Atari pulls plug on Neverwinter Nights 1

One of the stories coming back from E3 isn’t a very good one; apparently Atari didn’t want any further competition for the (non-Bioware) Neverwinter Nights 2, so ordered Bioware to cut all further live team support for NWN1.

Up until this point Bioware had made a fairly decent business model out of supporting a years-old game by paying the best community module developers to create “premium modules” for resale. The latest, a Nethack-type dungeon crawl, just came out, and a huge one set in Dragonlance was set to be released soon. To quote its developer;

I got the news from Rob Bartel at BioWare that Atari and Hasbro had just advised BioWare that they would not be giving any more approvals for any further premium modules \’e2\’80\ldblquote or indeed \’e2\’80\ldblquote anything more for Neverwinter Nights 1.

After just shy of 4 years \’e2\’80\ldblquote on the Friday before E3 when most senior business contacts at BioWare were out of the office and getting ready to head to LA, NWN had been quietly killed with a phone call to Darcy Pajak. Not only that \’e2\’80\ldblquote they had killed it just as our finish line was in plain view and we had only one lap left to go. And I suspect that they knew that full well, too.

Bioware has already said that one more patch is set to come out to fix a bug introduced in the previous version, and of course unofficial modules will continue to be released by fans. Still, it’s hard to see how Atari is helping themselves or Obsidian, the developers of NWN2 who I’d wager had nothing to do with this decision, by pissing off the mod community – the very people that they’ll need to attract to make NWN2 a long term commercial success.