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The Force Is With Electronic Arts

Star Wars: Battlefront ships November 17, 2015.

Strong preorders for Star Wars: Battlefront have led the game company to forecast record revenue this year.

Electronic Arts is back from the “dark side”.

The video game publisher, voted the “worst company in America” on the Consumerist.com website in 2012 and 2013, is forecasting record revenue this year thanks to the anticipated success of a new Star Wars-themed game launching in November.

EA said on Thursday that “extremely strong” preorders for “Star Wars: Battlefront” were behind its decision to raise its full-year revenue forecast to $4.45 billion from $4.40 billion.

It was the first time in 15 years that the Redwood City, California-based company had raised its revenue forecast in the first quarter, Jefferies analysts said in a client note.

EA’s shares fell on what appeared to be an underwhelming forecast, but analysts said the company was likely being cagey.

“(EA) is merely trying to rein in runaway expectations for Star Wars, during a highly competitive holiday window for first-person shooters,” Barclays analyst Chris Merwin, who raised his price target on EA by $14 to $82, wrote in a research report.

And expectations are high.

2D Boxshot Wizard v1.1

“They’ve done an incredible job with the game,” said Ben Howard, an executive at video game review site GameSpot, who played the game at the E3 gaming industry trade fair in June.

There have been plenty of other Star Wars games over the years, Howard noted.

“(But) I’ve never played a game which felt so much like playing a movie of Star Wars … they’ve got it exactly right.”

A trailer released in April for the game, a reboot of the 10-year old “Star Wars: Battlefront” game published by LucasArts, has already garnered more than 19 million views on YouTube.

The positive reception marks a turnaround for EA, which a few years ago was struggling to grow after many gamers switched to free games on social networks and mobile devices.

Gamers also became disillusioned with what they considered to be the inferior quality of some games, as well as high prices and server glitches that marred their experience.

John Riccitiello quit as chief executive in 2013 after six years at the helm after the company missed several targets.

“I’d rather see them be conservative and beat expectations than suffer through what they did several years back,” said Eric Handler, an analyst at MKM Partners.

The new game will launch a month ahead of the release of Walt Disney’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, the latest movie in the iconic franchise.

EA’s shares have nearly tripled in value since current CEO Andrew Wilson, who has been focusing on expanding EA’s high-margin digital business, took over in September 2013.

The digital business, which involves distributing games through the Internet as opposed to sales of game discs, has driven growth for the past few quarters.

At least four brokerages raised their price targets on EA’s shares on Friday. Even so, EA shares were down 0.6% at $71.87 in afternoon trading.

Of 22 brokerages covering EA, 15 have a “buy” or a higher rating on the stock while seven have a “hold”.

The median price target is $79.50. Up to Thursday’s close, EA shares had risen about 53% this year.

TIME celebrities

J.J. Abrams Broke His Back Helping Harrison Ford on the Set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

"Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation" New York Premiere - Inside Arrivals
Kevin Mazur—WireImage J.J. Abrams attends the New York premiere of "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation" at Times Square on July 27, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

He was trying to lift a door

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation producer J.J. Abrams was a guest on Thursday’s episode of The Daily Show, and while Abrams was ostensibly there to promote the new Tom Cruise movie, host Jon Stewart only wanted to talk to him about Star Wars. Abrams didn’t reveal anything substantial about directing The Force Awakens, but he and Stewart did get to geek out about Harrison Ford.

“The guy is like a real-life superhero. He should have the Marvel logo above his name,” Abrams said, before recalling what happened when the actor broke his leg on The Force Awakens set last year.

“He’s down there and he’s toughing it out. He’s a super human being. He’s literally lying there making jokes,” Abrams said. “This door had gone down, and I’m trying to help lift it up – because that’s the kind of guy I am. I’m trying to lift up this door and I feel this pop in my back. I’m like ‘Uh, that’s weird.’”

Cut to a couple of days later, and Abrams found himself at a doctor’s office. “He goes, ‘Oh you have a broken back,’” Abrams said. “I broke my L4 trying to lift this door.”

Abrams said he had to wear a back brace under his shirt, while Ford – despite his broken bone – healed relatively quick, and was even able to run at Abrams to give the director a hug at an event a few months later.

“I felt like the most nebbishy Jewish director ever,” Abrams joked about his injury. He then broke into a pretty great Woody Allen impression.

“He’s a Miracle Man, and I’m like, ‘Excuse me, Mr. Darth Vader, could you be more evil?’”

This article originally appeared on EW.com

Read next: Names for Parts of Pluto’s Moon Could Be Drawn From Star Wars and Star Trek

Listen to the most important stories of the day

TIME space

Names for Parts of Pluto’s Moon Could Be Drawn From Star Wars and Star Trek

NASA

"It is an honor," says iconic Star Trek actor William Shatner

NASA’s scientists have decided to fly their geek flag high, and will be naming craters and peaks on Charon, Pluto’s moon, after places mentioned in science fiction.

