EA Cancels Open-World Star Wars Game [Updated]

Concept art from Visceral’s Ragtag game

Electronic Arts has canceled its open-world Star Wars game, according to three people familiar with goings-on at the company. The game, announced alongside the shutdown of Visceral Games back in 2017, had been in development at EA’s large office in Vancouver.

EA Vancouver, a large studio that mostly handles support for a variety of the publisher’s games including FIFA and Battlefront, had been working on this open-world Star Wars game since October 2017, when EA closed Visceral Games. Until then, Visceral—best known for its popular Dead Space horror series—was developing its own Star Wars game.

That project, code-named Ragtag, was a linear action-adventure game directed by Uncharted director Amy Hennig. EA Vancouver had been assisting on the project, and when EA closed Visceral Games on October 17, 2017, the Vancouver studio took it over.

But it wouldn’t be accurate to say that EA Vancouver’s Star Wars was the same game as Ragtag. When EA Vancouver took over, it rebooted this Star Wars project entirely, keeping some of the art assets but transforming it into an open-world game.

Now, that project is canceled, too. (EA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

EA had not shown any of EA Vancouver’s open-world Star Wars game publicly, but the publisher talked about it when it announced Visceral’s demise. “It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design,” the company said at the time.

“A development team from across EA Worldwide Studios will take over development of this game, led by a team from EA Vancouver that has already been working on the project.”

In June 2018, EA announced that it had expanded its Motive studio—previously a single office in Montreal led by industry veteran Jade Raymond — to a Vancouver location as well. That one would also be located in the publisher’s large office in Burnaby, British Columbia, as a division of EA Vancouver.

On October 22, 2018, EA announced that it had installed executive Samantha Ryan to oversee Motive. Subsequently, Raymond left the company.

It’s not clear what EA Vancouver’s next new game will be. We’ve heard it might be a different Star Wars project. Respawn, the Los Angeles-based studio responsible for Titanfall, is also making a Star Wars game, called Jedi: Fallen Order. That game is currently scheduled for late 2019.

UPDATE: Since the publication of this article, I’ve talked to several more people familiar with EA Vancouver’s now-cancelled open-world Star Wars game. This project, which was code-named Orca, was very early in development but would involve playing as a scoundrel or bounty hunter who could explore various open-world planets and work with different factions across the Star Wars universe.

When EA’s top decision-makers looked at their road map for the next few years, they decided that they needed something earlier than the planned release date for Orca, according to two people familiar with what happened. So they cancelled Orca in favor of a smaller-scale Star Wars project that’s now aimed for much sooner — likely, late 2020, which also happens to be around the time that I’ve heard next-gen consoles will launch. (Might be a bit earlier; might be a bit later. From what I’ve heard, next-gen plans are definitely still in flux.)

To EA’s credit, those people said, the publisher did not lay anyone off as part of this transition. This news comes at a time of cost-cutting across the industry, at major publishers including both EA and Activision, as we’ve reported. Some at the studio also hope that Orca might be restarted after this new project is finished.

UPDATE 2: The day after publication of this story, EA sent over the following statement:

There’s been speculation overnight about one of our Star Wars projects. As a natural part of the creative process, the great work by our team in Vancouver continues and will evolve into future Star Wars content and games. We’re fully committed to making more Star Wars games, we’re very excited about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order from Respawn, and we’ll share more about our new projects when the time is right.


Comments

    Sack EA and give this franchise to someone else for the love of God.

      Blaming EA is not the core of the issue, Disney made the call, for a company that is overprotective of the IPs they saw what their mobile games were generating profits with far less invested capital. EA promised them the same performance as mobile, lots of titles with MTX profit generation...and the one title they could deliver had to outshine mobile platform and that was impossible and instantly got them butchered.

      Every game they cancelled was either too big in scope, or not greedy enough for not only EA, but Disney... after all Disney signs off on everything at every stage of development, thats how overprotective they are.

        From the update it sounds like EA made the call.

        More specifically, it sounds like EA made the call because they don't have shit coming out any time soon and know they're about to lose the SW license in 2020, when the contract comes up for renewal. So they needed something that will make money more quickly (Read, battlefront 3)

        Last edited 17/01/19 6:59 am

          Disney would have had input into the decision as well.

