How Video Games Saved Star Wars | NowThis Nerd

– Hello everyone, I'm Andrew, and 'Star Wars' season is just around the corner Between 'The Mandalorian,' 'Rise of the Skywalker,' and 'Jedi: Fallen Order,' we're about to witness the firepower of Disney's fully operational multimedia onslaught

Corporations! – It is unavoidable – It's hard to believe there was once a time when 'Star Wars' was way more scarce, but between 'Return of the Jedi' and 'The Phantom Menace,' fans endured a 16-year drought of new Star Wars cinema Thankfully, the saga was kept alive through a vibrant expanded universe, tons of incredible toys, and some of the greatest video games ever made For a lot of fans, Star Wars games were their entry point into the series, and for some, they're the high-water mark, so today, we're taking a look at the evolution of Star Wars video games, how they carried the torch during its darkest days, and why they took such a drastic downturn in quality So, shine up your swoop bikes, hop in the Ebon Hawk, and kiss your closest Kyle Katarn, because this is How Video Games Kept Star Wars Alive

George Lucas was a pioneer in more ways than one, revolutionizing special effects, revitalizing science-fiction serials, and redefining what was the big-budget blockbuster, but his smartest move might have been making sure he got a piece of the merch He turned down a higher salary in order to keep his licensing rights, a decision seen as foolish in an era where movies were just movies, not IP factories designed to sell toys, soda, shampoo, really oddly shaped lollipops, and, of course, video games – I'm going in! (screams) (explosion booming) – Some game, huh? – Some game! – Lucas's foresight earned him hundreds of millions of dollars, and ensured Star Wars would endure forever, so let's take a look at the early games 'A New Hope' premiered a hair, just a slither too early to capitalize on the golden age of arcade games By 1977, the medium hadn't made much progress beyond 'Pong,' and 'Space Invaders' was still a year away, but there was an unofficial cassette, yes, a cassette, for the Apple II that gave us our first taste of Star Wars at home It was not, however, approved by Lucasfilm, because games based on movies didn't exist yet

Can you imagine? A world in which 'Captain America: The First Avenger' didn't come out on Xbox The first licensed game didn't come out until 1982, an adaptation of Lucas's own 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' The same year, the Atari 2600 saw the first official Star Wars game with 'The Empire Strikes Back,' allowing players to experience the Battle of Hoth for the first of many, many, many times – You found something? – Yes, my lord – That's it? – Early 8-bit systems also had a 'Return of the Jedi' game, as well as the first title not directly adapting a movie, 'Jedi Arena

' – [Narrator] You are entering a battlefield of the future The 'Star Wars: Jedi Arena' (upbeat music) – Remember that scene in 'New Hope' when Luke's on the Millennium Falcon, he's like training with that whiffle ball thing? – See, you can do it – Would you pay 60 bucks to play an entire game built around it? Today, probably not, but back then, it was our first opportunity to control a lightsaber – You've taken your first step into a larger world

'83 also saw the release of Atari's iconic arcade game, putting players in the cockpit of Luke's X-Wing, to destroy the Death Star in an endless loop of vector graphics and impressive voice samples – [Han] Great shot, kid, that was one in a million! – 'Return of the Jedi' marked the end of the original trilogy, but Star Wars would live on in arcades, and even survive the console market crash, giving us games like the insanely difficult 'Super Star Wars' series – [Narrator] Do you have what it takes to take on the Empire, find out with 'Super Star Wars' Available now – A game is very hard

– (beep) that game – (beep) that game There was still a ton of untapped potential within the franchise, but the problem was, none of these games were developed in-house, they were all licensed to third-party developers, which is weird, because Lucas had already been making games for years, and not just any games, I'm talking straight-up masterpieces, I'm talking about LucasArts (speaking in foreign language) Say what you will about his screenwriting skills, or his ability to direct actors, but George Lucas is a very forward-thinking guy He knows what he's doing – Digital Magic

– He was an early advocate of Hollywood's digital future, and used his Star Wars money to form the Lucasfilm Computer Division in 1979 Part of that group would eventually become Pixar – I am your father – No! – While the team focused on games was spun off into LucasArts in 1982 Unfortunately, because he had already sold the Star Wars license, LucasArts had to be creative

With future legends Ron Gilbert and Tim Schaeffer in tow, they innovated the graphic adventure genre with titles like 'Maniac Mansion,' and 'The Secret of Monkey Island,' a game that to this day slaps – Ooh – Ooh – [Producer] I love you Tim – Thanks Tim

They were critical darlings, and presently still hold up among the all-time greats, but they never sold much, because frankly, I mean they weren't Star Wars – Ooh, I feel tragically empty – Me too, it's as tough an integral part of my essence has been ripped from my being – In 1993, the license finally came home, and for their first in-house production, LucasArts used their experience on World War II flight sims to create the iconic 'X-Wing' series, a complex simulator that put players in the cockpit of their favorite vehicles and vessels 'X-Wing' and 'TIE Fighter' were just the beginning, throughout the decade, LucasArts published a diverse slate of spectacular Star Wars games

