The story of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 3 is one of mishandling and missed opportunity. The third installment in a hit Star Wars game series should have been an almost certain success for all involved. However, KOTOR 3 never happened, and people are still asking why years later.
The first two games of the Knights of the Old Republic series were huge commercial successes. While Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords did not perform as well as its predecessor it was still profitable, performing better in the UK than KOTOR. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is still one of the best-selling Star Wars games and was the fastest-selling game for Xbox at launch.
KOTOR had been devised and developed by BioWare, deliberately setting the game 4,000 years before the main movie saga to give the narrative as much creative freedom as possible. When BioWare passed on the opportunity to make KOTOR 2, Obsidian Entertainment picked up the reigns and continued the long-term storyline started by BioWare. It is apparent to anyone who plays KOTOR 2 that Obsidian intended it to be the second installment in a trilogy. After all, it ends in a sort of cliffhanger, so why didn’t KOTOR 3 happen?
Rumors About KOTOR 3 Started Early
It’s not uncommon for rumors to start and spread in the gaming industry, and given the dedication of Star Wars fans, rumors surrounding Star Wars games can spread remarkably quick. Whispers of a third installment bounced around online forums and conventions for years after the release of KOTOR 2 but with little concrete evidence. The abrupt end to the series had many wondering if KOTOR 3 was ever actually planned or if everything around it had simply been rumor.
However, the speculations were true, and KOTOR 3 was indeed in development. In his 2008 book Rogue Leaders: The Story of LucasArts, former editor of Playstation: The Official Magazine, Rob Smith talks about how KOTOR 3 already had a storyline, characters, and places all planned out. Smith even goes so far as to name one of the potential characters who would have featured; a female named Naresha.
Planned locations included Coruscant, Taloraan, and Mandalore, the Mandalorian homeworld Star Wars games have never shown before. In Smith’s book, he specifically mentions that a Mandalorian metropolis known as Mandalore City was set to appear in KOTOR 3. These are tantalizing glimpses of places in lore players could have visited in a project that never got out of the conceptual stage.
KOTOR 3 Was One Of Many Canceled Star Wars Games
However, KOTOR 3 never materialized, fading into memory like many games and creative visions. There is a lot of confusion on the topic of the game’s cancelation, with not even those involved in KOTOR 3 seeming to know the whole reason. To properly understand why KOTOR 3 was canceled, it is necessary to understand what was happening behind the scenes at LucasArts. In the early 2000s, LucasArts was undergoing massive change, and it was all to do with money. Those in charge felt that it was a waste of money to license out Star Wars alongside so many other game titles.
In 2004, the former vice president of marketing, online and global distribution at Lucasfilm, Jim Ward, was appointed as president of LucasArts and promptly began a massive reorganization of the company. Previous Star Wars titles had almost exclusively been developed by external developers such as BioWare, Obsidian, and Raven Software. However, Ward now wanted to prioritize in-house development of games, including those from the Star Wars franchise.
This meant that when Obsidian did pitch KOTOR 3, they were denied, and Ward instead gave it to an in-house LucasArts team. This team began work on the storyline and even had several pieces of concept art. Still, the project was ultimately canceled sometime around 2005 by LucasArts during its reorganization and re-prioritizing of games. Over 20 Star Wars games were canceled during this time, including a proposed Star Wars Rogue Squadron trilogy colelction, which was nearly half complete when it was canceled.
KOTOR 3 was almost given the go-ahead but then abandoned, with none of the people involved really knowing why. Former LucasArts employees who talked to Game Informer in 2015 spoke of their confusion at the whole situation. Needless to say, even in an industry where games are scrapped on a regular basis, this is bizarre.
Will KOTOR 3 Ever Happen?
So will there ever be a KOTOR 3? That is a more complicated question than perhaps people realize. Although plainly put, the development of KOTOR 3 likely depends on just one thing: how well the KOTOR remake performs.
With the KOTOR remake already in trouble, things are not off to a good start. First, the KOTOR remake was reported to be delayed indefinitely, then it changed developers. Initially, Aspyr Media was the one handling the remake of the Star Wars classic. However, the reins have since been handed to Saber Interactive, which was initially helping Aspyr with the remake, but is now entirely in control.
With these issues and delays, it is more important than ever that the KOTOR remake performs well upon release if fans ever hope to see a third KOTOR game. This would be a shame as both BioWare and Obsidian’s Chris Avellone always envisioned the game series as a trilogy. Speaking with VG247 in 2019, Avellone talked about how even when making KOTOR 2, they tried to foreshadow and incorporate elements from the first game in order to tie the imagined trilogy together:
“We did start working on the third game pitch, because we always imagined the trilogy. Even when working on the second game, we [tried] to foreshadow what Darth Revan was doing in the second game, and he wasn’t always just ruthlessly and mindlessly blowing everything up. He actually had a larger plan because there was some greater manipulation and threat going on.”
Avellone wanted Obidian’s KOTOR 3 to involve the player battling ancient Sith Lords, far more evil, dangerous, and powerful than any Star Wars KOTOR Sith Lords previously seen in the games. For BioWare’s part, Bloomberg‘s Jason Schreier revealed on Twitter that BioWare has tried more once to get the green light for KOTOR 3. The exact details of their vision for a trilogy are unknown, but it seems the original studio also had no luck getting approval.
The truth is that, ultimately, the saga of KOTOR 3 is one of mismanagement. Cutting an already established title only a year after rushing to release the second installment doesn’t seem to make much sense. Fans can only hope that the KOTOR remake will inspire Disney to give Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 3 another chance to become a reality.
Next: Star Wars’ Biggest Tragedy Isn’t Darth Plagueis, It’s KOTOR 2