            That is one of the core issues with game development. Everything that goes into a Star Wars game, the Lucasfilm Story Group (or whatever they're calling themselves now) has to sign off on. That effort takes a VERY long time when you are dealing with something as expansive as an open-world game, and that lead into delays and costs a lot of money, as every hour that the storyboard spends poring over something and trying to decide if it's star wars worthy, is a minute people aren't developing that aspect of the game. The simple truth is that a smaller scale project will cost a lot less time and money to get past the LSG and spend more time in development, and hit the shelves a lot faster for a lot less money. And even then, projects where they don't have to clear every aspect of the game with a third party cost even less. So, guess where their focus is now...

        The fact that it was yet another open world UBI snorefest is the first problem. Who cares about cancelling this product. Everything EA does with the franchise sucks

    What a waste of an IP. EA have just squandered it...

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      Maybe. I think the Respawn game will be the real test, after what happened with Battlefront.

    EA should never have been given exclusive rights. Let them license it, sure, but not exclusively.

    There hasn't been a really good new Star Wars in over a decade and EA have so far released the same mediocre multiplayer shooter twice, and fucked it up the second time.

      It might suck for fans, but it's probably worked out pretty well for Disney. Their in-house console offerings were sliding in quality, and EA is probably paying a premium for the exclusive license even when they fail to release games.

      Sure Disney would make more money if EA actually released some of these cancelled games, but they are also not on the hook for the costs of these failures.

        Depends on their agreement. If it's a flat fee structure then it's possible the games could be massively successful and Disney don't see anything from them. That said, if they were smart they'd have licensed them not just for a fee but a % of profits.

          I'm sure there is a royalty on sales in addition to a fixed fee (this would also colour what EA considers "successful").

          But from an economic standpoint the question would be "are the guaranteed payments from EA good enough to offset potential profits from competing studios producing Star Wars games?" and "is it worth sharing the profits from these games worth the removal of the risk of failure?".

          I guess the other question they should be asking is "is EA going to permanently damage the Star Wars brand?". Having multiple cancelled games probably isn't damaging, but the loot box controversy certainly seems like it could.

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      Well it made good financial sense.. until EA annoyed the house of Mouse with bad PR

    EA is such a dumpster fire of a company.

    A single-player Uncharted / God of War style hit wouldn't be good enough for them.

    Anything less than Fortnite / FIFA numbers is considered a failure.

      Episodic single player narrative Star Wars game with high production values that runs about 4-5 hours an episode and is $30 a throw. I just made a lot of money.

        But unfortunately not enough money. Game publishers nowadays don't want a lot of money they want all the money. COD made like $500 million in a few days and Activision were still disappointed.

          That's why the franchise needs to go to a new studio that can release multiple products and make the money instead of trying to luck into Star Wars: Fortnite. The branding is powerful enough to ship lots of products.

            Hell you actually just hit a money making goldmine right there. Literally all they need to do to start minting money is partner with Epic and release Star Wars: Fortnite. No gameplay changes necessary, just reskin it and set it in Star Wars locations. BOOM! Watch the money roll in.

              I don't think it would be worth paying the comms for Epic. A lot of the reason marquee franchise games are out of vogue is that you have to pay someone for the privilege on top of your $100m dev budget and it's just not worth it.

                Yeah but the dev budget is bugger all. Like I said, just reskin the existing game. Sure there's some cost with artists but it'd be a fraction of the price of a "real" game to produce.

        where in that model can I buy a dance for my Chewbacca avatar so he can do the backpack kid dance?

        See, games like that bring in okay money, but all the software industry's bean counters have a huge hard-on nowadays for "ongoing" income. Which means everything has to be an open world "service" where they can easily patch in DLC and sell you cosmetic items and so on.

      You said it man. If sony got the license, we might actually seen the SP game that a lot of us would LOVE.

      I have such great memories of Jedi Outcast and that was as linear as they come. But it was good.

    So we're now halfway through the 10 year deal, and EA have cancelled as many games as they've released.

    Battlefront 1 was a decent game with mediocre engagement but great graphics/sound design.
    Battlefront 2 actually ended up being a pretty good game, that got bombed to oblivion due to greedy publishing practises.

    Just release a new KOTOR (the Witcher 3 proved that the market for good RPGs is alive and well), and a remake of X-Wing and/or TIE Fighter. They may not be the most original ideas, but there's a significant fanbase and it's really not that hard.

      I for one would pay out of my arse for an X-wing/TIE remake with the Battlefront 2 space fighting engine. Don't change a thing, literally just take that engine, slap the story-line intact from X-wing/TIE into that and release it on PC.

