Michael French speaks to the firm’s global publishing VP Mary Bihr
Can you sum up the LucasArts strategy for the boxed products (released via Activision in Europe) in the last 12 to 18 months?
Our strategy is to continue our distribution agreement with Activision in order to maximize sales across Europe. They have a long history with us, dedicated LucasArts resources to support us, and a track record that speaks for itself.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed released with record sales and over six million copies sold to date. We also had record numbers with LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures worldwide and remained in the Top 10 charts for weeks after release.
The sequel, LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues just shipped in mid-November worldwide and is also doing extremely well. We’ve had a great 2009 and look forward to 2010, especially with The Force Unleashed 2 which promises to be the next massive Star Wars experience on consoles.
Has that strategy changed in any way in that time?
No, not really. While our global distribution strategy has expanded through our internet offerings, Monkey Island: Special Edition, and a complement of games offered though online partnerships, our retail offerings have always been distributed through Activision.
Recently, they have added additional dedicated resources which allow us to work even more closely with them across the various territories.
Are you pleased with the response to the LucasArts games released this Q4? Which is the standout title?
We, similar to many other publishers, have been challenged by the current economic climate. We’ve seen a slowdown in sales velocity across some titles, but a commensurate increase in others – sometimes with games that have been on the shelves for two, three, even four years. There’s still strong demand for these licensed games.
As for recent releases, LEGO Indiana Jones 2 has already been a huge success for us. TT Games did a fantastic job making this the most immersive LEGO game released to date. We’re very pleased by its performance across Europe.
Clone Wars is a popular toy and entertainment brand – do you feel you have fully taken advantage of its popularity in games?
Clone Wars is a huge initiative for Lucasfilm across all companies. It remains the No.1 toy brand for boys ages six to 11. It’s a growing franchise which includes the TV show, toys, comic books and of course video games. I believe we’ve had a good running start for the first two seasons, and will continue to look for opportunities in the future to improve upon what’s already been built as a cross-merchandise consumer experience.
It must be both a blessing and a curse to work on a powerful brands like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. What does LucasArts do to keep them fresh for their regular use in the games market?
Everyone at Lucas is a Star Wars and Indiana Jones fan. It’s in our blood to innovate and create new stories within these beloved brands and we’re always looking to hire best in class talent to help us expand this rich heritage.
At LucasArts, our challenge is to make sure we keep the stories true to the brand while also expanding in creative and interesting ways. Having all the Lucas companies under one roof gives us the ultimate resources to collaborate and grow these experiences for fans to love for years to come.
Is there ever a danger that people overlook those brands because they are already so familiar with them?
I don’t think so. Both brands are so story driven. The older fans feel a sense of nostalgia when they see both brands while the younger audiences have a sense of curiosity to find out more. There is so much story to tell within the Star Wars universe alone.
We are challenged daily to find new ways to keep these experiences fresh but at the end of the day, the thing that what makes us motivated is giving the fans what they want.
You’ve effectively given new life to older LEGO Indy and The Force Unleashed releases with their new iterations in 2009 – is this a viable model for future games?
If it is the right game, definitely. This isn’t a strategy we would incorporate for every product, but we’ve had great success with both LEGO Indiana Jones and The Force Unleashed.
Both of these games have a strong following that want more content, so it made sense for us to continue the LEGO Indiana Jones experience with LEGO Indiana Jones 2 and expand the The Force Unleashed story with the Ultimate Sith Edition.
At the end of the day, we do not look at games for their individual contributions, but for their potential to expand into franchises. Stayed tuned for more on this.
LucasArts made a big splash with digital releases this year - can we expect you to release any of those games on disc through Activision?
There are currently no announced plans to release any of our digital products via packaged products; however, we’re always looking at new ways to expand our brands to reach new audiences.
What are you able to tell us about LucasArts’ plans for boxed product releases in 2010?
We have another exciting year in 2010. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 will be a huge game for us. Our internal development team is hard at work making it the next massive action packed Star Wars experience. We have a lot more going on that I can’t talk about now, but it continues to be an exciting time here at LucasArts.