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Respawn’s most exciting upcoming project isn’t Star Wars

EA has confirmed that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Apex Legends developer Respawn Entertainment is working on three brand-new Star Wars games: A Fallen Order sequel, a first-person shooter, and a strategy game being co-developed with Bit Reactor. These announcements are great news for Star Wars fans, but it’s not the project that excites me the most at Respawn.

While Star Wars is sure to rake in some easy money for EA, Respawn has always been at its best when tackling original ideas. A mysterious project not involving Star Wars or Apex Legends is in the works at Respawn and has the potential to tap into the kinetic gameplay and engaging worldbuilding that make Respawn games so fantastic.

Doing what works

Since 2019, the two main pillars for Respawn Entertainment have been clear. The first is Apex Legends. Set in the universe of Titanfall despite not using the series’ name, it was one of the first battle royales able to truly compete with PUBG and Fortnite. It retains millions of players to this day, so Respawn needs to use a lot of resources to support it.

We know this strain has negatively impacted some of the developer’s projects in the past, so while Apex Legends is a great game, its impact could be felt in terms of Respawn’s lack of new titles over the past couple of years.

A Jedi force pushes a sotrmtrooper in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

And if you aren’t working on Apex Legends at Respawn Entertainment, you’re most likely working on Star Wars now. November 2019’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was a hit for EA following a string of controversial mobile games and the much-maligned Star Wars Battlefront 2.

As Respawn has a proven track record in making a good Star Wars game and Disney seems intent on licensing out its IP to more and more developers, it’s no surprise that EA and Lucasfilm want the studio to keep making Star Wars games. And it’s not just a Jedi Fallen Order sequel, but also a shooter that will play to the rest of Respawn’s strengths as well.

EA and Respawn seem to be placing the safest bets for the studio’s future. This isn’t a practice limited to Respawn in the video game industry, either. AAA studios are starting to focus more and more on the franchises that they know work. Before the recent announcement that it was being acquired by Microsoft, we saw Activision double down on Call of Duty, removing the autonomy of studios like Toys for Bob even after it made outstanding games like Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. After struggling with the new IP Anthem, we saw EA subsidiary BioWare return to safer bets in the form of new Dragon Age and Mass Effect entries.

Why do this? There are a couple of reasons. First off, creating a brand-new franchise from scratch is very difficult and risky, even at a studio that’s as masterful at worldbuilding as Respawn. When making a new world, many ideas are thrown around as developers see what works and what doesn’t. Even after that, the developers still have to buckle down and make the game.

Known franchises are also a much safer bet. If Respawn and EA are going to dedicate years of development and millions of dollars to three new projects simultaneously, it’s best to do that with franchises likely to be a success.

What’s next?

I reached out to EA to learn more about Respawn’s plans for Apex Legends and other original IP, but did not get a response before publication of this article. Thankfully, there is a little bit of hope for the future of original ideas and worlds from the Titanfall developer.

The upcoming Respawn game that’s most exciting for me is a project in the works with a fifth development team. As recently as this month, we know that a fifth project was in the works at Respawn under Call of Duty and Titanfall designer Mohammad Alavi. His LinkedIn describes the project as “a brand-new single-player adventure from Respawn Entertainment.” Meanwhile, a report from Venture Beat says that it may be a first-person shooter that’s not Titanfall-related, but will still emphasize mobility and style.

A Jedi slides down a zipline in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Alavi did leave Respawn Entertainment this month, but Venture Beat’s report mentions that the project isn’t expected to be canceled and could launch in 2024 or 2025. We don’t know if this is an original IP or something tied to another universe. But as EA did not mention this project in the Star Wars announcement, I’m hoping it’s something brand-new.

While Respawn Entertainment’s output is likely just going to Apex Legends updates and Star Wars until 2025, hopefully, that game can be the start of something new for Respawn. I hope to see a game that reminds us of what the studio can do when it’s focusing on fresh ideas. Juggling five projects at once is challenging for any developer, but if that game gets the love and attention it deserves, it could be Repsawn’s next great hit. Hopefully, it won’t need a big brand name to get players’ attention.

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