Why BioWare won't make Knights of the Old Republic III

In 2003, LucasArts released the title that many consider to be "the greatest Star Wars game ever," Knights of the Old Republic. Developed by BioWare, the studio that also brought you Baldur's Gate, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age, KotOR arrived to waves of critical acclaim.

Indeed, KotOR hit shelves a little over a year after the poorly received Attack of the Clones. To many fans, it was a dark time for Star Wars, but KotOR's unique setting, well-drawn characters, and excellent execution of turn-based combat and role-playing was a spark of hope for the franchise.

On top of critical praise, Knights of the Old Republic also sold 270,000 copies in its first two weeks. It's no surprise then that LucasArts wasted no time in commissioning a sequel. Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords was developed by Obsidian Entertainment, best known today for Fallout: New Vegas.

Despite the fact that KotOR II ended on a now-infamous cliffhanger, the series never received another installment. Now that Electronic Arts has the exclusive rights to make Star Wars games, it's unlikely Obsidian will ever get a shot at another sequel, which means that it may be up to BioWare to make Knights of the Old Republic III.

Unfortunately, we don't think that will ever happen. Here's why.

EA is not interested in story-based, linear experiences anymore

EA just isn't all that interested in the kind of game KotOR was back in 2003, a story-based linear experience with a beginning, middle, and end. Instead, EA has continued to pivot towards a "live service" approach that allows the company to keep players engaged (and buying additional content) months and years after a game has hit shelves.

The company made its stance on linear experiences clear when it canceled Visceral's untitled Star Wars action-adventure game and shuttered the studio. While Visceral's game, codenamed "Ragtag," faced many obstacles behind the scenes, EA cited the title's design as the main reason for ending the project.

Patrick Soderlund, EVP of Worldwide Studios at EA, wrote in a blog post, "It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design." A few weeks later, Soderlund elaborated on his statement: "As we kept reviewing the game, it continued to look like a much more linear game [which] people don't like as much today as they did five years ago or ten years ago."

Knights of the Old Republic's traditional approach to storytelling — a game that tells a complete story and therefore has finite playtime — no longer fits EA's game plan. Even BioWare has jumped on the "games-as-a-service" train with its upcoming game, Anthem.

BioWare's commitment to Anthem could last up to ten years

BioWare might be too busy with its upcoming 2019 blockbuster, Anthem, a game-as-service loot shooter meant to last for the next ten years, to even consider making another Knights of the Old Republic game. What's more, BioWare has put most of its resources into the development of Anthem: both the Edmonton and Austin studios are focused on finishing the game for its February 2019 release date.

The MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic is also still being serviced by BioWare Austin. It's unlikely that with so much focus on Anthem and a current Star Wars game that we'll see yet another game from BioWare, especially one that doesn't have an online focus.

It's worth noting that if BioWare were to attempt Knights of the Old Republic III, the studio would have to figure out how to update the series to encompass modern gaming trends like live service content drops and online play. The first two games were very story-focused titles. Changing that formula might not bode well for BioWare in terms of keeping the fans who have asked for a sequel for so long happy. It might not be worth the effort at this point.

Anthem could be make or break for a shrinking BioWare

There's also the question of whether BioWare will still even exist in the years it'll take to develop Knights of the Old Republic III. According to a report from Kotaku, Anthem could be make or break for the studio, especially after Mass Effect: Andromeda failed to impress critics. That game's underwhelming reception led EA to fold BioWare Montreal, the studio that led development on the project, into EA Motive.

Kotaku says that there's a similar fear at BioWare with Anthem. Were the studio to disappoint with its first live-service game, even bigger changes could hit the studio — including perhaps being shuttered completely. After all, EA proved last year that it was more willing than to shut down a studio (RIP Visceral) when it's not headed in the right direction.