According to the rules of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), Pluto’s craters have to have names drawn from underwater mythology. But, Mashable reports, NASA has more free reign to propose names for Charon’s craters and peaks — and in doing so its scientists will be referencing the likes of Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly and Dr. Who.

To date, names like Vader, Skywalker and Leia Organa have been proposed for craters, and Mordor, from Lord of the Rings, for a huge dark spot on the north side of Pluto’s moon. There’s even a Serenity chasm, named after the beloved ship on the short-lived Joss Whedon show, Firefly.

The new monikers do still have to be approved by the IAU, but scientists are hopeful that the names have enough of a cultural legacy to receive the stamp of approval. (The IAU has already approved the names “Frodo” and “Bilbo” for features on Saturn’s moon.)

Stars of the aforementioned shows and series have already expressed their support. “It is an honor to have a character you helped create be given such an esteemed recognition,” William Shatner, who starred as Captain Kirk in Star Trek, told Mashable.

[Mashable]

TIME Music

Wilco’s Latest Album Star Wars Can Be Downloaded for Free

3rd Annual Shaky Knees Music Festival - Day 2
Chris McKay—Getty Images Jeff Tweedy of Wilco performs during Day 2 of the Third Annual Shaky Knees Music Festival at Atlanta Central Park on May 9, 2015, in Atlanta City

And no, it has nothing to do with Star Wars the movie

American alt-rock band Wilco’s ninth studio album, Star Wars, is now available to fans on the band’s website, wilcoworld.net.

The album’s sound is classic Wilco, with plenty of guitar shredding and a couple of acoustic country songs. And no, it doesn’t really have anything to do with Star Wars, the movie, but the cover does include a fabulously kitschy cat.

Front man Jeff Tweedy has a simple justification for the band’s magnanimity in making the album free. “It felt like it would be fun,” he said on the band’s Facebook page. “What’s more fun than a surprise?”

Download Star Wars, the album, here.

TIME movies

J.J. Abrams and the Star Wars Cast on What It’s Like to Make the Film as Fans

"When you are directing a scene on the Millennium Falcon, it doesn’t make the scene good," Abrams said

One thing that every cast and crew member on Star Wars: The Force Awakens probably had in common was the fact that they were all fans of the original George Lucas films. During the film’s panel at San Diego Comic-Con on Friday, director J.J. Abrams and several of the stars repeated over and over again to a room of more than 6,000 fans that working on Star Wars was a dream come true.

J.J. Abrams said he was careful to not let his fandom get in the way of doing his job. “I watched Star Wars with my parents too. It meant as much to me as it means to you,” he said to a fan. “Because we love it and care about it so much, our job is to not be blinded by that. Being a fan is not enough. When you are directing a scene on the Millennium Falcon, it doesn’t make the scene good. It’s b-tchin’ that it’s on the Millennium Falcon. But that doesn’t make it automatically good.”

Abrams says he was careful to go back to the fundamentals of storytelling—what is motivating this character in this scene—when he felt himself becoming too overwhelmed by the notion that he must pay homage to such a precious part of pop culture history.

It’s a fact that the cast and crew had to confront even when they left the set. John Boyega spoke about taking Harrison Ford to a Nigerian restaurant in London during filming. Everyone inside fell silent when Ford walked in. “This guy comes up to him and goes, ‘Are you Harrison Ford?'” remembered Boyega. “And Harrison Ford says, ‘I used to be.'”

Oscar Isaac pointed out that the aura of Star Wars is not limited to the offscreen world. People in the film, like his character Poe, were likely touched by the events of the past movies as well. “Poe was probably watching when the medal ceremony was happening, thinking, ‘I want to be that hero and take up that mantle,'” he said. “And that’s what he does—sometimes even recklessly so.”

Not everyone has memorized the canon, though. Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the first three films, admitted that he flunked a Star Wars trivia quiz recently and couldn’t even remember what Han Solo had been smuggling. “I’ve ceded ownership to the world at large,” he said.

Both Hamill and Ford will return for the new film.

TIME celebrities

Gwendoline Christie on Kicking Butt in Both Star Wars and Game of Thrones

The actor perfectly summarizes what's so important about her strong characters

Gwendoline Christie is kind of a big deal. The 6-ft.-3-in. actor is not only skyrocketing to stardom—she’s redefining what it means to be a female action hero.

Best known for playing Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones, Christie is also set to star as a baddie in the upcoming Star Wars film. In both projects, she plays a tough, strong woman, which as Christie acknowledged on Friday night during panels for each of the projects at San Diego Comic-Con is still hard to come by in Hollywood.

During the Game of Thrones panel, she said that her role as Brienne was revolutionary because she was allowed to have a complicated relationship with a male character, Jaime Lannister, that was not based on sex.

