Last spring, Electronic Arts canceled a planned spinoff of its popular Star Wars: Battlefront series—the third Star Wars game that the publisher has axed since 2017. This latest game, code-named Viking, was originally envisioned for release in fall 2020 alongside the next generation of consoles. But once it became clear to EA’s executives that the timeline was unrealistic, Viking was no more.
This account is based on interviews with six people familiar with EA’s inner workings, all of whom spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak to a reporter about canceled projects.
The backstory of Viking is itself worthy of a Star Wars intro scroll. It started off a long long time ago (2015) in a galaxy far away (San Francisco) at the EA-owned studio Visceral Games, which spent two years developing a Star Wars heist game called Ragtag under the well-known director Amy Hennig. In October 2017, EA shut down Visceral and canceled Ragtag, although it said that Ragtag’s art assets would be shipped up to the Canadian game studio EA Vancouver for a brand new open-world Star Wars game.
That second game, Orca, was in development all throughout 2018 until it, too, was canceled by EA. Kotaku broke the news of Orca’s cancelation last year. At the time, we reported that EA Vancouver was spinning up a smaller Star Wars project to replace it—one that would be planned for release in fall 2020 alongside the next-gen PlayStation and Xbox. Electronic Arts executives liked to call it a financial hole that needed filling.
This third game was called Viking, and it was designed as a spinoff of the Star Wars: Battlefront series with open-world elements. The plan was also for EA to bring in yet another studio to help out—Criterion, based in London, England, which was previously best known for racing games like Burnout and Need for Speed but had in recent years expanded to more genres.
EA Vancouver spent some time designing ideas and prototypes for Viking, and Criterion came aboard soon afterward. That was when the problems started. Although Criterion was, on paper, the lead studio, the logistical challenges of cross-country game development made that a difficult proposition. As one person involved with the game said, “too many cooks” was a running theme. Criterion leads had an ambitious vision for the game, aiming to put a strong focus on story and characters.
It soon became clear that Viking would never be finished in just a year and a half, and EA’s executives had no interest in extending the timeline. Viking was canceled in the first half of 2019, although this news has gone unreported until now. That fall 2020 financial hole will go unfilled.
Criterion has now taken back the Need for Speed series, and EA Vancouver is supporting other EA studios like BioWare and Respawn on games like Anthem 2.0 and Apex Legends. (EA Vancouver also works on many of the company’s sports games.)
In May of 2013, Electronic Arts signed an exclusivity agreement with Disney for “core” video games—in other words, the ones on consoles and PCs—that has led to a turbulent, fairly disappointing decade for Star Wars games.
Today, EA has two new Star Wars games in development—a sequel to Jedi Fallen Order at Respawn and a smaller, more unusual project at EA Motive in Montreal, Canada.