On average, a Star Wars video game has been released once every 60 days for the past 30 years.
Wikipedia lists about 180 games and full expansions stretching back to the early 1980s, for arcade, console, PC and mobile. That number only covers officially sanctioned titles and doesn't include pinball games or Flash titles.
There's a new one out today, called Star Wars Commander.
Like many before, its reputation and success will likely be built on its ability to deliver a solid and fun experience while evoking a fictional universe that, for decades, has held a particularly prominent place in popular culture. Although there have been exceptions, Star Wars games are rarely noted for innovation in gameplay.
It's been a year since Star Wars' owner Disney shut down LucasArts and began reshuffling its franchise schemes. These are all tied in with the company's plans for new Star Wars movies, starting with Episode VII next year and some standalone films. Full games are in the works from the likes of Dice, BioWare and Visceral
Disney Interactive's Star Wars Commander for iOS is a free-to-play top-down real-time strategy game. You play as a character called Saponza, a Tatooine-based mercenary who can choose to represent either the Empire or the Rebels.
Here's what is interesting about Star Wars Commander. It's set in the world of the first movie, Episode IV: A New Hope. Events take place a short while after the destruction of the Death Star, and the escape of Darth Vader. Players build bases and produce units to attack other bases and their units. There's also an opportunity to take on other players in Player vs Player matches.
Speaking to some execs, it's clear that Disney sees this product not so much as merely another cash-in touch-screen strategy game, with all its attendant unit cool-downs and placement tactics, but as a long-term platform. Assuming Star Wars Commander is successful, there will be further additions to the world, based on subsequent movies, right through to the logical chronological conclusions of Episodes VII, VIII and IX.
So, we can expect a never-ending parade of characters, planets, units and plot-points. Even Episodes I, II and III get a look-in because, in this world, those characters and units still exist. Some are included in the initial game's rollout.
Disney monetizes the game by offering players shortcuts and time-saving devices in order to produce more units. As is often the case with such games, it is underpinned by an economy of scarcity, through which power is attained.
Familiar characters from the initial trilogy are available and in this trailer (above), it's lovely to see Han Solo, Chewbacca and Princess Leia. These guys keep the narrative of the game flowing along and work as heroes in battle.
But it's the military units that are going to really make this game, as players seek to produce large numbers of Storm Troopers, Wookie Warriors and Speeder Bikes. As you might expect, there is a significant difference between the power (and the in-game price) of a low-level grunt and a full AT-AT Walker. During a demo at LucasFilm's San Francisco headquarters, I especially enjoyed the Elite AT-AT, in slate gray livery, and its frankly awesome bad-assery.
So many of the Star Wars games of the past have been shoddily produced, and have failed to honor the world they seek to portray. Looking at Star Wars: Commander, it's difficult to be overly enthusiastic about what is, essentially, another strategy combat game. But the world and its individual units are so very pretty, that they bring with them that special Star Wars feeling.