Earlier this week, Lucasfilm revealed a major redesign of its official starwars.com website. In addition to a heavy emphasis on The Clone Wars with Season Four premiering today, the new design will focus on video content, visual images, and online games to play on the site. News updates are downplayed compared the prior design, and the previous text-heavy Databank has been replaced with a primarily visual Encyclopedia. The Expanded Universe also has a much smaller presence on the new design, at least so far.
From the perspective of branding, I think the new design for starwars.com makes a lot of sense. The prior design often seemed like the site was seeking to be a central location for all things Star Wars. The new design, by contrast, is a hub primarily for Lucasfilm’s own Star Wars content, while the Around the Web section provides a venue to showcase information from licensees by linking directly to their respective websites, rather than duplicatively publishing the same items. Similarly, linking to Fan Sites avoids the dynamic of an official source trying to meet the needs of what are really fan priorities like collecting, continuity minutiae, and message board discussions. With the new design, each component of the franchise and the fandom – Lucasfilm, licensees, and fans – can now focus on serving its own needs, while cooperatively linking to each other to provide the full perspective to those interested in finding it.
Another development last week seems to fit into this shifting of responsibilities within the Star Wars brand. Del Rey announced the hiring of Frank Parisi as an editor for its Star Wars line. Previously Parisi spent a number of years working at Lucas Licensing, including a year as editor of Star Wars Insider during the time Lucasfilm produced the magazine in-house and later working with recently retired Sue Rostoni on the Expanded Universe editorial team for Lucas Books. The decision to bring someone so deeply familiar with Lucasfilm’s values and expectations for the Star Wars brand aboard the Del Rey team suggests an increased emphasis on brand management on the licensee side. Considering that a replacement for Rostoni has yet to be announced, this might also suggest that Lucasfilm is putting the burden of success or failure of the novels as a Star Wars product back solely on the shoulders of the licensee; I wouldn’t be surprised if, rather than a second editor, Lucas Books hires simply a license manager to step in to provide oversight of the books. If this is a change from the previous arrangement of divided responsibility, it presents a great opportunity for Del Rey to find its way back to the path to success with the EU novels.
Time to go grab my copy of the Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-Ray, and don’t forget to watch the premiere of Season Four of The Clone Wars tonight at 8:00 p.m. on Cartoon Network!
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