BioWare already has The Old Republic MMO

After Knights of the Old Republic II ended on a cliffhanger, fans unsurprisingly began asking for a sequel that would continue the adventures of Revan and Meetra Surik as they searched for the secret Sith Empire beyond known space. Instead, BioWare released 2011's The Old Republic, an MMO spiritual successor that takes place 300 years after the KotOR games. That's not to say that BioWare didn't complete the story it started in 2003.

The Old Republic featured Revan in several storylines. In fact, BioWare devoted an entire expansion to Revan, the beloved protagonist of the original KotOR, in 2014. (There was also a novel written by KotOR senior writer Drew Karpyshyn that followed Revan and Meetra's journey into the Sith Empire in 2011.) In Shadow of Revan, the fallen Jedi Knight returns to the known galaxy to conquer both the Jedi and the Sith, and it's up to you to stop him.

With so much already fleshed out about the series' protagonists, there might not really be a reason for BioWare to return to these characters.

EA already has other Star Wars games in the works

Forget what BioWare is working on for a second. You also have to consider Electronic Arts' overall slate of games, especially when it comes to the multiple Star Wars projects currently in the works at some of the publisher's other first-party studios.

For one thing, DICE is still servicing Star Wars: Battlefront II, which hasn't even turned one year old yet and is still receiving seasonal content drops, such as the recent Han Solo Season, a tie-in to Solo: A Star Wars Story. DICE plans to release even more content for the game this fall.

Then there's the new game being developed by EA Vancouver from the ashes of Visceral's Project Ragtag. That game is reportedly an open-world Star Wars adventure more along the lines of what EA is looking for as opposed to a linear experience.

Finally, the recently revealed Jedi: Fallen Empire is the next Star Wars game on EA's slate. Developed by Titanfall studio Respawn Entertainment, the game follows a survivor of the Jedi Purge in the early days of the Empire. Jedi: Fallen Empire is set to release in Holiday 2019.

With so many projects at EA as a whole, there's not much room for Knights of the Republic III.

The KotOR games are no longer canon

There's yet another obstacle keeping Knights of the Old Republic III from ever happening: the new Star Wars canon. In 2015, Pablo Hidalgo, a creative executive for story development at Lucasfilm, confirmed that Knights of the Old Republic was no longer part of official continuity after Disney wiped the canon clean to make way for a new era of stories. When asked about KotOR's status in the new canon at a Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2015 panel, Hidalgo responded that no, BioWare "has created their own universe that is so fantastic" that Lucasfilm wasn't going to interfere, according to StarWars.com.

That said, specific elements from the games have appeared in the new canon, such as references to the Mandalorian Wars and the return of the Sith planet Malachor in the Rebels animated series. The planet Taris, an important setting in the first game, was also referenced in The Force Awakens novel and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

While these references are enough to get fans riled up, it doesn't mean that the games (or even the era) will ever be canon again. Recently, fans hoped Rian Johnson's new Star Wars trilogy would take place in the days of the Old Republic. Unfortunately, Johnson confirmed that's not the case.

BioWare prototyped KotOR 3, but it wasn't greenlit

Despite the fact that Electronic Arts has never expressed any interest in continuing Knights of the Old Republic in earnest, reports have continued to appear on the internet over the years about a potential sequel. The most high-profile report thus far came last year when Liam Robertson from Unseen64, a YouTube channel that chronicles the stories of canceled games, said on a podcast that he'd discovered that BioWare Austin was working on a new KotOR game.

"I've learned now that [BioWare Austin is] pretty much now exclusively working on Star Wars games and they're going to be doing that for the indefinite future," said Robertson in the podcast (transcribed by The Star Wars Game Outpost). "What they're currently working on right now — and I have this on good authority — is a sort of remake/revival of Knights of the Old Republic. I don't know when this is set to come out, but it has been in development for a little while now."

A few days later, Kotaku debunked Robertson's report. The outlet confirmed that Robertson was reporting on old info. BioWare Austin did create a prototype for a new Knights of the Old Republic game, but the concept was never greenlit and isn't in development. With BioWare Austin now helping to complete work on Anthem, it's unlikely we'll ever see this Knights of the Old Republic project.