Electronic Arts has a Star Wars problem. Ever since signing an exclusive Star Wars licensing deal with Disney and Lucas Arts in 2014, EA has continually piloted its star destroyer into a PR asteroid field. The publisher’s past hiccups mostly involve the self-admitted mishandling of the Star Wars: Battlefront franchise, but there are other issues that have damaged EA’s reputation with the Star Wars brand.
Star Wars game cancellations are now a recurring problem rather than an isolated one. According to a Kotaku report, three anonymous sources indicated that EA canceled its untitled open world Star Wars game code-named Orca in favor of focusing on a smaller-scale Star Wars project. EA Vancouver started developing Orca in late 2017 and would have involved: “playing as a scoundrel or bounty hunter who could explore various open-world planets and work with different factions across the Star Wars universe.”
EA’s decision is puzzling. Prior to Orca’s existence, EA already had a smaller Star Wars project helmed by Uncharted writer Amy Hennig and Dead Space studio Visceral Games, yet EA cancelled the game and shuttered Visceral in late 2017 in favor of the now dead open world game. After Visceral’s closure, EA stated: “It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design.”
Orca’s nullification shows EA can’t stop pivoting. The report indicates that EA desires a Star Wars game they can publish by 2020, and while it’s unclear by what EA wants from a smaller scale project, it’s possible that EA would’ve been better off if they had let Visceral and Amy Hennig finish their game rather than cutting them loose. The publisher still hasn’t caught a break from Star Wars: Battlefront 2’s lootbox backlash, and with their exclusive Star Wars publishing deal set to expire in 2023, the window for EA to create the Star Wars game players crave may be closing.