In a recent interview with Empire Magazine, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy stressed the importance of Star Wars games to canon:
“There’s intention around [bringing in elements from games], because there’s a huge investment by people in Star Wars along the way. We have fun identifying who carries forward, and what we reference, and the history. You always want to feel that there’s a history behind everything that’s happening in Star Wars.”Kathleen Kennedy
And yet, even though Star Wars Celebration Anaheim was the first Celebration since 2019, there was no dedicated Lucasfilm Games panel. The biggest gaming news out of Star Wars Celebration was Jedi: Survivor.
The only dedicated game panel was Star Wars: Hunters – Welcome to the Greatest Show in the Galaxy. While not the most exciting of the upcoming releases, Star Wars: Hunters is still coming out this year, so they had to have a panel. And the free-to-play game developed by Zynga and NaturalMotion will be the most accessible game on this list, available to Android, iOS, and Nintendo Switch.
Star Wars: Hunters is set after the fall of the Galactic Empire and features an Ugnaught, Jawas, Wookiees, and a droid programmed to think it can use the Force. There was a little story discussion, highlighting a character, Rieve, who will be the main character from the upcoming novel Star Wars Hunters: Battle for the Arena (which will be released November 1). The game will also introduce a new planet to canon called Vespaara. So, even though it is a game optimized for mobile, Star Wars: Hunters is still contributing significantly to canon.
Strangely, we have a release date from a Star Wars Hunters novel and still do not have the release date of the actual Star Wars: Hunters game. The marketing campaign for Star Wars: Hunters has been nonexistent for what is, by most standards, a solid game (a soft launch started late last year in certain territories). But Lucasfilm did not even live stream this panel. All the news came from social media and articles.
For the gaming community, it might be easier to ignore a Star Wars: Hunter panel, but it would have been harder to brush off a dedicated Lucasfilm Games Panel.
Since the last Star Wars Celebration, Disney resurrected Lucasfilm Games from the dead and named the division the official identity for all gaming titles from Lucasfilm. The increasing importance of the gaming division to the Star Wars franchise (and the lack of game releases from EA) seemed like the reason for Lucasfilm opening up Star Wars games to other developers. EA has held the Star Wars license since 2012 and has squandered the coveted deal with just four games. And infamously, EA introduced aggressive microtransactions to Star Wars: Battlefront II, which was so divisive that former CEO Bob Iger reportedly had to step in and kill it. So opening up to other developers was exciting news for gaming and canon fans, who were hoping to see different types of games.
And Star Wars gaming is not lacking new and upcoming releases:
Recent Heavy Hitters
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
One of the panels that included gaming was the LEGO panel but LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga could have also had a presence on a gaming-focused panel. The long-awaited game was finally released a month before Celebration. That is enough time for die-hard gamers to complete the narrative story, but it is also the most successful LEGO global game launch ever. And the LEGO panel focused more on the LEGO set tie-ins for the game than the actual game. Therefore, there is no reason why the Games and Animation division of LEGO could not do an additional gaming panel with some new details and insights.
Jedi: Fallen Order
Believe it or not, Jedi: Fallen Order was ALSO released in between Star Wars Celebrations (coming out after Celebration Chicago one in November). Looking back at the breakthrough game which has been incredibly influential in canon with a panel was a no-brainer. And it would have been the perfect panel to release the teaser of Jedi: Survivor. Having more of a Jedi: Fallen Order presence would have only built up the hype even more for a teaser of the second installment. So why Lucasfilm pulled back on celebrating this gaming series is a head-scratcher.
Star Wars Squadrons
While not the juggernaut of Jedi: Fallen Order, Star Wars Squadrons from EA had solid sales and made many Star Wars fans’ dreams come true: A first-person flying game that could be played with flight sticks and a VR headset. Plus, another canon story that involved a few favorites from animation (Hera) and publishing (Rae Sloane).
The past three years since Celebration Chicago has seen consistent releases of major Star Wars titles with Fallen Order, Squadrons, and LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. And, while Fallen Order is probably the only franchise that could warrant a single panel (wait until KoTOR gets close to release), all three would have made it a must for Star Wars fans. Even so, there were still things to hype other than Jedi: Survivor.
Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic
When a Knights of the Old Republic remake was announced at PlayStation’s showcase in Q3 of 2021, it trended the rest of the day on Twitter. A game that is as important to the Star Wars franchise as the films (I would argue more than some films), KoTOR will be one of the most anticipated releases whenever the release year gets decided. Granted, building a remake from scratch is not a small feat, and there will be scrutiny if Lucasfilm “messes it up” so it is understandable if they hold this one close until a release date announcement.
Still, people are so desperate for this era of storytelling, rumors are materializing of appearances in live-action. A nice little “this is still happening and get excited” mention would not hurt.
Star Wars Eclipse
This one is easier to understand why there is radio silence. The choice to give a developer like Quantic Dream the gift of the first High Republic game was, quite frankly, a poor decision from Lucasfilm. There are no doubt hard-working, good people, at Quantic Dream. But the reality, spearheaded by the CEO, David Cage, is one of sexual harassment and toxic work culture. As such, the developer is reportedly struggling to find top developer talent. Eclipse was already looking at 3-4 years from a release date, but with the whiplash reaction from the trailer to the Quantic Dream logo, the cinematic trailer may be the only thing we will see of this game.
Then again, Quantic Dream could get acquired by a less terrible company and restructure and rebrand the studio to make it worthy of the inclusive High Republic.
The Ubisoft Open World Game and the Amy Hennig Game
Both of these are fairly recent additions to the upcoming slate. The Ubisoft announcement came in January 2021, and there has been very little new information. The only news has come from job listings, which hint at familiar and new terrain and aerial vehicles. At least the project is still happening. But since it is, Ubisoft and Lucasfilm Games have to have an idea of the story, which would be enough to get fans excited. However, I will give them the benefit of the doubt that they want to share something worthwhile. I will be keeping an eye out for Celebration UK in April 2023.
No, I would not expect anything from the Amy Hennig/ Skydance New Media game, but, surprisingly, they did not save this announcement for Star Wars Celebration. This news broke in April 2022, a month before the convention, and could have been a great note to end a gaming panel.
Hennig was involved in other Star Wars games that have never made it into production, most recently an EA title rooted in deep storytelling. The reported reason: EA wanted to focus on online content vs. single-player games, and Project Ragtag (working title) would take too long to develop.
This new game could be a retooling of Ragtag or a new concept, but both Hennig and Lucasfilm have the motivation to get this project to the finish line. Why not give fans who also want to see a key figure behind Uncharted succeed in Star Wars a reason to believe that this game will be the one to happen?
Star Wars Celebration Anaheim was the perfect place to have a “Future of Gaming” panel and for some key Lucasfilm Games executives to show face and talk about some of the recent projects and give hints about what is in the pipeline. Yes, games are in development all the time and do not always make it to production, but there were things to talk about in addition to Star Wars: Hunters.
Lucasfilm Games has to be bigger than the Jedi: Fallen Order and Knights of the Old Republic franchise, and Lucasfilm has to elevate all of the games now that all will have story elements that will contribute to canon. But if they can not show support at their main convention, then a new day for Star Wars games might still be far, far away.