Today, your average big licensed game is either an FPS, a third-person action game, or some mobile nonsense, but in the good old days, there was pretty much a Star Wars game for literally every genre Were you a big fan of 'Doom' who'd rather shoot Imperials than Imps? 'Dark Forces' has you covered, a series that evolved into the fan-favorite 'Jedi Knight' Can't get enough 'Age of Empires,' but you prefer Y-Wings to war elephants? 'Galactic Battlegrounds' is the game for you, baby From the dynamic dogfights of 'Rogue Squadron' to the rail-shooting of 'Rebel Assault,' there was a Star Wars game for every type of player, even ones who just wanted to mess around on their Windows 95 machines at work They weren't all winners, but it was a time of relative drought for Star Wars

The Expanded Universe was keeping the franchise alive in our hearts and minds, and directly inspired crossover titles like 'Shadows of the Empire,' my first Star Wars game, but beyond the hardcore fans, there wasn't much to engage the more casual crew, except for the video games I'm sure a lot of Star Wars fans bought 'Rogue Squadron,' but I bet there were even more kids who had been born long after 'Return of the Jedi,' desperate to put their N64 Expansion Paks to use on some awesome X-Wing action And once they pressed start, the compelling world and iconic designs of the 'Star Wars' galaxy had hooked a new generation of fans, just in time for the Special Edition re-releases, and the long-awaited prequel trilogy With movies dropping every three years, LucasArts focused on crafting experiences centered around the new films The games were still solid, but that was before, before the dark times

The EA Error It's in the game Oh, what's in the game? – Micro-transaction – Oh! – What's in the loot box? (gunshots booming) Now, to be fair, Electronic Arts wasn't entirely to blame for 'Star Wars' games losing their way, LucasArts had already actually begun to botch it They were still releasing once-in-a-lifetime games like 2003's 'Knights of the Old Republic,' but that one was farmed out to Bioware, the RPG developer that would also be ruined by EA

– [Producer] Rest in peace 'Mass Effect' – There's more to life than this – 'KOTOR II' was similarly developed outside of LucasArts by Obsidian, of 'New Vegas' and 'The Outer Worlds' fame, just a small clap for them, because wow, just two meaty, beefy, beautiful games But strained relationships and shifting deadlines resulted in the game releasing as an essentially unfinished product Times were tough at LucasArts, in 2003, the entire company grossed $100 million, a fraction of what a single smash hit like 'Halo' could bring in

Star Wars games were saturating the market, but for every 'Republic Commando' or 'Battlefront,' high profile bombs like 'The Force Unleashed,' and the mismanaged MMO 'Star Wars Galaxies' put the company in kind of a precarious position The first layoffs began in 2010, and even though they had new titles in the works, like the Fett-focused '1313,' when Disney bought out Lucasfilm for $405 billion, god damn, the game, and LucasArts as we knew it, were lost in the transition Hey, down here, they gave my man 2 What was it> – $2

025 Billion – In cat, cold, hard cash, not credits, not hippy dippy sci-fi money, 2025 billion in cash baby A lot of talented LucasArts alum split to form their own studios, like Double Fine and Telltale, and as for Star Wars, Disney handed the exclusive license to EA, although I'm not entirely sure why They had just spent $200 million developing the so-so MMO 'The Old Republic,' but it barely made a dent in 'World of Warcraft's' dominance

You know how much I love 'World of Warcraft' I guess since EA was the biggest publisher out there, Disney thought, obviously, they must be the best, right? The first fruit of this unholy union was 'Battlefront,' an absolutely gorgeous reboot that made up for its lack of substance, with a whole lot of sizzle and future potential It was a huge success too, so much so that EA pulled resources away from 'Uncharted' designer Amy Hennig's 'Project: Ragtag' to focus on the sequel Unfortunately, things got ugly with 'Battlefront II' EA's insistence on predatory lootboxes and live service elements proton torpedoed the series' reputation, and conflicts with Lucasfilm killed 'Ragtag' before it could take off, which brings us to today, and to 'Jedi: Fallen Order

' And I've gotta say, it looks pretty good You put some Star Wars in my 'Dark Souls,' and baby, you've got a sci-fi stew cooking, I'm there, I'm with you, but even with a new hope on the horizon, we'll probably never see a streak as incredible as the old LucasArts In the glory days, there were dozens of different Star Wars games, spanning vastly different genres, creating beloved sub-franchises that further enriched George Lucas's legendary world And that was without multiple Star Wars movies grossing billions of dollars every single year! Video games were as much a part of Star Wars as the films, the books, the comics, and toys, and Star Wars had a healthy place inside the larger gaming ecosystem, but today, they're just another commodity in Disney's portfolio, designed for massive returns on bloated triple-A budgets Can 'Fallen Order' right the ship, and bring balance back to the Force? It's a great start, kid, but don't get cocky

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