“In a mainstream TV show, we got to see this very unique, very unconventional woman enduring abuse from a man, and then the power lay in the fact that that got turned on its head, to develop a grudging respect for each other that’s intense and close and doesn’t have its roots in sexuality,” she said. “And I was thrilled to see that at last, and I thought it was a very powerful, modern representation of women.”

She similarly applauded J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasden for not sexualizing her storm trooper character in Star Wars. “I found it exciting that there was a female storm trooper, but it was also this opportunity to explore a female character that’s totally not about the way she looks.” she said, referring to the fact that her character is hidden beneath armor. “I just thought it was exciting that underneath that armor was a woman.”

Both of Christie’s comments were met by thunderous applause. Later in the evening, a fan asking a question of the Star Wars panel called her a “goddess.”

TIME movies

Here’s How J.J. Abrams Answered a Blunt Question About Diversity in Star Wars

"First, I want to say: go, Asians!"

Though many fans at San Diego Comic-Con may have been satisfied just to see director J.J. Abrams and several of the movie’s stars at the Star Wars panel on Friday, two fan used the opportunity to question the casting of the film.

Two young Asian fans said that one of the reasons they enjoyed Abrams’ Star Trek so much was its diverse cast. They hoped to see the same for Star Wars, but could they expect any Asian characters in future films?

“First, I want to say: go, Asians!” Abrams joked. “I’m not casting the movies that are coming up but if I was I would cast them as only Asian. I think you’ll see there are Asians in this film.”

“We didn’t write Fin to be any color or anyone to be any color,” he added, referring to John Boyega’s character in the film. “We just cast the movie.” He continued by saying he thinks it’s important that fans see people who look like themselves in films.

Though none of the stars who attended the panel were Asian, Abrams has received praise for piecing together a diverse cast that includes black and Latino actors for a mainstream film whose most recognizable characters—from Harrison Ford’s Han Solo to Natalie Portman’s Padmé Amidala—have been white.

TIME movies

Go Behind the Scenes in This Star Wars: The Force Awakens Video

Director J.J. Abrams emphasized during a Comic-Con panel that the effects are real

Director J.J. Abrams told a raucous crowd at San Diego Comic-Con Friday that though he did not have a new trailer of Star Wars: The Force Awakens to show them, he did have another video. The behind-the-scenes reel shows off the sets, the visual effects and fan favorite stars like Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.

J.J. Abrams emphasized the importance of practical effects in the making of the film throughout the panel, beginning when he brought an alien creature called Bobbajo on stage. Bobbajo is a puppet-like figure operated by five humans and has complex facial expressions.

The desert, too, was real—to the chagrin of the actors who had to film in over 100 degree heat next to actual explosions. “I would like to thank J.J. Abrams for filming in the desert in Abu Dhabi while I was running in a storm trooper suit,” John Boyega joked during the panel.

Though Abrams and the cast spilled almost no information about the plot—Adam Driver impressively managed to dodge almost every question he was asked during the panel with simple “no”s—one message was clear: this won’t be like Episodes I, II and III when creator George Lucas got a little too CGI happy.

TIME Social Media

Star Wars Introduces New Lightsaber Emoji for Twitter

Lucasfilm/Disney

Just use the hashtag #lightsaber to make it show up

If the C3P0, Stormtrooper and BB8 emoji weren’t enough to keep your Twitter feed action-packed, Star Wars has introduced a new emoji: a red lightsaber.

Twitter users need only tweet the hashtag #lightsaber to make the icon appear and effectively slay any intergalactic haters.

lightsaber

The emoji are part of the brand’s promotion for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens, opening in theaters in December.

TIME Star Wars

Disney Confirms Plans for Han Solo Spin-off Movie

On the set of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
© Sunset Boulevard/Corbis—© Sunset Boulevard/Corbis American actor Harrison Ford on the set of 'Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope.'

Character will get his own film, set for release in 2018

The first film in the new Star Wars franchise isn’t even out yet, and already details are emerging about more of them.

On Tuesday, The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, the duo that directed The Lego Movie, are working on a Han Solo origin film set to be released in 2018 as part of the Star Wars anthology series.

Disney, which bought LucasFilm in 2012 for $4 billion, confirmed the movie, in a statement with comments from the directors: “We pledge ourselves to be faithful stewards of these characters who mean so much to us,” said Miller and Lord.

The Han Solo movie will be part of a standalone anthology series, the first of which, Rogue One, comes out in 2016. Separately, the first film in the new trilogy, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, comes out in December of this year.

As THR notes, the Han Solo news should be candy to big Star Wars fans for a number of personal details about who is involved. Miller, who will-co-direct, interned at LucasFilm when he was younger and, at one point, even put on a Stormtrooper costume at George Lucas’s request. Meanwhile, the screenplay is being written by father-son team Jon and Lawrence Kasdan—the latter, 66, co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark, which starred Harrison Ford, who played the original Han Solo.

To read more about the major bet Disney and its CEO Bob Iger is placing on the new line of Star Wars films, check out our January 2015 Fortune cover story: Bob Iger’s empire of tech.

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