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“Star Wars: Adventures of R2-D2” Made ‘Empire Strikes Back’ What It Is

3 Minute Read
Feb 10
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You may think it’s a stretch, but following the line from this kid’s game to the greatest trilogy ever is easier than bulls-eyeing a womp rat.

Hey friends!

Not too long ago we took a peek at the first ever Star Wars board games. There were three games released at about the same time by Kenner, and rather than try to cram all three of the games into a single article, I left this one off. At the time, the reason for that was mainly just because the other two games were just more interesting. But having had time read and learn more about the backstory of this game, I think it starts to highlight a really interesting aspect of Star Wars that isn’t really focused on that much: Marketing.

Star Wars: Adventures of R2-D2 Game is about as much of a kids game as you can get. It’s on the level of Snakes & Ladders (without the religious undertone) mixed with Candyland. Each player controls their own R2-D2 and spins the spinner to move to the next space of that color. As the box advertises, it’s brightly colored, with no reading or counting required. I don’t know anything about child cognitive development, but I’m pretty sure a baby could be playing this game within the week of coming home from the hospital.

I absolutely love the groovy bubble letters they used for the title.

If a player lands on a movie scene space, they will move either forward or backward, as directed by the arrow leading away from that space. The first player to reach the final space is the winner. It’s an incredibly simple game. So, what makes it interesting to talk about?

A Little Bit of History

It’s all about marketing!

The company who published SW:AoR2D2G and the previous two games we covered was Kenner. But they were not a gaming company. They made action figures, and lots of them. And while there were some action figures made for movies prior to Star Wars, like James Bond and Planet of the Apes in the 60s, no movie did it like Star Wars did. The push for toys and games based on A New Hope was so influential, hobbyists consider that the major turning point of such tie-in merchandise, using terms like “Post-Star Wars” when discussing vintage toys.

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So when Kenner branched out into making board games for Star Wars as well, it was part of a strong push to get kids involved with more toys and games about Star Wars as a whole. And it worked. So much so that George Lucas was able to independently finance Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi based on those sales of toys and games.

Without those sales, Lucas would have had to get financing elsewhere and whatever producer he worked with would have likely had some creative control. So who knows how they may have turned out if that had happened?

Not saying he doesn’t need the help sometimes though.

So next time you’re sneering at a bad game based on some movie, consider what sort of ripple effect a game like that might have on the franchise as a whole. Not that I’ve ever done that.

Thanks for reading!

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