Is EA's Exclusivity Deal For Star Wars Games Really That Bad?

By Luke Caulfield , Updated May 07, 2013 12:33 PM EDT

With the recent news of EA acquiring exclusive rights to make Star Wars video games for the next few years, audience reaction has been, well, not the best. Countless "I feel a great disturbance in the force" quotes filled a great number of threads and forums, as did this requisite gem. I was guilty of that one myself. But is all the negativity deserved?

It's obviously very popular now to hate on EA, and perhaps rightly so given their recent history with bungled launches like SimCity, associated with the dreaded "always online DRM," complaints, Day One DLC, and of course, microtransactions, something they've tried to back away from lately, but nevertheless, the reputation remains. The company has won Consumerist's "Worst Company in America" for two years running as a result.

But maybe there's hope. When announcing the news, EA Label Prsident Frank Gibeau said he was going to leave the development of the new Star Wars games up to some of EA's more renowned developers, naming DICE, Visceral, and BioWare specifically.

Alleged botched ending aside, BioWare was responsible for the Mass Effect trilogy, which was nothing less than a monumental hit, setting off an expanded universe of novelizations, movie talk, toys, board games and more. The studio also has experience with the Star Wars brand, having developed the first Knights of the Old Republic, another giant hit, and of course, Dragon Age. On the flip side, yes, they were also responsible for The Old Republic, which despite mostly positive reviews, has had its share of server troubles, irritating gamers. The studio's decision to make the game free to play has since helped detractors, and BioWare has kept up with updates and introducing new content.

DICE's biggest property is without a doubt the Battlefield series, and the studio that a lot of fans are hoping will revive the canceled, but similarly structured Star Wars: Battlefront 3. Whether you side with Battlefield or Call of Duty, you can't argue that the DICE staff knows what they're doing. True, they've lagged in terms of sales, but they've kept fans pleased with a whopping amount of DLC additions, and Battlefield 4 is one of the more eagerly awaited titles of the next console generation.

Visceral is the studio I'd be most worried about, as it's the one with a Star Wars game currently in development. The studio's most recent games (and only ones of 2013) to date have been Dead Space 3 and Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, neither of which were what you could call successful. Dead Space 3 received some positive reviews, but most declared the game to be ho-hum at best, and failed to live up to its predecessors overall. The game was obviously hampered by the decision to add in-game transactions, and The Awakened DLC was a late attempt to garner up scares the initial game never delivered. During its launch month, it only managed 650,000 sales, not a run of the mill number for EA. The Army of Two follow up fared even worse, skewered by a multitude of reviewers.
To play devil's advocate though, at least they know what not to do, right?

With more movies planned and set to shoot as early as next year, it was obviously a smart movie by EA to snag the Star Wars rights. But Disney's agreement doesn't mean they've abandoned the Magic Kingdom and switched to the dark side. I'd like to think EA's learned its lesson from consumers, and will be more than careful not to make the same mistakes, lest we all wish the future of Star Wars games was left to a studio in a galaxy far, far away.

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