Entertainment giant Disney announced Wednesday that veritable gaming institution LucasArts, a publisher responsible for at least a dozen of the most influential games ever created, is no more.
Sources reportedly told Kotaku's Jason Schreier that 150 members of the company's staff were laid off Wednesday morning and the games they were all working on, "Star Wars: First Assault" and "Star Wars 1313," have been canceled.
The company was acquired along with LucasFilm in last year's $4 billion mega-buyout that made "Star Wars" creator George Lucas the second largest single shareholder residing in the house of mouse, paving the way for fresh talent to take over the "Star Wars" franchise and create new films.
While many fans were split over the announcement, anticipation has been building for the next "Star Wars" film, which is said to feature the actors from the original trilogy in some form or fashion. Speculation has pointed to Disney zeroing in on the expanded "Star Wars" universe of books for material, some of which features the further adventures of Luke, Han and Princess Leia after the events of "Return of the Jedi."
Gamers, however, will not be pleased to hear about the demise of LucasArts, which seemed to be on the comeback after most of its games fell short of critical acclaim over the last 10 years. The studio's better recent releases included "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed" and "The Force Unleashed II," and those games' follow-up, "Star Wars 1313," generated significant buzz at the 2012 E3 trade conference in Los Angeles for its highly realistic graphics and cinematic approach to gameplay.
Despite that seemingly positive trajectory, LucasArts' "Kinect Star Wars" for Microsoft's motion-sensing gameplay device, released exactly one year ago as of today, was an abysmal failure and drew widespread mockery from "Star Wars" fans for its dance-a-long gameplay segments featuring the beloved sci-fi saga's characters getting jiggy to pop music.
If there's any cause for a new hope among gamers, it's that Disney is still keeping the LucasArts brand alive and the company's own game development studio is no slouch. Although nearly all of Disney Interactive's games are somehow tied to Disney's movie properties, recent entries in their "Kingdom Hearts" and "Epic Mickey" series won both critics' admiration and gamers' dollars. Ultimately, there's no reason to believe Disney cannot put adequate development know-how behind future interactive "Star Wars" properties.
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