With the recent announcement of Homeworld 3, we’re seeing the ultimate culmination of an effort to revive a franchise. Game franchises usually don’t last forever. Some rarely make it into “trilogy” territory. Others disappear after a single game. However, every so often, owners of intellectual properties that haven’t had a game for a while want to see if they can turn it into a profitable product again. That’s what Gearbox has done with Homeworld.
Up until 2015, the Homeworld franchise had its ownership tossed around between companies since the release of Homeworld 2. Sierra Entertainment owned the rights for a while, but after Relic Entertainment – the original developer – was bought by THQ, the rights to the franchise when unused. Sometime around 2008, THQ had purchased the rights to the property from Vivendi – Sierra’s parent company – leading many to believe a sequel was around the corner, but nothing came of that. In 2012, THQ went bankrupt and Gearbox ended up acquiring Homeworld and set out to build Homeword: Remastered released February of 2015.
This was the first step in their revival process. Remastering the game established a new footprint in the modern PC gaming world more than a decade after the last game. Meanwhile, Blackbird Interactive was formed in 2007 out of former developers from the original Homeworld team at Relic. They started making a game inspired by Homeworld named Hardware: Shipbreakers. After Gearbox made this acquisition, they allowed Blackbird to use the rights to Homeworld to turn this homage to the classic game into a full-fledged prequel named Homeworld: Shipbreakers and ultimately Homeworld Deserts of Kharak. This released in 2016, a year after the remaster to generally positive reviews.
Gearbox established a foundation, tested the waters with a new related game, and now have taken the leap to make a sequel to the long-dormant franchise. While Homeworld 3 is only in its initial phases and is currently being crowdfunded (for whatever reason that is happening), so it’s hard to say whether it will relaunch the franchise and create further games. However, it is easy to see that the success of the campaign along with the interest in something still three years away is setting a positive trend for Homeworld 3 to be a winner. The game’s history has many nostalgic fans longing to relive the magic of one of the first 3D real-time strategies out there.
I’m included in the people excited about the rebirth of this franchise. While I did enjoy Deserts of Kharak and felt right at home jumping back into a remastered version of that classic game (even with those “remaster issues”), I’m itching to see what pushing the story forward and returning the franchise to space can deliver. Each title in the series established another layer of great storytelling and gameplay design that was seemingly only brought to an end by an intellectual property being flipped around to publishers unwilling or unable to make use of it. Gearbox may not be the first name you think of when reviving franchises successfully, but they certainly have the money and marketing to give it the best opportunity to be the hit that we all hope it will. If you’re interested in what’s got people so excited about Homeworld, check out this video.
Also, here’s a link to the Homeworld 3 Fig campaign if you want to get in on your three-year preorder.