The dispute between Gothic and Risen series developer Piranha Bytes and its former publisher JoWood has long been discussed, even to this day. There's always been some air of mystery to what happened, with some saying JoWood rushed the release of the disastrous Gothic III, and others saying it was Piranha's fault for not finishing on time.
The result was a poor game and a horrible expansion by an external studio (both cleaned up by community patches), and another poor game from another separate studio in the form of ArcaniA: Gothic 4. Meanwhile, Piranha Bytes moved on to Deep Silver, who funded the superb Risen (and now, the upcoming Risen 2: Dark Waters), a title true to the Gothic universe in virtually every way, but with major improvements.
So just what happened? With JoWood currently on the ropes financially (all current projects have been suspended) and the Gothic license set to return to Piranha Bytes within about a year, it seems a good a time as any for Piranha to finally clear the air, and that's what we have here.
"The problem was - to cut a long story short - there were a couple of differences in opinion between the publisher and us," Piranha Bytes co-founder Michael Hoge says. "And the whole thing collapsed when the publisher forced us to release Gothic 3 while it was not ready."
"To be fair, if we had finished it in the time that we promised, it would have been fine. But as it was, the development took longer on the project, and instead of trying to find a solution with us - how to get this right - they just wanted to release it. It was because of their stock market orientation, I think. So we decided to go separate ways then."
Delays are common in the gaming industry; with so many moving parts and such a high demand from gamers placed on polish, it's understandable when things don't go exactly as scheduled or fully live up to expectations. This is not to excuse Piranha Bytes per se, but regardless, it is something most publishers are prepared for when necessary -- we've all seen what happens when they aren't.
On the topic of ArcaniA, Hoge holds no ill will. In fact, he was hoping for a quality title.
"We thought, OK, scenario one: they do a good game and it furthers the brand. Scenario 2: they fail and everyone knows why."
As for the question on all fans' minds -- "Will Piranha Bytes return to the Gothic name?" -- Risen brand manager Daniel Oberlerchner says, laughing, "That's a dangerous question. That's a big secret! No, we can't talk about that - seriously."