UPDATE: During the WotC New Products seminar at GenCon 2010 an attendee, after asking about new video games, was told:
“Atari has an announcement coming about some kind of D&D video game but they couldn’t talk about it here.”
After a draft post sits in wordpress for a while there comes a point when I don’t see the point of posting it, or I can’t think of a good way to finish it off so it just sits there. Rather then let it sit there gathering dust I’ll occasionally pull it out and post it here. I started this one last week and felt it was just a kind of meandering rant with no real worth. With that said, enjoy!
So what happened to the D&D video game license? Since roughly 1988 and release of Pool of Radiance there has a been stream of Dungeons and Dragons video games many good and some not-so-good. Indeed back in 2004 GameSpy even did a 5-Part History of D&D Video Games series during the franchises’ 30th Anniversary. Last year Turbine’s Dungeons and Dragons Online went to a free-to-play model and that was the biggest D&D video game news we’ve seen in a long while. Indeed, there have been no new announcements about development of any games of any kind in long long time.
The last non-MMO D&D game to see a major release was Neverwinter Nights 2 in 2006 (and the mostly forgotten D&D Tactics in 2007) with expansions and/or adventure packs release every 12 months since: Mask of the Betrayer in 2007, Storm of Zehir in 2008, and Mysteries of West Gate in 2009. That last, however, is something of a fallacy since the adventure pack, developed by Ossian Studios was completed in 2007 and was delayed due to issues with DRM. With the video-game like and streamlined 4th Edition rules released in 2008 one might have expected some announcement as to a new game in development, but nothing has been said so far.
The answer I suspect is December 2009 lawsuit between Hasbro (owners of Wizards of the Coast) and Atari. There have no new details I can find since the original suit was filed. The gist of the case, as it stands, being that 34% of Atari Europe is owned by Hasbro competitor Namco Bandai allegedly including 4 subsidiaries involved in the active development in D&D video games, as originally reported over at Ars Technica. I’ve yet to see any news on what is happening or has happened with that case and given that Hasbro seems to be trying to get the license back from Atari I’m betting that’s why we haven’t seen or heard anything about games.
It was also recently announced that Warner Bros acquired Turbine, Inc. and thus Dungeons and Dragons Online. I’m fairly certain that DDO is still made under the Atari license, but other then licensing I have no idea how much Atari actually contributes to development. So as far as I can tell that the D&D license is given to Atari, who contracts with Turbine to make DDO, who is then acquired by Warner Bros. Maybe I’m missing something, but it just seems a bit bizarre.