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Disney shuts down LucasArts

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Gamers who felt a great disturbance in the Force Wednesday -- as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced -- weren't imagining things.

Disney has shuttered LucasArts, the long-running game development wing of Lucasfilm, effectively ending all internal development at the company and laying off the majority of the staff.

Moving forward, the company that brought forth such gaming classics as Grim Fandango, Sam & Max and The Secret of Monkey Island will only be a shell whose name is used to license games.

"After evaluating our position in the games market, we've decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company's risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games," Disney said in a statement. "As a result of this change, we've had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles."

[Related: Lego Star Wars toy resembles mosque, critics say]

The news is hard to bear for fans of the developer's many hit franchises. Founded back in 1982, LucasArts (then known as Lucasfilm Games) initially focused on original games co-created with Atari. The company would find its groove courtesy the then-lucrative adventure game genre, to which it contributed all-time greats like Maniac Mansion and the Monkey Island series. Eventually LucasArts began mining the Star Wars license, leading to terrific franchises like X-Wing, Dark Forces, Battlefront and Knights of the Old Republic, which kicked off the company's collaboration with the hit-making studio, Bioware.

Unfortunately, it made plenty of bad games as well. And in recent years, the company has seemed to be somewhat rudderless, failing to launch a real hit and scrubbing a few promising titles, like a new Battlefront installment and a new entry in the Indiana Jones gaming series. Its last game was last year's Kinect Star Wars, which was savaged by critics.

Once Disney acquired Lucasfilm last October, questions began to swirl about the fate of the gaming arm. While Disney made no announcements and staff kept working on games optimistically, the fact that Disney has been pulling out of internal development for most console and PC games was an ominous sign, though the company also recently revealed an ambitious undertaking in Disney Infinity, a toy/game hybrid based on a variety of Disney franchises.

As for the fate of promising upcoming games like Star Wars: 1313 and Star Wars: First Assault, a Disney spokesperson refutes reports that both have been cancelled.

"It is worth noting that we are looking for proven external partners who can help us provide video games to our fans," the representative told Game Informer. "We still believe in the video game industry, we still will provide Star Wars games, we're just looking at different models rather than internal production... They're evaluating everything. There's always a possibility that it [Star Wars 1313] can still come out via licensing."

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