Disney zaps in-house game development at LucasArts

The fate of anticipated games such as 'Star Wars: 1313' is in limbo

Walt Disney has shut down in-house development at LucasArts, the gaming arm of Lucasfilm, less than a year after buying its parent company.

The move shifts game development at the company, which included titles for both PCs and consoles, from an internal model to an outside licensing business. The company plans to pay third-party developers to make future games that would then be licensed by Lucasfilm.

Video games will still be part of Lucasfilm's business but will be developed by outside companies, Lucasfilm spokeswoman Barbara Gamlen said. As to whether LucasArts will continue to exist as a licensing company or be shut down, "no decisions have been made yet," she said.

"We've moved to a different structure and are considering whether we market under the LucasArts brand name," Gamlen added.

The business model is aimed at "minimizing the company's risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality 'Star Wars' games," LucasArts said in a statement.

Star Wars titles were a staple at LucasArts, which was founded in 1982 by filmmaker George Lucas. Recent titles included "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," "Star Wars: The Old Republic" and "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed."

Other popular LucasArts titles included "Maniac Mansion," "The Secret of Monkey Island" and "Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis."

The change will bring layoffs across the organization, though the specific number of employees losing their jobs was not immediately clear, Lucasfilm's Gamlen said.

The decision to move LucasArts to an outside licensing model was made following George Lucas' retirement from Lucasfilm and the appointment of film producer Kathleen Kennedy as president. The next trilogy of Star Wars films will also be a major focus of the company going forward, Gamlen said.

"Star Wars: 1313" and "Star Wars: First Assault" have been hotly anticipated new game titles. Gamlen did not know whether those titles would be licensed out or if they would die.

Disney acquired Lucasfilm last October in a stock and cash transaction valued at US$4.05 billion.

Development facilities at LucasArts were located in San Francisco and Singapore.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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