Why Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 4 will never happen

While LucasArts' days as a video game developer and publisher may be over, there's no doubt that the company behind some of the greatest Star Wars games is remembered fondly by fans. Responsible for publishing beloved series like Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Knight, Battlefront, and X-Wing/TIE Fighter, some might even call the LucasArts days the golden age of Star Wars games.

There was another series that marked one of LucasArts' highest highs: Factor 5's Rogue Squadron games, which put you in the cockpit of an X-wing and myriad other starfighters and vehicles from the galaxy far, far away. Originally released for the Nintendo 64, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron recreated the Original Trilogy's most epic battles while also introducing new worlds and missions that took place in between the movies.

The sequel, Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader for the GameCube, improved on the original with stunning graphics and a squad-based command system. A further sequel, Rogue Squadron 3: Rebel Strike, was released in was 2003 and added ground-level missions and multiplayer.

But despite the fact that all of the Rogue Squadron games were relatively well-received in their day, we've not heard a peep from the series in 15 years. And there are several reasons why.

A Rogue Squadron game for Wii was canceled

Developer Factor 5 almost got one more shot at a Rogue Squadron game during the Wii era. The game, titled Rogue Squadron: Rogue Leaders, would have been a compilation of past missions in the series remastered on a new engine and running at 60 fps. Missions included both space combat and lightsaber duels using the Wii's motion controls.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that it was far along in development at the time, LucasArts decided to cancel the project, leaving the Wii without a Rogue Squadron game. Former Factor 5 president Julian Eggebrecht told IGN that he's still hopeful that the game might one day see the light of day in some shape or form.

"My immediate dream would be to first port basically what we had on Rogue Squadron Wii to the Switch," Eggebrecht told IGN. "Rogue Squadron Wii pretty much supported every single input device. So in spirit it's very comparable to what Nintendo did with Mario Odyssey, or even more so Mario Kart."

For now, the Rogue Squadron series remains dormant.

Factor 5 is back but no longer has the rights

Although LucasArts continued its work as a video game company until Disney closed that part of the business down in 2013 (the company still exists as a licensor), Factor 5 had already met its end by 2009 following a run of unsuccessful projects. Even before it closed its doors, LucasArts had moved on from Factor 5, choosing to focus on in-house game development instead of hiring out other studios to make Star Wars games. This meant that two Rogue Squadron projects Factor 5 had been working on, a compilation title for the Wii called Rogue Leaders and a space combat MMO called Rogue Squadron: X-Wing vs TIE Fighter, were suddenly canceled.

With its creator shut down and LucasArts gutted four years later, there seems to be very little hope that there will be a proper sequel to the original Rogue Squadron series. EA currently holds the exclusive rights to make Star Wars games, so perhaps the publisher could revive the series in a new form like it did with Battlefront, but it's very unlikely that this new game would be true follow-up.

The consolation prize is that Factor 5 seems to be back from the dead, according to former president Julian Eggebrecht, who claimed in 2017 that the company had been revived and was in the process of regaining its old licenses. We've not heard anything from Factor 5 since, though.

EA already has several other Star Wars projects

Even if EA wanted to make a new Rogue Squadron game, the publisher would have to make room in its already packed slate of Star Wars titles. The company is currently developing at least two new games, Respawn's Jedi: Fallen Order and EA Vancouver's untitled game, while also maintaining Battlefront 2 and The Old Republic. And we haven't mentioned EA's mobile Star Wars titles, Galaxy of Heroes and the upcoming Rise to Power.

At the moment, Jedi: Fallen Order is next in line for EA. The game is slated for a Holiday 2019 release, although fans may end up waiting for this action-adventure title until fall 2020. The timing of EA Vancouver's game is unclear, but considering that the studio has only been heading up its own project since late 2017, it might be awhile before we see the finished product.

So, even if EA did want to make a new Rogue Squadron game, they might not have the bandwidth to until after their licensing deal expires.

