Lucas Art, dans Vanity Fair
In 2004, LucasArts went through a reorganization that one executive referred to as a “reboot.” During the late 1980s and for much of the 90s, the company had enjoyed critical and commercial success as well as status as a cutting-edge developer and publisher of games, thanks to titles such as Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island, Star Wars: Rebel Assault, and Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle.
But just a few years into the new millennium, the company was beset by internal conflicts and criticism that it was publishing too many middling Star Wars games and no longer pushing the gaming envelope the way it once had. The bottom line reportedly reflected this as well (Lucas’s companies are privately held), and in the spring of 2004, Jim Ward was brought over from Lucasfilm to serve as president of LucasArts and to clean house.
Ward, a no-nonsense executive who keeps a life-size statue of Darth Maul in his office, reportedly streamlined the staff by a fourth and refocused the troops.
It’s easy to understand why. Although video- and computer-game sales grew to $7.4 billion in 2006—almost triple what they were 10 years earlier—the business is a risky one.
A top-shelf video game costs between $15 million and $30 million to develop and publish, but unlike the movie business, where producers and distributors can recoup their costs over time via DVD sales, pay-per-view, or other ancillary markets—movies generate revenue for decades—video-game publishers currently have only one real shot at making money, the retail level, and that window is a narrow one.
Games today typically cost between $39.99 and $59.99, which doesn’t exactly make them impulse-purchase items, and they make most of their money within the first six to nine months of their release dates. New-game sales aren’t helped by retail chains such as GameStop that do a robust business in used titles, the proceeds of which they pocket.