Could Atari Be Resurrecting Neverwinter Nights as an MMO?

Dungeons & Dragons fans have been complaining the last few years about a lack of video game love. While Turbine’s Dungeons & Dragons Online has seen enormous growth thanks to the conversion from subscription to free-2-play MMO, there has not been a game released that uses the current version of the D&D 4th Edition rules.(DDO and the Neverwinter Nights games both used modified versions of the 3.5 D&D rules)

Last weekend, Wizards of the Coast – the owners of Dungeons & Dragons, unveiled its upcoming slate of products. Notable among the books and miniatures was mention of a Neverwinter Campaign Guide:
Neverwinter Campaign Guide

Set in the Forgotten Realms, this is intended to provide plot options for DMs who want to adventure in Neverwinter. It will also feature a new class called the Bladesinger. This is a full treatment which includes powers for level 1-30, new feats and paragon paths. Coming in 2011, Third Quarter.

This goes along with the comment from Wizard’s reps that Atari has an impending announcement related to a future D&D game. What might lead to the assumption it’s a Neverwinter title is that the 4th Edition approach for campaign settings is fire and forget.

The Forgotten Realms, which is where Neverwinter is set, has already had its campaign conversion two years ago with no promised support beyond the initial two books and a published adventure. To see this campaign guide on the schedule matches nicely with building up brand cross-over products for the future video game.

The bigger issue is not if there is a Neverwinter Nights game coming, it seems obvious, but what form it will take.

To put more of that story together, consider that last year Atari moved back from being merely a publisher of games into the developer realm with the purchase of MMO makers Cryptic Studios. Cryptic successfully cranked out two MMOs in 18 months with Star Trek Online and its Champions Online games. Cryptic claims to be working on an unannounced fantasy game. Cryptic also is a company run and founded around a traditional RPG history – Champions was originally a tabletop RPG and market peer to D&D.  Atari retains publishing rights to D&D games based on Forgotten Realms settings, specifically Neverwinter. Interestingly, Atari was sued by Hasbro over DDO last year because of allegations the publisher was developing another online game to compete with the MMO.

Do the math – Atari owns publishing rights, Cryptic is an MMO maker owned by Atari, Wizards of the Coast says Atari has a D&D game announcement in the works. Fueling the fire of course is the registration of domain names by Atari that are all centered around “Neverwinter Nights”.

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