        Yep, X-Wing/TIE would be incredibly simple to remake, because very little needs to be changed. Just redo it in Frostbite (because EA can't seem to function without it). The only thing they'd need to polish a bit would be controller support and then bam, you've got a cross-platform hit on your hands, with significant multiplayer PvP and Co Op potential too (I'm thinking X-Wing Alliance era multiplayer with custom scenarios etc).

        KOTOR admittedly would be a much bigger investment to get the scale and depth to required standards, but again, there's plenty of material to work with, and a huge fanbase that would buy it.

      Rogue Squadron too please (minus the horrific escort missions of course!)

      I wonder if CD Projekt would be up for doing a Star Wars RPG? They could even announce it with a "circle is now complete" quote, since The Witcher was built on a modified Bioware Aurora Engine and Bioware is now EA...

    If you play with fire you get burnt. Similarly, if you licence to EA, you get disappointment.
    Give the property to someone who can get shit finished and marketed correctly.
    EA are for share holders and corporate executives wanting nice big bonuses. Not gamers.

      To be fair, EA aligns pretty closely with Disney in terms of corporate direction, and is one of the few publishers that could take on a multi-release franchise (I'd love to see CDPR do KOTOR for example, but they'd only get the one game done in 10 years).

      Unfortunately you're absolutely right in terms of what that means for quality product and doing the franchise justice.

        I think it works for Disney due to their size and legacy. They take calculated risks. Often it works out more than it does not. Also, from recent examples, when Disney see something is going to tap out it's potential, they wrap it up before it gets stale.
        That's my perspective of them, anyhow.

        I'd love to see CDPR do KOTOR for example, but they'd only get the one game done in 10 years
        Better than the one KOTOR game EA have done in the last 15 years...

    They probably couldn't figure out how to monestise it to the nth degree without setting the internet on fire.

    EA has had exclusive rights to star wars for close to 6 years now. In that time they have put out two disappointing battlefront games and cancelled anything that wasn't chasing call of duty dollars. I can see them holding onto the series for the rest of their 10 year contract but I would be completely baffled if Disney re-upped the contract in 2023. They've completely failed to deliver on the potential of the IP and if anything devalued it due to the massive lootbox controversy surrounding it.

      Disney have done more than their fair share of franchise devaluation in that time to be fair.

      Contract renewal is in 2020, apparently.

    I hate the short-sightedness of the big industry players. The idea of a Star Wars MMO where you're a bounty hunter is really appealing. Sort of Destiny/WoW/Wildstar smooshed together but with a decidedly Star Wars flavour. So what if it doesn't make a profit now, if it takes five years to create but then goes on to make money for years (ala WoW) then it's a winner.

    The only reason I could see to stop work on it is that they don't think they'll be able to release before the license agreement expires. Then they'd be worried that Disney may not renew, or would basically have them over a barrel when it came to renegotiating the license agreement.

    I love open world games, but man id love a good linear story driven game like was originally planned. So disappointed and what a waste of a licence as amazing as star wars. Wtf are you even doing EA.

    I wouldn't be surprised if there were moves from Disney to re-negotiate the licencing agreement, and this has given EA cold feet on projects with long dev times. EA are probably looking at cranking out a few short dev time projects to capitalise on their shrinking window...

    Once again shareholders ruin games.

      I still remember the original print adverts for EA saying it was a place for electronic artists to express themselves

    Let me check my score-card...

    They've pissed away god only knows how much cash on products they never committed to, wasted Hennig and Raymond's time and talents, dumped Visceral and refuse to just put Old Republic out of its misery.

    But at least they half-arsed two Battlefronts and brought wrath down upon lootboxes. Lose/lose?

    List of ripoff games that will work in the Star Wars world:
    - Monster Hunter - travelling to different worlds hunting the beats of starwars
    - Mario carts/Crash team racing - nuff said
    - Castle crashers - 2d-ish platformer I think could be great, travelling to the different worlds and fighting little versions of everything
    - Fallout 3/4/vegas
    - Borderlands
    - Mass effect 1/2/3

    I give up, litterally most games morphed into a Starwars game could work perfectly fine

      Man, I would buy the absolute shit out of a Star Wars-themed classic side-scrolling 2D beat-em-up like Castle Crashers. Why can't that be a thing? :(

      That's the real shame of it. Star Wars is so versatile that it could be almost anything. Hitman with Boba Fett. GTA: Coruscant. Red Dead Tatooine. MGS with a Clone Trooper right before Order 66. Star Wars Jackbox is easy money. I feel like it would take a weekend to flesh out all these rip off ideas into proper tailored concepts.

    It'll give them more time to focus on Skate 4.

    Ha.

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