5 Amazing Video Games That Companies Snatched Away
When you consider every moving piece that has to come together, it is honestly remarkable that video games get finished at all. Conflicts within studios, licensing agreements, money issues, and every other possible hurdle threaten a game's completion, leading to some games being sent to the graveyard before ever being played.
You may get used to the fact that some games just aren't going to happen, but when a highly anticipated title gets canceled, it can hurt ...
Star Wars 1313 Gets Order 66-ed
The Star Wars universe, by design, appeals to audiences of all ages. There is enough action to interest older viewers, but it is all kept in a tame enough package to sell merchandise to younger audiences too. Despite this, there are frequent reminders within Star Wars that a more mature world is just out of the camera's view.
After all, the universe does focus on massive wars, while the presence of organized crime, bounty hunters, and other inherently violent groups is often shown. This was to be the focus of Star Wars 1313, a third-person shooter set in the Star Wars universe that would proudly wear a Mature rating and embrace the grittier side of the Galaxy Far Far Away.
At E3 2012, LucasArts showcased a gameplay trailer for the new project, which demonstrated a lot of promise and made 1313 one of the most anticipated titles to come from that year's show. However, behind the scenes, there was a deep disturbance in the Force, and the game would be canceled in 2013.
Ever since then, the number "13" has been considered unlucky.
In short, blame the Mouse.
For a more in-depth take on the cancelation, developing games for existing properties can be difficult. Developers have to make sure that they have the proper licensing rights to use each character and location in their games, and sometimes property owners, who may or may not understand the unique challenges that come from the medium of video games, try to take some degree of control over the process.
Star Wars 1313 was originally going to feature a new protagonist, but George Lucas wanted it to focus on series icon Boba Fett instead. Lucas is infamously impossible to argue with, so Boba Fett became the protagonist. This meant that the character seen in the famous trailer would NOT be the game's main character. There were even disagreements over exactly what basic mechanics the game would use. Some wanted it to be an open-world sandbox, and others wanted a more linear, action-focused game.
None of this mattered, though, because all progress for Star Wars 1313 was stalled when Disney purchased Star Wars. This ushered in a new era for the Star Wars universe and led to 1313's cancelation. LucasArts was shut down by Star Wars' new overlords, and the rights to producing Star Wars games were passed to other developers. When Star Wars 1313 was in development, the sequel trilogy of films had not yet been announced, but when Disney bought the property, they introduced their new plans for Star Wars movies, shows, games, and more – which, unfortunately, didn't include Star Wars 1313.
Ideas from Star Wars 1313, particularly the 1313th level of planet Coruscant that gave the game its name, have found their way into Star Wars media since the cancelation, but realistically, the game itself is never happening. All that we're left with is that initial trailer and visions of what could have been.
Scalebound Leaves Gamers Asking, "WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?!"
Scalebound was first announced in 2013. It was going to be an exclusive for the Microsoft Xbox One and PC. This was seen as a much-needed game when it was first unveiled, as the biggest knock against Xbox One was that it felt like the console did not have any new, exclusive series. Like Halo, the others were all long-running series, and the console needed a killer game.
Excitement also surrounded Scalebound because it was being developed by PlatinumGames, known for acclaimed action titles like Bayonetta. However, Scalebound(to fail) would remain in development for five years and would finally be canceled in 2017.
The first thing to understand when talking about Scalebound's cancelation is just how big and complicated a game it was going to be. It promised an action RPG in which players controlled a swordsman and indirectly controlled a dragon during combat through commands and directly controlled it from a first-person perspective. When players weren't getting their Targaryen on, the dragon would fight alongside the player under AI control. The game was also going to have dragon flying mechanics outside of combat, towns to visit, and four-player online co-op multiplayer.
While this already seems longwinded, this isn't even every feature the game was going to have. When a game gets this big, eventually, you have to step back and ask, "What's the main idea here? What's the one central mechanic that is going to hold this game together?" And unfortunately for PlatinumGames and players everywhere, they could never really answer these questions.
