Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is probably one of the important games in BioWare’s history. Not only did the title pave the way for the beloved Mass Effect series, but it also essentially invented a brand new era for the fictional history of the Star Wars universe.
However, out of all the games in BioWare’s library, KOTOR has (in some ways) arguably aged the worst. When Sony announced the game would receive a long overdue remake, millions of voices suddenly cried out joy. Nowadays, they’ve been silent thanks to the latest in a long line of development problems that have many struggling to find an answer to the question, “What is happening?”
The history of the KOTOR remake’s blunders began shortly after its announcement. The project was revealed in September of 2021 as a timed exclusive for the PlayStation 5. At that time, developer Aspyr was seemingly heading up the remake. The game’s Lead Producer, Ryan Treadwell, also promised the remake would be rebuilt from the ground up but stay true to the original’s narrative. Overall, a promising start, especially because many of the people who worked on the original were reprising their developmental roles for the remake. However, that good news didn’t even last a year.
Usually, when games go through a troubled development, their fall is the result of a domino effect where one issue leads to another until the entire project falls apart (i.e., everything that can go wrong will go wrong). The KOTOR remake, meanwhile, seemingly fell apart practically overnight. On July 26, 2022, Jason Schreier reported that the project was on hold indefinitely because a recent vertical slice demo didn’t inspire confidence. That, and Design Director Brad Prince and Art Director Jason Minor were fired. Aspyr had to put the remake on hold without those key figures, but Schreier was somewhat confident the game would be released in 2025. Unfortunately, the company’s situation went from bad to worse, as Aspyr has apparently lost more than just its leadership.
On August 22, 2022, Kotaku (Schrier’s old stomping grounds) released a report that stated one of Embracer Group’s “AAA projects has transitioned to another studio” to ensure its quality. Since Embracer Group owned Aspyr and Saber Interactive, and because Saber started collaborating on the KOTOR remake in May of 2022, many gamers and outlets assumed that the studio was now in charge of the KOTOR project. While Embracer Group never confirmed or denied this assumption, it would be the last time anyone heard about the KOTOR remake until 2023, when fans received the worst news yet about the project.
On September 29, Sony removed the remake’s announcement trailer from YouTube. The video was technically set to “Private,” but the effect was the same: The mass gaming public can’t watch it anymore. While Sony told IGN that the trailer was delisted because the company’s music license expired, as is “part of normal business,” the video’s removal reinvigorated concerns regarding the remake’s fate. Normally, a AAA title isn’t considered canceled until a studio representative sings a eulogy. So why would Sony and/or Embracer Group allow the music license to lapse if they were still developing the game? Multiple outlets have reached out to all parties involved for more information on both the delisting and the current state of the project. To date, none have received an official reply. Many gamers are now convinced that the KOTOR remake is dead in the water, but is it really?
In Embracer Group’s Q4 report, which was released on May of 2023, the company expressed confidence that the KOTOR remake would still be released. Moreover, the company hasn’t announced the project’s cancellation. That would seemingly suggest that everything is relatively on track, but those reports really only tell a small part of this story.
Embracer Group hasn’t had the best track record since its Q4 report. Several days after the report, the company lost a $2 billion deal, which made Embracer’s stocks drop 40%. While the company’s portfolio has recovered since then, it did so at a high price, as on August 31, Embracer decided to shut down Volition. This decision was due to a restructuring program that started in the wake of the lost $2 billion deal, and Volition’s latest game underperformed by a significant margin.
To make matters worse for KOTOR’s future, Saber Interactive recently experienced a huge blow due to the cancelation of future Evil Dead: The Game content. While Saber Interactive is keeping the servers on for the time being, the company decided to not create any more content and axe the game’s upcoming Switch release (insert a joke about Ash William cutting off his own hand here).
If Embracer Group is still looking to lighten its load by closing studios, and assuming Saber Interactive is indeed in charge of the KOTOR remake, then the future of both studio and game might hinge on Saber’s next title, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2. If the game doesn’t meet or exceed expectations (which I hope it does since I am a huge Warhammer 40K fan), Embracer might decide Saber Interactive isn’t worth financially supporting anymore. And if that happens, Embracer might subsequently decide that keeping the KOTOR reboot project alive isn’t worthwhile either. Of course, all of that assumes that the project is still alive in the first place. At the moment, it seems that nobody is willing to confirm that seemingly simple and vital piece of information, which, generally speaking, isn’t a great sign.
It’s far too early to claim that Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is deader than Star Wars’ original expanded universe, but it certainly looks like the fate of a galaxy far far away hinges on a grimdark future where there is only war.