Electronic Arts (EA) is shockingly shutting down their in-house video game developer, Visceral Games, and indefinitely delaying the studio’s highly-anticipated Star Wars game. The studio – best known for their critically and commercially successful Dead Space series as well as the recent Battlefield spinoff, Battlefield Hardline – has been making games under EA’s label (originally as EA Redwood Shores) for almost 20 years, and their latest project was an action-adventure title set within the original Star Wars trilogy.
The untitled adventure game is a product of EA’s multi-title, multi-year exclusive licensing agreement with Disney. Shortly after acquiring Lucasfilm, the Mouse House closed down the company’s beloved in-house gaming studio, LucasArts, and licensed the property out to EA for development. The first triple-A game to come out of that agreement was DICE’s Star Wars Battlefront, and the game’s upcoming sequel, Star Wars Battlefront II, will be the second game. Aside from the Battlefront series, EA currently has three other Star Wars-related projects in development from BioWare, Respawn Entertainment, and Visceral Games – though the latter studio just suffered a major setback.
EA executive vice president Patrick Söderlund announced this afternoon that the publisher will be shutting down Visceral Games and moving the studio’s development team to other projects and developers. Moreover, Visceral’s highly-anticipated Star Wars project – code-named Project Ragtag – will be shepherded by developers from EA Worldwide Studios, who will be led by a team from EA Vancouver. An exact reason for closing the studio wasn’t given, though Söderlund did provide an insight into their plan for the Star Wars game.
“In [Project Ragtag’s] current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game. Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. 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. We will maintain the stunning visuals, authenticity in the Star Wars universe, and focus on bringing a Star Wars story to life. Importantly, we are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore.”
What’s interesting is that this news comes mere months after EA opted not to showcase the game during their E3 2017 press briefing earlier this year, and instead focus entirely on Star Wars Battlefront II. However, new details emerged online and, from what was revealed, it sounded like the game would have been exactly what gamers were looking forward to when it was announced that former Naughty Dog creative director Amy Hennig had joined the project. Unfortunately, with Visceral shutting down and the game being refocused, an EA spokesperson told Kotaku‘s Justin Schreier that Hennig is unsure if she’ll continue working on the title.
EA spokesperson tells me: "We are in discussions with Amy [Hennig] about her next move."— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) October 17, 2017
Söderlund concluded his statement with an attempt to reassure fans that they are taking “the time to get each game right, to make it unique, to make it amazing” – and that means missing the game’s planned FY2019 release. While Project Ragtag may eventually hit store shelves, it certainly won’t be in the same condition that was initially promised to fans, and after the cancellation of Star Wars: 1313, Disney needs another Star Wars game that doesn’t hinge on multiplayer.
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