Rehiring help for axed LucasArts staff

Plans are still on track for Lucasfilm to move to a new eight-storey glass-and-steel facility at Fusionopolis. An artist's impression of the building.

The force is not with Singapore and San Francisco.

LucasArts, the video-game development arm of Star Wars-maker Lucasfilm, has closed. It had operations in the two cities.

This comes about five months after Disney announced a US$4-billion (S$5-billion) acquisition of Lucasfilm in late October last year.

Disney said on Wednesday that it was closing LucasArts as it wants to move away from making games internally to a model in which the development of games would be licensed to other firms.

A statement released by Disney said this was to minimise the company's risk, "while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games". As a result, Disney said it had to lay off staff.

LucasArts Singapore, which worked only on internally-developed games, closed yesterday, a Lucasfilm Singapore spokesman told My Paper.

This means that the development of the upcoming Star Wars 1313 game, which the Singapore team was involved in, will be put on hold.

However, the visual-effects and animation arms of Lucasfilm here will continue to operate, the spokesman said.

It is understood that Lucasfilm Singapore, set up in 2005, had some 80 staff members in the video-game development unit, and a total staff strength of about 450 at its Changi Business Park office.

Lucasfilm Singapore could not confirm how many LucasArts staff would be laid off.

But its spokesman said the company is "working towards helping them with placement opportunities in other companies here". It is also tentatively trying to find positions for them within the firm.

She added that Lucasfilm is also hoping to license Star Wars 1313 to an external firm for publishing.

Mr Allan Simonsen, coordinator for the International Game Developers Association's Singapore chapter, said it is likely that many of LucasArts Singapore's staff will be redeployed within Lucasfilm here, as they have "compatible skill sets".

Mr Aroon Tan, managing director of Magma Studios and former president of the Games Exchange Alliance here, said the industry saw LucasArts' closure coming.

"Big studios around the world are closing down because the market has changed," he said, citing market data which states 2013 as the year that online and mobile games take over console games.

Because of this, LucasArts would have had to re-evaluate its strategy, he added.

Mr Yeo Chun Cheng, the Media Development Authority of Singapore's assistant chief executive for industry, said that Singapore's games industry "continues to remain strong, shifting its focus towards (the) development of mobile, social and online games".

Many game companies have set up operations in Singapore over the last year, including Japanese firms Gumi and Konami which are still recruiting actively, he added.

myp@sph.com.sg


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50 laid off as Lucasfilm shuts down game unit

Sources told The Straits Times around 50 game production staff from Lucasfilm Singapore lost their jobs - some left as early as yesterday.


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