The Curse of Battlefront III: How a Canceled Sequel Disappointed Two Generations of Star Wars Fans

A history of the greatest Star Wars game we'll never get to play

On Star Wars Day, I personally enjoy thinking back to my favorite past videogame experiences in “a galaxy far, far away” through the years. From my earliest gaming memories of Jedi Power Battles, to the present day with the newly released Jedi Survivor, Star Wars has always played a major role in my life as a gamer. However, as I recall my previous adventures in the Star Wars universe on this day of celebration, I can’t help but think of one game that continues to haunt me, as well as the millions of gamers who also wonder what could have been. I’m talking about none other than Star Wars Battlefront III, the masterpiece that never was, and never will be. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane, as we look at the history of Battlefront III, the cursed game that has scarred two generations of Star Wars gamers (and counting).

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The Rise of Battlefront – The Classics

In 2004 and 2005, Pandemic Studios developed and released two of the greatest Star Wars titles ever made, Battlefront and Battlefront II. The games rebuilt the iconic battles from the original and prequel Star Wars trilogies, allowing gamers to play as infantry, heroes/villains, and even pilot the unique vehicles of the Republic, CIS, Rebellion and Empire in single-player, online multiplayer, or couch co-op. Both games were critical and commercial successes, selling millions of copies, earning critical acclaim, and made “Battlefront” the go-to videogame franchise in Star Wars. Just as the second Battlefront game surpassed the first, players eagerly awaited the third entry in the series, Star Wars Battlefront III, which was set to be the greatest Star Wars experience to date. Nothing could stop this inevitable Star Wars juggernaut, right?

Related: The Best Star Wars Games of All-Time, According to Critics

The Curse Awakens

Unfortunately, Star Wars Battlefront III never came to pass, and to this day, it is still difficult to understand exactly what went wrong. The game reportedly began development in 2006, just a year after Battlefront II’s launch, but this time at Free Radical Design instead of Pandemic Studios (which would shut down three years later in 2009). While there has been a great deal of speculation surrounding Star Wars Battlefront III, there are two conflicting views held by the developers Free Radical Design vs. the publisher, LucasArts.

A recent viral tweet from Michael Barclay, the current lead designer at Naughty Dog, who worked as a level designer at Free Radical during the development of Star Wars Battlefront III shed some light on the cancellation of the game, as he wrote:

“I feel like it’s been long enough now to come out and say Star Wars Battlefront III was gonnae [sic] be legit incredible and the fact it got cancelled 2 yards from the finish line is an absolute crime. Gamers don’t know what they were robbed of.”

This sentiment was echoed previously by other Free Radical Design members, including the studio’s cofounder, Steve Ellis, who once claimed that the Star Wars Battlefront III was between 97-99% complete in various statements.

However, as highlighted in a decade old GameSpot article, LucasArts had some harsh words for the developers of the Star Wars sequel, with an anonymous employee calling the unreleased Battlefront “75% of a mediocre game” even accusing Free Radical of being “akin to a Ponzi scheme.”

In the end it doesn’t really matter who was to blame between Free Radical Design or LucasArts, because the biggest losers of the cancellation were the Star Wars gamers. We either missed out on a Star Wars masterpiece that we will never get to play, or have spent many years pining for a game that may have been a mediocre disappointment. Whichever it was, we deserved to know, dammit!

A New Hope – Star Wars Battlefront DICE Reboot

From the ashes of the glorious Pandemic age of Battlefront (and short-lived Free Radical Design era), arose the next best thing to a sequel: a Star Wars Battlefront reboot! In 2013, DICE began development on an original Battlefront series published by Electronic Arts, releasing Star Wars Battlefront in 2015, followed by its infamous sequel two years later in 2017. Unlike the classic Battlefront games, DICE’s Star Wars series received mixed reviews from critics, but similarly to its predecessors, generated massive sales to the tune of 14 million copies sold for Battlefront (2015) and 10.5 million units of Battlefront II (2017). However, both games were plagued with scandals of varying degrees, such the first Battlefront reboot’s lack of single player content/story mode, and the notable microtransaction fiasco of Battlefront II that sullied the series’ good name.

However, despite their flaws, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to Star Wars Battlefront (2015) and Star Wars Battlefront II (2017). As someone who thoroughly played both of DICE’s Battlefront games extensively, including earning every PlayStation trophy for Battlefront and Battlefront II, even though they did not quite meet the standard set by Pandemic, after updates, patches (removing “pay-to-win” microtransactions), and DLC, both titles became worthy of the Battlefront mantle, even after their rocky starts. Surely DICE would be able to give us the Star Wars game we always dreamed of, when they eventually released Battlefront III, right?

Related: May the 4th be With You: Prima’s Favorite Star Wars Games 2023

Return of the Jinx

To parody the well-known proverb, fool me with Battlefront III once, shame on you; fool me with Battlefront III twice, shame on me. In an eerily similar twist of fate to the first game of the same name, DICE’s Star Wars Battlefront III will not be happening. Although there hasn’t been an official cancellation, with reports of a rejected pitch by EA, departures of key DICE developers, including Battlefront’s Creative Director, as well as an increasing single-player Star Wars emphasis at EA, it seems the writing is on the wall. All signs point to the end of Battlefront as we know it (and I don’t feel fine).

Will We Ever Get Star Wars Battlefront III?

As I have highlighted consistently in this cursed history lesson, I remain a big fan of Star Wars Battlefront and would probably be the first in line to buy a new game in the franchise, whether from DICE or another developer. However, despite my fervent loyalty to the series, it’s time for my fellow Battlefront fans and I to move on from the name nostalgia. Someday down the line, there will probably be another Star Wars Battlefront reboot, maybe even one that breaks the “curse” and releases a third game eventually, but ultimately the name matters less than its vision.

Instead of hoping for Star Wars Battlefront III, we should look ahead for new, original games (inside and outside of Star Wars) that continue the tradition and spirit of Pandemic and DICE’s Battlefront series, and might even build something greater. Rather than feeling disappointed by what Battlefront III could have been and wondering “what if,” we should think back in thankfulness for the excellent Battlefront titles of the past, and look ahead to the future of Star Wars gaming, asking, “what’s next?”


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Author
Grant Testa
Grant Testa is a writer at Prima Games, who specializes in achievement hunting and horror gaming. He is also an avid comic book reader/collector, fantasy footballer, and rock music fanatic. Thousands who have been defeated by Grant in online multiplayer games have cried to themselves, wondering, "How did he get so good?! Why can't I be a gaming demigod like him?" They would probably be surprised to learn that Grant actually inherited his elite gaming skills from his mom, Joann Hansen, one of the speediest stenographers/typists in the nation, (and probably the world). Fun fact: he is also the son of the world’s first “let’s player” and comedy legend, Tim Testa.