Around this time three years ago, it wasn’t clear what Marvel was doing with Guardians of the Galaxy.

James Gunn’s space adventure about a group of cosmic misfits stumbling across an Infinity Stone turned out to be an important building block for the Marvel Cinematic Universe but back then it felt like the flick could be the studio’s first big failure. After all, who was asking for a movie starring a guy best known for being the chubby goofball on a sitcom (Chris Pratt) and co-starring a talking raccoon and a sentient tree?

Three years and a million Rocket Raccoon Halloween costumes later, Guardians is one of Marvel’s most precious jewels. Gunn’s first film set box office records and the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is on track to be even bigger. The sequel boasts a perfect 100 test screening score and opening weekend box office projections of $150 million or more. We told you Disney was going to own 2017.

The sequel’s success is secure and there was no doubt Marvel would want to keep these characters going for future installments. The big question was whether or not Gunn – whose storytelling instincts shaped the irreverent Guardians flicks into a different kind of Marvel franchise – would return for a third film. Now we have an answer.

Gunn announced via his Facebook page Monday that he intends to continue the adventures of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

“In the end, my love for Rocket, Groot, Gamora, Star-Lord, Yondu, Mantis, Drax, and Nebula – and some of the other forthcoming heroes – goes deeper than you guys can possibly imagine, and I feel they have more adventures to go on and things to learn about themselves and the wonderful and sometimes terrifying universe we all inhabit. And, like in both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, we will work on creating the story that goes beyond what you expect.”

On the surface, this is just nice news. Gunn makes fun movies. Watching him play in the Guardians sandbox for a few more years should be a delight. There’s more to it than that, though. As you may have heard, the upcoming two-part Avengers adventure will take those heroes out into the cosmos, where they will meet up with the Guardians. We have no idea where all the characters will end up after that. There’s a good chance a lot of them won’t make it out alive but the meeting between Avengers and Guardians will open up the Marvel Cinematic Universe in big ways.

Now, Gunn gets to be a major player in how that takes shape.

“Much of what’s happened in the MCU for the past ten or so years has been leading, in a big way, to the Avengers’ Infinity War,” he writes. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will happen after all that. It will conclude the story of this iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and help catapult both old and new Marvel characters into the next ten years and beyond. I will be working side-by-side with Kevin Feige and the gang to help design where these stories go, and make sure the future of the Marvel Cosmic Universe is as special and authentic and magical as what we have created so far.”

So, Gunn will transition from playing in his own little corner to helping control the whole playground. That is going to be an exciting and fascinating thing to watch.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters May 5.