Fans of beloved fantasy franchise Baldur’s Gate have been itching for a fresh installment in the series for the better part of a decade. First released in 1998, Interplay’s sword-wielding epic spawned a variety of sequels, spinoffs and expansion packs before quietly fading from view in 2004. With original developers BioWare now boasting a successful fantasy series of their very own – the “spiritual successor” that is Dragon Age – the question remains over just who will step in to save BG’s ailing franchise?
Following the winter release of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition for PC, iOS & Mac, developers Overhaul Games looked better placed than most to land the lucrative Baldur’s Gate 3 assignment. That was until a whole host of legal wrangles forced an effective stop to the studio’s forward momentum. Last week saw Overhaul’s re-skinned update pulled from online circulation; the result of what company head Trent Oster called ongoing “contractual issues.”
Given Overhaul’s position as a subsidiary of Steam-competitor Beamdog, the issue may well turn out to be one of simple distribution. If the company acquired exclusive rights to publish BG games through its service, then licensor profit margins could end up taking a huge hit. Simply put, the more digital platforms Baldur’s Gate appears on, the better the fiscal outcome for license holder Hasbro; ultimate owner of the Dungeons & Dragons brand from which BG takes its cue. Of course the opposite holds true for Beamdog, whose chances of achieving true market relevance rely solely upon retaining these kinds of exclusivity deals.
With legal wrangles holding up the release of content patches, glitch fixes and an updated version of Baldur’s Gate 2, Overhaul is currently unable to proceed with its “long term goal” of working on a sequel. Speaking to RPS yesterday, Oster gave fans a hopeful, if realistic appraisal of the whole situation, stating:
“Best case, we can sort this out soon. Worst case, this could be in legal hell for a while… we are still interested in the concept [of Baldur’s Gate 3,] but currently I’d say we’re very demoralized.”
This isn’t the first time legal troubles have engulfed the Baldur’s Gate franchise. Interplay’s slow decline and near fatal dose of Fallout-flavored litigation kept the series in stasis until August of 2008, when Atari finally bought out the franchise. Ownership issues also kept BioWare from continuing their stellar work on the series, a decision that the studio later called “frustrating” and which ultimately led to the creation of Dragon Age.
Will Overhaul be given the green light by Hasbro? Can Baldur’s Gate remain competitive in a world of RPGs it helped inspire? Who would you like to see development of the sequel handed to?