With gameplay initially revealed at Star Wars Celebration 2019, Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order was met immediately with a divided reaction. On one hand, fans were ecstatic that Respawn Entertainment seemed to be delivering the single-player narrative-driven Star Wars experience that fans had been clamoring for years. However, the monstrous fallout of the 2017 Star Wars: Battlefront II debacle still made ripples, rightfully so, leaving a notable majority of fans uneasy as to how EA might botch yet another blockbuster title with their monetization tactics. These fears have gone on steady to this day despite the developer’s insistence that Jedi Fallen Order is a single-player experience free of loot boxes and any sort of recurring monetization. Following its divisive Star Wars Celebration reveal, E3 2019 came and went, laying the platform for the Jedi Fallen Order showcase that would surely incentivize the legions of doubtful fans to get their pre-orders in as soon as possible. Unfortunately, yet again, doubt and fear persisted, weighing down the otherwise positive discussion after two mostly well-received gameplay showcases. And on the eve of the game’s official launch on November 15th, the fact that Jedi Fallen Order hasn’t quite mustered up the reactions and anticipation both EA and Respawn hoped for comes as both surprising and unsurprising.
It’s a game that, despite an attempt at a marketing campaign of sorts, has generated so much indifference amongst the gaming community that there feels to be no discourse on it despite the Star Wars loyals keeping tabs on expanded lore. It’s certainly disappointing to see Jedi Fallen Order lose so much ground in potential hype energy, especially since the title is being unfairly called out for elements and features it’s parent studio is still applying to it’s other games routinely, but with no evidence of their place in Fallen Order. Some could pinpoint the unfortunate decline as a result of a small indie title from an unknown creator named Hideo Kojima called Death Stranding hitting one week prior, and a massive Pokemon release hitting at about the same time, but it’s a much more complex situation than that, one that won’t be resolved until gamers around the world are finally deciding to give it a download. Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order is the precursor to one of the biggest films this year, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which draws the generation-spanning Skywalker Saga to a close after 42 years. It’s a situation not unlike that of Star Wars Battlefront II back in 2017, which preceded the equally controversial Star Wars: The Last Jedi, both releases in corners of the franchise that incited their own controversies, but we won’t get into that here. Needless to say, the events of 2017 laid the groundwork for Solo: A Star Wars Story to be the first Star Wars entry to not perform well at the domestic US Box office.
Star Wars fans have always been notoriously fickle as well, especially since the keys to the Lucasfilm kingdom were passed on to Disney and game licensing to EA. Now, the kind of fickle fan that points out the way the light hue on a lightsaber looks in the E3 demo does exist, and Respawn reacted quite agreeably to that and quickly made the change to this kind of detail with a fully prepared statement, but the general apathy, maybe even anger, about games in the Star Wars franchise has been palpable for a long time, and had slowly built until the infamous Battlefront II launch. To particularly note, the fanbase still hasn’t quite forgiven the closure of Visceral Studios (Dead Space) unfinished project, or the demolition of Star Wars 1313 when Lucasarts was originally shut down back in 2013. Star Wars fans, while they are particular, always give things a second chance, as EA is discovering themselves by the slight resurgence in Star Wars Battlefront II, as DICE has reworked the game by necessity of removing loot box mechanics, and is now a fully balanced and quite entertaining multiplayer package, and may players are signing onto EA’s Origin platform to play it, and it’s now packed with fanservice, and Count Dooku in his pajamas.
But despite the occasional good, the problem with Electronic Arts’ deal with Lucasfilm from the beginning has been squandering of good ideas left and right, even so far as to not give Bioware, a studio that made the landmark Knights of the Old Republic, a game in the franchise.
