Kingdom Hearts 3 director Tetsuya Nomura recently gave an in-depth interview for the official Kingdom Hearts 3 Ultimania fanbook. There, he discussed how Star Wars and Marvel worlds could join Kingdom Hearts, and how the series plans to segue from Kingdom Hearts 3 into Kingdom Hearts 4.
Without spoiling too much, Kingdom Hearts 3 ends one chapter in the Kingdom Hearts universe, only to set the stage for another. But before we start thinking about Kingdom Hearts 4, director Tetsuya Nomura says that there are a few stories left to explore before the next main game.
When asked about Kingdom Hearts 4 Nomura says he must first focus on Kingdom Hearts 3 DLC and an update for the Kingdom Hearts mobile game. "Nothing has been officially decided yet, so at this point in time, I can't say anything. Right now, the top priority is making DLC for Kingdom Hearts 3, and a huge update that's coming to [Kingdom Hearts Unixon Cross]," says Nomura in an interview for Ultimania (based on a fan translation of the Japanese interview).
Afterwards, however, Nomura says that there needs to be some housekeeping before Kingdom Hearts 4 can begin in earnest. "As far as the developments to come, I currently have to ideas, and something that requires me to think about it separately, so the next project will actually have to be two, I think. Even we're talking about a hypothetical "Kingdom Hearts 4," there's something that must be written before it, so I'm looking into the possibility of sandwiching it between works."
It sounds like Nomura is saying there needs to be some additional games before the next mainline Kingdom Hearts game. This shouldn't surprise longtime fans who've received many, many side story titles like Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, and Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance before Kingdom Hearts 3 was released.
When Kingdom Hearts 4 does eventually happen though, should fans expect to see worlds from Marvel and Star Wars? After all, Pixar worlds were added to Kingdom Hearts 3 after Disney acquired Pixar in 2006, a year after Kingdom Hearts 2 was released.
While possible, Nomura isn't promising anything. Not because there's a lack of interest, but because of pre-existing business agreements. "[In] order to change those [Star Wars and Marvel] into a game, contracts must be made with each company (Lucas Films, Marvel, etc) separately and there are cases where other game companies already have contracts[.] [So] although the Disney Group has indeed added those [properties], incorporating them into [Kingdom Hearts] isn't so simple.
Nomura could possibly be referring to EA's rights to the Star Wars franchise, which grants the company exclusive permission to develop games on the Star Wars IP. Despite some high-profile cancelations and missteps, Disney sounds happy with EA's handling of Star Wars, so it could be some time before Square Enix can have access to those IP.
Marvel meanwhile doesn't appear to have any exclusivity contracts, working with developers like, coincidentally, Square Enix on a new Avengers game, or ex-Blizzard studio Second Dinner on a new Marvel game. So, if anything, Kingdom Hearts might have an easier time working with the Marvel IP for Kingdom Hearts.
And none of this includes the planned Kingdom Hearts 3 DLC which Nomura already confirmed would pick up loose story threads from the base game. This includes a mix of free DLC and larger paid DLC focusing on narrative. Basically, there's still a lot of Kingdom Hearts to come.
Read our Kingdom Hearts 3 review for our impressions on Square Enix's latest Disney adventure, or check out our Kingdom Hearts 3 Spoiler FAQ if you want to know where the series could go following the mysterious epilogue.