Star Wars Outlaws should not be celebrated

Star Wars Outlaws. Image courtesy Ubisoft
Star Wars Outlaws. Image courtesy Ubisoft /

Warning: Links within this piece discuss varying levels of abuse.

On June 11, 2023, a trailer for an upcoming Star Wars game was revealed during the Xbox Games Showcase. The title, Star Wars Outlaws, is developed by Ubisoft Massive (The Division, The Division 2), and is slated for a 2024 release.

As with any new Star Wars project announcement, the general reaction appeared to be very positive. The idea of an open-world title in the Star Wars universe clearly appeals to a great many people. What I found interesting, or, rather, concerning, is that that positivity didn’t turn. The conversation appeared to remain solely on the title, and the new creature in there. There was no mention of the problematic history surrounding Ubisoft. And that feels odd.

For those unaware, Ubisoft is a company with an extensive record of mental and physical abuse from its senior staff members, whom were found to have protected said staff members for decades. This isn’t new information, the case blew up in 2020, but was quickly buried. Stephanie Sterling put out a very thorough explainer on their Jimquisition series at the time (video contains strong language).

Ubisoft released a wishy-washy apology and pledged to make changes, however that change hasn’t actually come. Both GameIndustry and Kotaku have reported at the lack of changes within the company. Last year, it was reported that a still unannounced Assassin’s Creed title was losing development staff because one of the lead members of staff was named as part of the allegations. Per said staff member’s LinkedIn page, he remains in employment at Ubisoft, in the role of Creative Director, still on the unannounced Assassin’s Creed title.

I bring this up because the reaction I’m seeing is the complete opposite to that of the announcement of another Star Wars video game in 2021. Star Wars Eclipse, by Quantic Dream (Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, Detroit: Become Human), was the subject of a online campaign, #BlackoutStarWarsEclipse calling for its cancellation, and for Lucasfilm to sever ties with Quantic Dream. Dork Side of the Force covered such campaign last year.

Jedi in a scene from Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN, season three, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
Jedi in a scene from Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN, season three, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. /

I’m not for a second dismissing this campaign, by the way. The allegations and reports against David Cage are heinous, and absolutely deserving of being called out, and there should be absolutely no space in the galaxy for people that hold views, and behave in the manner, that he has. What I’d like to ask, simply, is why is one release the subject of widespread ire, and another the subject of widespread excitement?

Dead cat strategy

Well, one theory I have is knowledge. This is where the size of the two companies plays a huge role in how they’re viewed. Quantic Dream is a small(ish) studio with an irregular release schedule. Search them online, and the cases against them are going to be far more prominent because they haven’t put anything out for a good few years. Ubisoft, however, is releasing multiple games a year, and announcing new titles on a regular basis. The latest news, for them, is whatever they’ve just released a trailer for. When the initial stories against them broke in 2020, as Stephanie Sterling states in the video above, it was buried under a pile of “leaked” gameplay footage, and a mountain of new announcements shortly after.

They control the narrative around them because they’re one of the biggest names in video games. They created news to hide the actual news. There’s a very good chance that people simply do not know what Ubisoft have done because they’ve successfully brushed it under the carpet.

(Center): Governor Grotton in a scene from “STAR WARS: THE BAD BATCH”, season 2 exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.
(Center): Governor Grotton in a scene from “STAR WARS: THE BAD BATCH”, season 2 exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved. /

What concerns me, however, is that a lot of the excitement, and subsequent engagement from the announcement, is being driven by people that really should know better. People who have covered video games, and have expressed an interest in video games beyond the games themselves.

I’m not going to name anyone specifically, but a prominent Star Wars YouTube channel released a statement condemning Quantic Dream in 2021, stating they would not be covering the game in support of the #BlackoutStarWarsEclipse movement, but have already begun covering Star Wars Outlaws on their social media accounts and YouTube channel.

Various smaller creators with platforms of varying sizes are delighted by that droid in a coat, or the little creature with the main character, but were immediately critical of Eclipse‘s announcement, the addition of certain actors in the Star Wars TV space, and the release of Hogwarts Legacy earlier this year. It doesn’t feel consistent with how the fandom has operated, and should operate.

Benefit of the doubt

The thing is, there’s plenty to be excited about with Outlaws. A female protagonist (one of the few in the Star Wars video game space), legitimate inclusivity and diversity within the story team, Nix; under any other circumstance, Outlaws would be one of my most anticipated games of the next 12 months. But it’s impossible to separate the game from its creator. To know where the funding for the title came from, and who will ultimately benefit from its inevitable success, flies in the face of one of Star Wars’ core values. I feel like the fandom needs to be more aware of this.

Again, there is a very good chance this entire story has passed people by. Ubisoft managed to keep the abuse inflicted by their senior staff members under wraps for decades, it’s absolutely not out of the realm of possibility that they’ve managed to keep even the most informed gamer in the dark regarding the extent of their abuses. If that is the case, well, that cannot continue to be the case.

Time to stand up

I like to think that, by and large, Star Wars fans do a pretty good job of driving toxicity out of the fandom. The #BlackoutStarWarsEclipse is evidence of that. The lack of something similar in relation to Star Wars Outlaws is, as I mentioned previously, concerning. It suggests a fandom at best unaware, and at worst apathetic, towards the extensive abuses within Ubisoft. We can’t be vehemently against a Quantic Dream title on moral grounds, while simultaneously being excited for, and promoting, a Ubisoft title because we want a Star Wars Assassin’s Creed.

We love new stories in this galaxy, but stories that benefit abusers that have shown exactly no remorse or willingness to change aren’t worth listening to. The cost goes beyond the price tag. It’s not one worth paying.

dark. Next. Everything we know about Star Wars: Outlaws

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