As far as games in the franchise are concerned, though, Star Wars Battlefront II is seen as one of the most infamous and controversial game releases of all time. The very effects of the backlash are affecting EA’s latest titles to this day, including Jedi Fallen Order. It’s important to distinguish that the gravitas of Jedi Fallen Order’s success. Should the game fail to make tidal waves across the industry and fail to win the love and support of Star Wars fans, the Star Wars division at EA might just be crippled. Yes, Star Wars games at EA are still being made, with EA Vancouver’s mysteriously cancelled project being a prime example earlier in 2019, thus there haven’t been any new announcements or teases to suggest the future after Jedi Fallen Order, aside from slow and steady content updates to Star Wars Battlefront II.
From EA’s point of view, Respawn’s project is a test for whether the general audiences will support a single-player Star Wars game from the disreputable publisher in a time where publishers are caught in a storm of realization that their audiences genuinely do still enjoy single player story based games. 2018 was the year where any doubt of that quickly faded away. Sony Santa Monica’s God of War was a powerful reimagining of the franchise, tackling the year’s blockbuster giants to become the public’s game of the year; Marvel’s Spider-Man became the highest-grossing superhero game of all time, toppling Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham franchise, and Red Dead Redemption II had the highest weekend launch of all time in all of entertainment. Publisher’s like EA pushing always online multiplayer experiences simply could no longer be the end-all-be-all. Simply put, no one is denying the potential for single-player games anymore, however, I will certainly question the potential for an EA single-player title, especially after the debacle with Anthem, which, from a studio like Bioware who had historically made the greatest of single player experiences, was plagued with multiplayer connectivity, terrible combat rhythm and mission structures and a whole lot of drama that Kotaku’s Jason Schrire broke down as neatly as possible. Needless to say, when Electronic Arts does have a massively talented studio on their hands, they’re applied woefully wrong and given challenging avenues of support to get the product to a good place.
Jedi Fallen Order is also releasing around the time of Respawn’s newest IP, Apex Legends, the open map Looter-shooter in competition with Fortnite more so than PlayerUnknown’s Battleground had a shot of maintaining, so there is also cause for concern that the experimental free-to-play multiplayer shooter also pulled development staff from the Jedi Fallen Order team to develop content and debugging for Season 2 and 3 of Apex Legends. Again, this is speculation, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order reaches for an audience that EA’s usual yearly releases don’t appeal to, and whoever in that audience is left is already wary of what the publisher puts out. Sure, there will be a few who recognize the good work of Respawn and understand the monetary support of getting a Titanfall 3, but most players looking for Star Wars fans will probably be caught off guard by this game’s launch and look to Twitch streams and reviews to see if this game is worth their time. Titles like Madden and FIFA have their audiences for sure, and EA is smartly aware of that the crossover of those markets with the Star Wars brand is a limited one. Releasing these types of experiences every year is about the smartest decision they could make financially, especially since they have underlying obedience to the company’s public investors.
Jedi Fallen Order breaks this trend in more ways than one. It marks one of the few single-player experiences outside of Need for Speed: Heat and Sea of Solitude this holiday, and while EA Originals has been a fantastic outlet for smaller indie projects to flourish, there just not on the same level that a Star Wars game is. Putting this all together, it’s easy to see why Jedi Fallen Order has had such a difficult time mustering the interest Respawn Entertainment deserves. The single-player community is still reeling from the Battlefront II fiasco, pledging their commitment to never support an EA game ever again. EA’s usual hardcore fan communities would be disinterested in a game like Jedi Fallen Order since it offers neither the longevity or sense of accomplishment that a multiplayer title does; the title exists in a strange gray zone where neither side is attracted strongly. It’ll be fascinating to see how it performs with the public when it finally launches on November 15th this year. The game itself seems to have a lot to be excited for, from its complex combat systems to a gorgeous, striking presentation, however, if the game can overcome the publisher’s old demons and an overwhelming indifference still remains to be seen.
We can only hope that Doom Eternal’s delay gives Jedi Fallen Order that window to perform as a single player action title this fall, because the games in the Star Wars franchise has always been a fascinating place to paint out the background of a Galaxy Far Far Away, and Star Wars fan’s will eventually find their way to it by word of mouth if the story turns out to be any good.