Pretty much everyone who played Battlefront I and Battlefront II wanted Battlefront III. So when rumors started surfacing that the title was under development at gaming company Free Radical Design, many fans got excited. But it wasn't long before we heard that the collapse of Free Radical meant the demise of Battlefront III. That entire process was largely opaque to gaming fans, but now we have more information about what happened and why.
In an interview with GamesIndustry International, Free Radical co-founder Steve Ellis explained that major changes at Lucasfilm gaming subsidiary LucasArts led to the deterioration of the relationship between the two companies. For a few years, things went well. LucasArts asked Free Radical to create Battlefront III in 2006, and by the end of 2007, they were so impressed with what they were seeing that they asked Free Radical to start planning a follow-up. Yes, Battlefront IV was on the drawing board at some point.
"For a long time we would describe that [partnership] as the best relationship with a publisher we have ever had," Ellis said.
But 2008 saw changes at LucasArts: President Jim Ward left, and other employees with whom Free Radical had good relationships were fired. "The really good relationship that we'd always had suddenly didn't exists anymore," Ellis said. "They brought in new people to replace them and all of a sudden we were failing milestones."
Under new orders from the higher-ups, LucasArts management canceled both Battlefronts III and IV. "It was a change of direction for LucasArts as a company rather than for the games that we were working on," said Ellis. "I think what had happened was the new management had been bought in to replace the old and given an impossible mandate."
Ellis' full interview is worth reading to learn more about how Free Radical fell apart. Many fans were very excited for more titles in the Battlefront game series, so the deterioration of the Free Radical-LucasArts relationship is disappointing.