A month before Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18, Electronic Arts (EA) will release the first Star Wars console video game since Disney shut down game development at LucasArts in 2013.
After acquiring Lucasfilm, LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound for $4 billion in October 2012, Disney (DIS) halted all development at video game developer LucasArts in April 2013, laid off most of the staff—LucasArts remains open as a publisher and licensor—and canceled the two games its developers were working on, Star Wars: First Assault and Star Wars 1313. In May 2013, Disney signed a 10-year exclusive licensing deal with Electronic Arts to make Star Wars games.
Star Wars: Battlefront, an online multiplayer game for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation, based on Episodes IV-VI, will ship November 17. It’s the first game to launch from the company’s EA partnership.
Michael Pachter, analyst for Wedbush Securities, believes the previous Star Wars: Battlefront console games, published by LucasArts in in 2004 and 2005, sold about 8 million copies globally. He forecasts the new EA Star Wars: Battlefront game will sell 10 million copies worldwide, despite facing off at retail this fall against other shooters like Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and Microsoft’s Halo 5: Guardians.
“It’s Star Wars, and the brand has a much broader level of recognition than the other games, period,” Pachter says. “Grandma will buy Star Wars over the other two as a holiday gift, because she doesn’t know what Halo is.”
Peter Warman, CEO of video game research firm Newzoo, believes this game will be hugely successful because “AAA” games, games with the largest development and marketing budgets, are always welcomed by gamers and DICE (a Swedish game development company owned by EA that is designing the game) is known for making top quality games. In addition to a successful launch, Warman forecasts that EA will profit from post-launch monetization through downloadable content—Star Wars: Battlefront has a downloadable level set within Jakku, a planet that will be introduced in the new movie.
EA will also benefit from Disney’s massive global marketing push for the franchise anticipated this fall. In addition to The Force Awakens, Disney’s first spinoff film, Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One, hits theaters in 2016. Pachter believes film fans will want to jump into X-Wings and TIE Fighters after watching the 3D movie.
Ada Duan, vice president of digital business and franchise management at Lucasfilm, says EA was offered unprecedented access to Lucasfilms’ archives and resources.
“We chose EA because they have talented developers like DICE and we had a shared vision for the future of Star Wars in games,” Duan says. “This is not a normal licensing relationship. It’s a deep partnership. We’ve worked with DICE in Stockholm for two years and they’re doing something to inspire players to create their own epic Star Wars battle fantasies. The Star Wars experience won’t be complete until you see the movie and play the game.”
Correction, May 1, 2015: The original headline on this article suggested that Disney was producing the new Star Wars game. It is only licensing the brand to Electronic Arts.