Lucasfilm announced on Wednesday that the France-based Ubisoft would publish an open world “Star Wars” game, development of which will be headed by Massive Entertainment’s managing editor David Polfeldt and creative director Julian Gerighty. Specific details about the upcoming game, including a release date and plot details, were not provided.
Ubisoft’s untitled “Star Wars” game marks the franchise’s first installment in the open world genre, which typically places the player character in an expansive region and gives them the freedom to complete missions using a variety of tools and abilities. Ubisoft has years of experience publishing games in the genre; the company’s “Assassin’s Creed,” “Watch Dogs,” and “Tom Clancy” franchises have all received open world installments, many of which have enjoyed commercial success.
The upcoming Ubisoft game also marks the end to American publisher Electronic Arts’ nearly eight-year monopoly on the sci-fi franchise’s video game adaptations. Electronic Arts acquired the exclusive rights to publish “Star Wars” games in 2013 — that deal expires in 2023 — and the company’s handling of the IP proved controversial; though Electronic Arts rebooted the classic “Star Wars: Battlefront” with two new titles, both games received criticism for their lack of content and monetization models. “Star Wars: Battlefront 2,” which launched with a loot box system that allowed players to spend real money to gamble on in-game items, caused the Federal Trade Commission to open an investigation into loot boxes.
“Star Wars” was one of the most well-known video game IPs in the 2000s — titles such as “”Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast” and “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic” received critical acclaim — but Electronic Arts only published four major “Star Wars” titles after acquiring exclusive publishing rights to the franchise. Though 2019’s “Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order” and 2020’s “Star Wars: Squadrons” received positive reviews, the publisher axed a handful of other projects, including the bounty hunter-focused “Star Wars 1313.” (“Star Wars: The Old Republic,” the 2011 massively multiplayer online role-playing game developed by the Electronic Arts-owned Bioware, continues to receive occasional updates.)
Electronic Arts will continue working with Lucasfilm in some capacity; Douglas Reilly, vice president of Lucasfilm Games, stated that the game publisher had a “number of projects underway” but did not offer specific details.
While Ubisoft’s upcoming “Star Wars” game marks an end to Electronic Arts’ monopolization of the IP, Ubisoft has also been the source of controversy in recent years, such as when the company was subject to a sexual misconduct probe in 2020 that resulted in three of the company’s senior executives resigning. As for Ubisoft’s games, 2020’s “Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad, which included a cutscene featuring a fictional terrorist group called UMBRA that used a black raised fist as its symbol, was criticized for playing into right-wing conspiracies about the Black Lives Matter movement. (The cutscene has since been modified.) Several of Ubisoft’s recent tentpole titles, including 2019’s “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint” and 2020’s “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla,” also received criticism for allowing customers to purchase experience points, weapons, and other items with real-world money.