Why Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 3 Hasn’t Happened

Games

The Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic franchise is a legendary series that affected the course of gaming history and solidified their development studios as RPG juggernauts. Given the clout this franchise holds, one might expect greenlighting further entries would be an easy task. To quote Thanos, “Reality is often disappointing.”

The KOTOR franchise currently consists of three titles: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords, and The Old Republic. But the third entry, despite existing within the same continuity, is not a sequel to the first two single-player RPGs. Instead, it’s an MMORPG side story that takes place 300 years after the first two games.

A proper sequel to the first two games has existed in a state of development hell limbo for almost 20 years, pitched around and canceled at different studios, only to be revived again several years later and subsequently canned again. Even attempts to recapture the original duology’s magic have crashed and burned multiple times, and Aspyr’s recently-announced remake seems poised to continue that trend, with reports pointing to the game being delayed indefinitely after years of development.

Why have all of these projects met the same dark fate? Here’s what happened…

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Obsidian’s KOTOR 3 Pitch

Even though Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2 are self-contained stories, the games are also interconnected in some really big ways, as the Jedi of old worked to uncover a secret Sith empire growing in the Unknown Regions of space. While BioWare developed the first game in 2003, it was Obsidian Entertainment who made the second a year later. And Obsidian had plans for a third game, too, one that would have seen a new player character following Revan on his search for the real Sith threat behind the events of the first two games, and face ancient Sith lords that would make villains like Nihilus, Traya, and Malak look like chumps.

But we never got this version of KOTOR 3. At the end of the day, the best laid plans of mouse droids and men often go awry, especially when corporate drama is to blame.

According to VG247 and the book Rogue Leaders: The Story of LucasArts, shortly after Obsidian finished work on KOTOR 2, the company immediately started working on a pitch for a third entry. The studio made a lot of headway on their KOTOR 3 pitch, including quests, characters, environments, and story beats. Obsidian’s devs envisioned a game where players went up against ancient Sith lords who controlled entire galactic arms. What a way to make the likes of Darth Revan and Darth Malak look like chumps.

So why didn’t this project happen? Apparently, LucasArts wanted to handle a threequel with its in-house development team instead of outsourcing it.

In 2004, LucasArts’ V.P. of marketing, online, and global distributions Jim Ward was promoted to company president. One of Ward’s first actions as president was to audit LucasArts, and he didn’t like what he found. Most of LucasArt’s profits apparently came from externally-developed Star Wars titles, which resulted in many extra expenses and didn’t bode well for the company’s long-term viability. So, Ward set out to restructure LucasArts. According to Game Informer, he shifted development to focus on internal projects and reduced the company’s workforce of 450 employees to roughly 190. Projects being developed by outside studios, including a potential KOTOR 3, were canceled due to Ward’s plans for the company’s future.

While Obsidian’s threequel never came into fruition, BioWare and Electronic Arts did finally continue the story (from a certain point of view) when it released 2011’s The Old Republic, which is still receiving new story updates and expansions today. But the call of a proper KOTOR sequel continued to echo through the halls of the legendary studio…

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BioWare’s KOTOR 3 Pitch

It’s no secret that BioWare wanted to move on to new, original projects after KOTOR. That’s why the studio developed Mass Effect and Obsidian took on KOTOR 2. But the years following the conclusion of its original sci-fi trilogy and its Game of the Year win for Dragon Age: Inquisition in 2014 were not kind to the studio. Despite attempts to expand the Mass Effect series beyond Commander Shepard and the Milky Way with 2017’s Andromeda, and the high-profile failure of live service loot shooter Anthem in 2019, BioWare hasn’t found the same success it enjoyed in the 2000s and early 2010s. Perhaps if the studio had instead been allowed to work on KOTOR 3, things would be different?

In 2017, Liam Robertson (one of the researchers for the lost games blog Unseen64) reported that EA’s BioWare Austin branch was prototyping either a KOTOR remake or a proper revival of the series, and this news was picked up by a Star Wars fansite called Star Wars Game Outpost. The only problem was that this wasn’t exactly accurate.

