THQ and Lucasfilm have had a pretty good run these past few years. Whether we’re talking about The Force Unleashed series for home consoles or the myriad of great iOS games on the App Store, these two companies have managed to make (mostly) sweet music together. Now it looks as though that relationship is turning sour, as a developer at Vertigore Games has confirmed that their THQ published Star Wars Arcade: Falcon Gunner will be removed from the App Store by April 1st.
In a recent blog post, Vertigore’s Josh Shabtai tells readers that he has just been informed that, due to reasons beyond his control, March 31st will be the last day anyone can buy Star Wars Arcade: Falcon Gunner on the App Store. The reason? “our license to make Star Wars games was predicated on our amazing publisher THQ Wireless’ arrangement with the Lucasfilm folks, and that seems to be winding down.”
As much as losing some great Star Wars games from the App Store is a bummer, there’s a much more worrying side to this story than the simple loss of a few games. In the still wildly untamed frontier of digital distribution, will this set precedent? Can licensing deals wreak havoc on a game’s availability? Is a game only as real as its time-limited licensing deal? And once that vanishes, should we automatically expect the same for the game?
While I’ve never been one to take the side of “physical media is better” in the digital distribution debate, I can’t help but feel that those out there who are citing this as an example of why digital-only releases are bad (hi, Stephen Totilo!) might have a point. In the physical media world, a game like Falcon Gunner would have been pressed only for as long as there was demand, and then the publisher’s involvement would cease while the game circulated forever in the resale market long after any licensing deals came to a close.
Of course the flip side is that, in a physical media world, a game like Falcon Gunner would never have been given the opportunity to exist in the first place.
It’s a shame to see such a huge flaw in the digital delivery system come to the surface like this, but we’re hoping that this incident will give publishers enough forewarning to find a solution before entering their next licensing deal. Be proactive. Be pushy. Insist that you retain publishing rights for titles created under that license for the life of the platform. It may sound like a far-out thing to demand, but if you don’t help set the trend now just imagine what things will be like in the future.
So what THQ games should you pick up before Lucasfilm likely executes Order 66 on all of their licensed content? The Battle For Hoth seems like the best choice, but if I were only going to pick one Lucasfilm/THQ collaborative effort to keep forever, I’d have to put down my lightsaber and pick up my whip for the largely overlooked but utterly sublime Indiana Jones and the Lost Puzzles.