Ignoring for a moment that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order came out last year and was generally regarded as pretty alright, EA has had a hell of a time producing the goods for its exclusive Star Wars licensing agreement with Disney. According to a report published today on Kotaku, EA pulled the plug on its third unannounced Star Wars project in as many years, code name “Viking,” sometime in the spring of 2019, according to “six people familiar with EA’s inner workings” who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
According to Kotaku, Viking was a spin-off of EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront series, which is no stranger to its own set of complications. Aside from the fact that Viking would have “open-world elements,” no further details are provided about what kind of game it was to be, though as a spin-off of the Battlefront series, one can make assumptions.
Viking’s development was split between two international EA-owned studios: EA Vancouver (née EA Canada, née née Distinctive Software) and Guildford, England’s Criterion Games. EA Vancouver had been working on Viking since 2018, when EA cancelled another Star Wars project in development at the studio, code name “Orca.” Orca was born from the ashes of a third Star Wars game, code name “Ragtag,” which originally began production at Visceral Games in 2015. EA cancelled Ragtag and burned Visceral to the ground in 2017, at which point Ragtag’s art assets and other reusable ephemera were shipped to EA Vancouver to seed the beginnings of Orca.
Once Orca was cancelled and EA Vancouver had been grinding on Viking for a hot minute, Criterion was brought on as the lead studio. This is where the tauntaun hit the lightsaber according to Kotaku, as the international logistics of managing Viking’s development proved too great to overcome in time for the game’s intended launch window of holiday 2020. EA’s whole plan was to have this game finished in time to fill an empty slot in its release schedule for this year’s new console launch season — an empty slot caused by EA’s prior cancellation of Orca — and once it became clear that Viking would miss this deadline, EA cut its losses for a third time. There is, currently, no game poised to fill this void in EA’s 2020 holiday calendar, according to Kotaku.
Since signing its licensing agreement with Disney in 2013, which gave EA exclusive rights to produce big-budget Star Wars games for consoles and PC, EA has released three Star Wars games: Star Wars: Battlefront, Star Wars: Battlefront 2, and the aforementioned Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The exact terms of EA’s deal with Disney are unknown, so we’ve no idea if or when the agreement expires, or under what conditions. Disney could have stipulated that the agreement’s perpetual continuation is contingent on any number of factors, including (but not limited to): releasing a minimum quota of Star Wars games within a certain time frame; releasing X number of Star Wars games with a minimum average Metacritic rating of Y.Y; pulling in $Z in revenue through Star Wars games regardless of how many are released; and so on.
Given that EA seems to have no qualm with dunking years of work on these games into the garbage, it doesn’t appear to be particularly concerned with hitting any specific quota for its Star Wars endeavors. Either that, or the quota was “three games within the next seven years,” which is pretty chill of Disney IMO. Almost, too chill … ?