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Plugged In

What does the Disney/Lucas deal mean for gamers?

Plugged In

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(Credit: Disney/Getty Images)

While there are roughly fifteen trillion (a conservative estimate) debates and arguments raging online about whether Disney taking over the Star Wars franchise is a good or bad thing, George Lucas' prominent video game arm has generally been left out of the discussion.

Once a beloved studio responsible for classics like Sam & Max, Monkey Island, and of course countless Star Wars greats, LucasArts has been fairly quiet recently, failing to produce a significant hit in years.

Thanks to its new owners, however, it looks like some big changes are on the way.

"We're likely to focus more on social and mobile than we are on console," said Disney CEO Robert Iger on a conference call Tuesday following the announcement. "We'll look opportunistically at console, most likely in licensing rather than publishing, but we think that given the nature of these characters and how well known they are, and the storytelling, that they lend themselves quite nicely, as they've already demonstrated to the other platforms."

[Related: Why Buying Star Wars Was a Brilliant Move by Disney]

There's a problem with that, though. Publishers aren't all that interested in licensed console games these days. After EA's well-publicized problems with Star Wars: The Old Republic, it's unclear if other publishers are still salivating over Star Wars gaming. When anyone, even a competitor, sinks $200 million into a game based on a massive franchise but can't find an audience, it's bound to give others pause.

That's led some analysts to wonder if Disney might actually staff up for more console games, after all.

"I think based on what we're seeing with Marvel, they're going to take it in-house," says Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter. "They have a handful of good studios in-house. … for example, Warren Spector's there. My guess is they'll go buy the capability and hire the capability. They won't screw up the Star Wars brand by handing it over to the guys who did Tron."

The design luminary behind hits like System Shock, Deus Ex and 2010's Disney-themed action game Epic Mickey, Spector is exactly the kind of game maker who could return Star Wars and Indiana Jones to console prominence. All eyes will be on his next release, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, which releases on November 18. Should that fare well, it could mean big things for Disney's console plans.

And if Disney does choose to farm out development, Pachter adds, there are plenty of good independent developers who could handle the job.

"There's guys like Obsidian out there who are free agents," he says. "There's Tim Schafer. Oh, and Cliff Bleszinski… I bet if Disney offered Cliff the chance to do the next Star Wars game he'd jump all over it."

As for games that are already in development, like the edgy Star Wars 1313 that debuted at this year's E3? LucasArts says things are still moving forward "for the time being." It's impossible to say whether it will make it to completion, though.

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