Battlefront 2 already has space combat

One major reason why EA might not be interested in making a new Rogue Squadron game is that it already does have a Star Wars space combat title of sorts in Battlefront 2's Starfighter Assault mode. The online multiplayer mode pits two teams against each other to complete objectives in massive battlefields complete with Star Destroyers, space installations, and iconic ships like the Millennium Falcon, Darth Vader's TIE Advanced, Poe Dameron's Black One X-wing, and Boba Fett's Slave I. Players can also choose from classic starfighters, such as the X-wing, Y-wing, and A-wing, while the Imperials count on the usual TIEs as well as the powerful TIE Interceptor.

Although Starfighter Assault isn't quite the single-player campaign fans expect from Rogue Squadron, it does have the basic elements that made the classic series so great. Polygon even called the mode "outstanding." As of May 2018, Starfighter Assault can also be played offline, meaning that you blast through space as if it were 2003 without worrying about an enemy player trolling you along the way.

With a strong mode like Starfighter Assault already included in the Battlefront 2 package, EA might not see the point in making a game that could appear redundant at this point.

EA is probably not interested in a linear adventure

The Rogue Squadron series is best known for linear levels that give players objectives to complete in a specific order. The original games didn't really incorporate much open-ended gameplay. Replayability mostly came from trying to beat a level with each vehicle featured in the game.

That linear aspect might be another big reason why EA isn't interested in bringing back Rogue Squadron. In October 2017, EA announced that it planned to pivot away from linear experiences. The publisher decided to cancel Visceral Games' action-adventure title and shut down the studio.

"Importantly, we are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore," former EA exec Patrick Soderlund said in a statement.

In November 2017, EA clarified at an investors meeting that players just aren't as interested in linear games as they were five or ten years ago and that it's better to "cut the bridge when you realize can't [sic] really make a lot of money on something."

Not a good sign for Rogue Squadron.

The long history of Rogue Squadron was erased from continuity

It doesn't help that the in-fiction Rogue Squadron doesn't quite hold such an important place in Star Wars continuity as it once did. While the Rebellion and New Republic's elite starfighter squadron was once a major cornerstone of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, thanks in large part to the excellent book series written by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston, most of its exploits were erased from canon after Disney reset the timeline in order to create a fresh start for the Sequel Trilogy and the rest of the movies.

Rogue Squadron hasn't really played a major role in the new Star Wars canon, only making a few appearances beyond The Empire Strikes Back's Battle of Hoth scenes (the only time the squadron has appeared in the film saga, according to Disney's continuity). The House of Mouse instead chose to show the origins of the unit: the team of operatives who stole the Death Star plans from the Empire in Rogue One.

This beloved starfighter squadron is more of a deep cut these days, especially for younger audiences, which means that EA might not want to take a risk on Rogue Squadron 4.

Someone pitched a new Star Wars space combat game, but EA rejected it

The fact that Factor 5 hasn't been around for a while hasn't stopped other studios from pitching their takes on a Rogue Squadron-like game. In 2016, Rebel Galaxy developer Double Damage pitched a new space combat game to EA, a title that would have featured many of the iconic ships from the Star Wars universe such as the Millennium Falcon and the Slave I as well as the assortment of fighters from past Rogue Squadron games.

Double Damage created a five-minute demo for EA, built using gameplay from its own space combat and trading sim, Rebel Galaxy, and assets from past Star Wars games, to show what the studio's spiritual successor to Rogue Squadron might look like. The demo covers a rescue mission led by the Millennium Falcon to save the frigate Redemption (a familiar Rebel ship featured in past Rogue Squadron games) from an Imperial fleet. It features dogfights, trips through hyperspace, and even a few funny lines of dialogue between Han Solo and Boba Fett as they chase each other during the battle. Players could also switch seamlessly between the Falcon and the other ships in its squadron.

Overall, the demo looked quite impressive. Regardless, EA didn't greenlight the project, further proof that the publisher just isn't very interested in a standalone space combat game.