. A similar plan is expected this fall, once Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment officially announces the release date for the DVD. Lucas also said a boxed set of all six DVDs was in the works for 2006, giving LucasArts yet another opportunity to cross-promote future games next year.

“We launched a video game day and date with a DVD. That's never happened in the retail space,” Ward said. “You can see the results, and that both excites us and shows us that the marketplace is ready for major entertainment events like this.”

As part of its 10-month restructuring process, LucasArts is focusing on fewer, bigger games in an attempt to become like a Pixar of gaming, according to Peter Hirschmann, VP of product development, LucasArts.

“Our focus going forward will be on consoles and on next-generation consoles beginning in 2007,” Hirschmann said.

LucasArts has had great success with the release of the Revenge of the Sith game for Xbox and PS2, which is the fastest-selling “Star Wars” game in history. That game will have a large window of cross-marketing opportunity, including the DVD release of the record-breaking film this fall.

“We're trying to tie our game launches into big media events like theatrical and DVD launches,” Hirschmann said.

Other successful games include Star Wars Republic Commando (PC and Xbox) and Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic (PC and Xbox).

At his Skywalker Ranch in San Rafael, Calif., during the press junket for Revenge of the Sith, Lucas talked about the growing synergy between LucasArts and his other companies.

“JAK Productions and Skywalker Sound will stay at the Ranch, and everyone else is going to be at the Presidio,” Lucas said. “LucasArts and ILM will be using the same servers and exchanging ideas, which will make both companies stronger.”

Technology and creativity will flow freely come July, when the Presidio complex that Lucas built opens. The “Star Wars” franchise will move to TV in the coming years, and new game experiences are expected as an off-shoot of this.

“We're going to develop a 3-D computer-animated, half-hour TV series based on ‘The Clone Wars' from Episodes II and III,” Lucas said. “We tested this concept with traditional animation on Cartoon Network (now available on DVD from Fox), and it did very well. This new series will be more dramatic and will focus more on characters and not just all action, like the animated show.”

Lucas also said that a one-hour, live-action series based on minor characters from the movie series is in the works.

“It's a spin-off and will be a different world unto itself,” Lucas said. “It will take place between Episodes III and IV. Similar to what we did with ‘The Young Indiana Jones' TV series, we hope to bring in a lot of great directors to helm each episode.”

Speaking of “Indiana Jones,” LucasArts will revive that franchise on next-gen consoles in 2007.

“There's no reason ‘Indiana Jones' shouldn't become in the game world what ‘James Bond' has become,” Ward said. “We want to reinvigorate this franchise, and I think we can release new ‘Indiana Jones' games on a yearly basis.”

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