When Kotaku reached out to Robertson for clarification, he admitted he misunderstood the information. Games journalist Jason Schreier set the record straight: BioWare Austin had prototyped a KOTOR project, but the project was never green lit by Electronic Arts, which held the exclusive rights to develop Star Wars games at the time. Instead, most of the BioWare Austin moved on to help with the development of Anthem.

But this was just one of allegedly several attempts by BioWare to get a new KOTOR project going in the years since the release of The Sith Lords. Now that the Star Wars license has moved on from EA and other studios are trying their hand at KOTOR, BioWare may be out of chances.

The KOTOR Remakes That Never Were

Rumors regarding a potential KOTOR remaster or remake have floated around the internet forever. For a while, it even felt like a new rumor about the long-awaited KOTOR remake was popping up in forums or on social media on a yearly basis, only to be debunked later. That is until 2021, when Sony, Aspyr, and the newly revitalized Lucasfilm Games announced a real Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic remake. At first, it seemed like a dream come true, considering Aspyr’s resume, which included ports of several classic Star Wars games, including both KOTOR installments, to modern platforms. Besides BioWare and Obsidian, who knew these games better than Aspyr? Then reality stepped in to crush gamers’ hopes.

In July, Bloomberg reported that Aspyr had put the KOTOR remake on hold. The game wasn’t delayed for a year or two; it was delayed indefinitely. While this isn’t the same as a game being canceled, it might very well devolve into that worst case scenario.

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As for why the game is on ice, there are a multitude of reasons. At the top of the list are two recent firings: art director Jason Minor and design director Brad Prince. No reasons were given at the time for these firings (and we are still waiting for explanations), but the fallout has reportedly left these project directionless.

Then there’s the recent private demo that Aspyr recently showed to Lucasfilm Games and Sony. According to Bloomberg, while the team was excited about the demo, the studio heads felt the game “wasn’t where they wanted it to be,” and that way too much time and money had gone into the demo with little to show for it.

The studio may have also over-promised regarding how soon it could actually ship the game. Per Bloomberg, the remake’s current development was unsustainable, and even though Aspyr initially promised a 2022 release date, 2025 was a more realistic ETA. In May, parent company Embracer Group tasked developer Saber Interactive with helping Aspyr with the remake. Bloomberg suggested that there was the possibility that Saber could take over the project completely.

One might wonder if the remake would have fared better in the original KOTOR team’s hands, and in an alternate universe, that could have happened (again, from a certain point of view). Soon after Aspyr announced the remake, the co-founder of BioWare and current CEO of Beamdog, Trent Oster, revealed that his company had previously pitched the “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – Reforged Collection” to Lucasfilm Games. It’s unclear whether these were meant to be full remakes of the games or a remaster collection.

While this pitch was seemingly rejected, if you zoom into the second Reforged Collection pitch slide, you can barely make out the word “Vision” and the roman numerals for 1 through 3, which could imply Oster wanted to use the remakes as a springboard for KOTOR 3.

Since official attempts to remake KOTOR are not doing so well, why not let fans take the reins? Well, they’ve tried…

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In 2016, a group of devoted modders formed Poem Studios and started remaking KOTOR from the ground up with Unreal Engine 4. Codenamed “Apeiron,” the game would have been more than just a remaster; developers planned to introduce new content, new worlds, new missions, and even new companions. The project was progressing pretty well until 2018 when Lucasfilm sent Poem Studios a cease and desist letter. The team and its work disintegrated.

Despite the quality and legacy of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series, the games can’t catch a break. Most attempts to either continue or revive the series have been shot down, and the only one that initially succeeded has run into a series of issues that threaten its future. KOTOR 1 and 2 are still the most beloved Star Wars video games of all time, but reality seems determined to make sure no games like them are ever made again, even if they are just remakes.

But what about a KOTOR movie, then? Well, that’s a whole other story.

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