Who exactly pulled the plug on the planned downloadable content for Aspyr's Nintendo Switch port of Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords? That's a surprising new question that has risen to the surface thanks to a new filing by Aspyr in its motion to dismiss a class-action lawsuit levied against the company over the DLC's cancellation.
As first reported by Axios, Aspyr's motion to dismiss the lawsuit is based on an argument that plaintiffs have already been provided relief over their complaint that they were "duped" by initial marketing for the game that promised to restore content cut from its original release. "All were offered a replacement product worth more than the one they purchased and none requested a refund," Aspyr's lawyers stated in a filing.
It's a pretty fair argument. But it was a comment by co-CEO Ted Saloch that gave a sense of drama to the whole affair. He stated that "Aspyr believed it would be able to release the content, but a third party objected and Aspyr was unable to do so."
"A third party?" Which third party? And why? What would be a humdrum business dispute in many other instances gains a whole new kind of relevance when you follow the journey of this mythical cut content—itself already a piece of obscure Star Wars mythology.
Who might have objected to the release of the KOTOR II DLC?
Let's run through the interested parties.
First, there is the Star Wars license holder itself: The Walt Disney Company. Disney purchased Lucasfilm Ltd. in 2012 for $4 billion, making it responsible for all the licenses granted by Lucasfilm subsidiary LucasArts. It may have plenty of sway over what content Aspyr releases. Did Disney change its mind on making this unreleased content available to the public? (They still won't release a theatrical cut of the original Star Wars trilogy after all...)
Next, we should consider the original developer of the cut content: Obsidian Entertainment. Would any individual at Obsidian object to the cut storylines and areas being finally put on sale? Possibly—but so might by parent company Microsoft, which bought the studio in 2018, years after KOTOR II went out the door. If Obsidian and Microsoft never earned revenue on this content... why should Aspyr?
And finally we should briefly cast our gaze upon Nintendo itself—an unlikely but still relevant suspect in this case. Aspyr's KOTOR II port launched in a rough state, and a game-breaking crash prevented some players from progressing past a certain point in the game. Did the platform holder have any concerns over DLC filled with never-released content that could impact an already unstable product on its storefront?
I should stress that Nintendo is not the most likely candidate here but after Sony yanked CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077 from its digital store after the game's unstable launch, we need to consider that platform owners everywhere are keeping a close eye on games that may drive players to request refunds over a product they can't use.
This would sadly not be the first time Aspyr had to cancel a Star Wars project over third party objections. In 2022 the studio "paused development" on a ground-up remake of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic following the showing of a vertical slice to its business partners. Said remake is now in the hands of another studio owned by parent company Embracer.
Maybe one of those same partners was the one who objected to the release of the KOTOR II DLC...
What's the big deal over the cut KOTOR II content anyway?
If you are not as brain-poisoned as I am about Star Wars, this whole business may seem rather overblown. Why should game developers care about content cut from the final release of a game? Lots of games have to cut content on their way to completion. What's so special here?
The unreleased content for KOTOR II has reached mythological status because it's a high-profile exercise in the act of video game preservation and it fleshes out underexplored story elements in an already textured and nuanced entry in the Star Wars universe. That's like catnip for anyone who has an equal passion for Star Wars and the complexities of game development.
We mostly know what would have been in Aspyr's planned DLC. The cut content has been available in dummied-out code that was part of KOTOR II's release for a long time and modders have spent years bringing it to a playable state. In 2015, the stars aligned and Aspyr was able to work with modders Zbigniew Staniewicz, aka Zbyl, with his partner Darth Stoney to allow them to release a stable version of the cut content on the Steam Workshop.
By the way, 2015 would be after Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm and before Microsoft purchased Obsidian Entertainment. Fascinating.
Accessing the unreleased content allows players to see the conclusion of underexplored storylines that raise some of the most complex and imaginative moral questions in the Star Wars universe—and gives developers a better sense of the full game Obsidian originally intended to release. Hundreds of game developers have to make brutal compromises to get their games out the door with no hope that pieces they were passionate about will ever see the light of day.
This is a rare instance where the pieces that were cut to meet deadlines managed to slip out the door after release.
Releasing it as commercially available DLC would have been the final step in a journey long thought impossible yet thanks to the objection of an unnamed third party, that step was not taken...for now.
The unreleased pieces of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords have a fascinating way of bubbling to the surface time and time again.