Paul Atreides was never born in the alternate timeline of survival MMO Dune: Awakening

 Paul Attreides.
Paul Attreides.

Even casual fans of Dune—for example, people who watched the movies but never read the books—probably remember that Paul Atreides was never meant to be born. His mother, Lady Jessica, was intended to bear a baby girl to Duke Leo Atreides, but instead decided to give him a son as his heir.

Paul being a boy and not a girl threw a number of wrenches into the works of the shadowy Bene Gesserit—far too many to get into here. But what if Jessica had done as she was ordered to and gave birth to a girl instead?

Funcom's upcoming survival MMO Dune: Awakening will answer that question. We learned last year when creative director Joel Bylos spoke to PC Gamer that the MMO would represent an alt-history Dune, a "what if" scenario that at the time Bylos wouldn't fully elaborate on.

"We worked closely with the Herbert [family] and Legendary [Pictures], and we found a point, a single point, the single pebble that starts a landslide," is about all Bylos would tell us in 2023.

Today at Summer Game Fest we finally learned what that pebble is: Paul Atreides never being born. In the new story trailer above, we do see Paul, but he's ruminating about a timeline where he never existed. That's where Dune: Awakening will take place.

The repercussions are pretty major. Duke Leto is still alive, his assassination seemingly having been foiled by Pauls' alt-history sister, who is perhaps more capable at sniffing out treachery than Paul is. House Atreides survives the Harkonnen attack, too, which is more good news: though the Fremen have supposedly been "exterminated" somehow. It might have something to do with the Sardaukar having been summoned to Arrakis to prevent Leto from fully controlling the spice trade.

That's quite a different Dune than we're used to. Unfortunately, even Paul Atreides can't see a release date in his visions of the future, though Funcom has said closed beta tests are planned before the end of 2024.