A short time ago, I was composing a piece on the longevity of Neverwinter Nights. You won’t find it here, though. The situation has changed radically.

Atari has pulled the plug on the original game. Bioware will not make any new premium modules for NWN. Patch 1.68, now in development, will be the last one. Support for Neverwinter Nights is just about over as designers are shifted to other projects.

The reason for Atari’s actions is simple: they are in a very bad financial position. They just posted an enormous 67 million-dollar loss for the year. Their stock is hovering around fifty cents a share, and the company is close to being delisted by NASDAQ. In a frantic effort to get cash flow going, Atari has slashed prices on their product lines and have been selling off internal development studios.

So it’s no wonder they’ve dropped the original game in favor of pushing Obsidian to get Neverwinter 2 out the door on time, regardless of its condition. It’s already known that the DM client – an important function for online play – won’t be in the initial release. Obsidian has said it will be available as a separate download after the game is out.

Obsidian may be in for a rough ride when NWN 2 is released. Developers in the mod community are already worried about some MP aspects. Information on actual multi-player functionality is not easy to come by, and those who are planning to design persistent worlds are uneasy about what little is known. The mod community played a big part in the long-term success of the original NWN, so this is not a good sign.

Also, we know that every game these days is buggy on release. Neverwinter 2 may be worse than usual because of the pressure to get the game out on schedule, which is September 2006.

As for Atari, they’ve been here before. It was poor managerial decisions that torpedoed the Atari computer. Now it looks as though Atari software may go the same way.

That isn’t definite yet. Atari may be able to pull through if NWN2 sales are very good and they can get their act together. But the situation is precarious, and their need for revenue could have an adverse effect on new product, if there are any.

Of course, Wizards Of The Coast still owns Dungeons & Dragons. They can look for a new publisher if Atari goes belly up. How hard or easy that would be is impossible to say at this time. Much depends on any contingency plans WOTC may have, what their agreements with Atari are, and how messy the Atari situation really is.

At the moment, the outlook for Neverwinter Nights 2 to continue the success of the original is a bit bleak.miniscorp

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