(Bloomberg) -- A hotly anticipated new Star Wars game is in serious trouble, according to people familiar with the project.
Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, a remake of a 2003 role-playing game, is delayed indefinitely as developers at Austin, Texas-based Aspyr Media try to figure out what comes next. Aspyr also abruptly fired the game’s art director and design director this month. In a series of meetings throughout July, Aspyr’s two studio heads told employees that the project is on pause and that the company will look for new contracts and development opportunities, said the people, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the situation. Knights of the Old Republic was to be one of the first modern Star Wars console games released outside of Electronic Arts Inc., which had previously held the exclusive licensing rights. That deal expires in 2023, opening the door for new Star Wars games from outside companies like Aspyr, Ubisoft Entertainment SA and Quantic Dream SA.
The game was announced last September and has been in development for nearly three years at Aspyr, which was purchased by Sweden’s Embracer Group AB last year. Aspyr, founded in 1996, was best known as a service shop that brought existing video games to other platforms, such as iOS, including the original Knights of the Old Republic games.
On June 30, Aspyr finalized a demo of the game, known as a vertical slice, to show to production partners Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC and Sony Group Corp. The developers were excited about it and felt like they were on track, according to a person familiar with the project, so they were shocked by what happened next.
The following week, the company fired design director Brad Prince and art director Jason Minor. Neither responded to requests for comment, but Minor suggested on a social media page that his dismissal was unexpected.
Representatives for Aspyr and Embracer didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Aspyr’s studio heads told staff that the vertical slice wasn’t where they wanted it to be and that the project would be paused, according to two people who were in the meeting. One person familiar with the discussions suggested that a disproportionate amount of time and money had gone into the demo and that the project’s current course wasn’t sustainable. Another point of contention may be the timeline. At the outset of development, Aspyr told staff and partners it would release the game by the end of 2022, according to two people familiar with production. Developers said a more realistic target now would be 2025.
The fate of Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic remains unclear. In May, Embracer announced that Saber Interactive would also join the project. Some at Aspyr believe that Saber, which has mainly been doing outsourcing work for the project, may take it over completely.
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