Xbox showed trailers for Scalebound at E3 in 2014 and again in 2016. The latter featured enticing gameplay that gave gamers a reason to be excited for what was to come.
However, it was also clear that behind the scenes, things weren't going well. For starters, the game was supposed to be released in 2016, but it was delayed until 2017. Game delays are common, but this one felt a bit odd. The developers seemed to know that they had a lot more work left to do, and that was concerning. Apart from the E3 trailer, there wasn't a lot of good news coming out about Scalebound, and it was officially canceled in January 2017.
What makes Scalebound's cancelation just that much more sour is how ... sad everyone involved seemed about the whole ordeal. Generally, when games are canceled like this, there's someone to point the finger at, even if it's just a scapegoat. Here, though, it feels as though both Microsoft and PlatinumGames just realized it wasn't going to work, and no one ended up better because of it.
Microsoft executives worried that the game was overhyped to a point where it could never meet expectations. The game's director, Hideki Kamiya, apologized because he felt like he let fans down. JP Kellams, a lead producer for the game, has been open about how the game's development drastically affected his mental health and how it caused a lot of staff to leave the company. This was just a heartbreak cancelation all around.
Silent Hills Gets Ghosted By Konami
On August 12, 2014, a free first-person horror game simply titled P.T. appeared on the PlayStation 4 online shop. The game was developed by "7780s Studio," a new studio with no public information available at the game's launch. Nevertheless, this mysterious little title quickly took over the Internet. It was cryptic, focusing entirely on traversing a looping corridor. With each pass through, the corridor changed, and interacting with different aspects of the environment seemed to progress the narrative.
P.T. became a sensation with tips and potential lore spreading across forums in the days following its release. And then, the end of P.T. pulled back the curtains on the game's true nature.
When players finally unlocked the mysteries of the hallways and completed the game, a cut scene played. The game's credits revealed that "7780s Studio" was a pseudonym and that P.T.'s true creators were acclaimed Metal Gear Solid director Hideo Kojima and filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro. The protagonist was revealed to be played by Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead fame.
Finally, a title card appeared that showed the name Silent Hills, a new installment in the long-running Silent Hill franchise. Despite its short length, P.T. is regarded as one of the greatest horror games of all time and was a playable teaser for this new blockbuster production.
The hype was real, but it would not last for long. Publisher Konami canceled Silent Hills in April 2015. Hideo Kojima had worked for Konami for three decades, but their relationship was, to put it lightly, rocky. His team, Kojima Productions, was treated bizarrely badly during the waning days of his tenure with Konami. The publisher essentially tried to erase Kojima's name from his magnum opus, Metal Gear Solid 5, and didn't allow him to attend The Game Awards when it won Best Action/Adventure Game. Kojima left Konami shortly after, which marked an end to Silent Hills. While it was and continues to be a bummer, it came as no surprise that Konami would disappoint fans when it came to such a title.
The fact that we'll never get to see a full-length version of what P.T. promised is a bummer, but if there is a positive here, it's that Hideo Kojima's story got a lot happier after leaving Konami. He reformed Kojima Productions as an independent company, and in 2019, Kojima Productions released Death Stranding. It did not get the universal love that P.T. did, but it did involve Norman Reedus and Guillermo Del Toro, so that's some consolation.
NBA Elite 11 Was Anything But
Okay, so I know that I wanted every game on this list to be a cancelation that made gamers sad, but I had to include this one because of how funny its story is. NBA Elite 11 was finished. Copies were even being shipped to stores. But it was so terrible and gained such notoriety before its release that EA canceled it at the last minute.
In 2010, 2K Sports was in control of the NBA simulation genre. Considering they still are to this day, that should indicate how successful competitors were. EA wanted to take that throne, though, and their plan to do so was NBA Elite 11, a basketball sim with a trick up its sleeve: an innovative control system based around the dual sticks of the Xbox 360 and PS3. This was a complete redesign of how basketball games are usually controlled, so the developers needed all the time they could get to fine-tune their system. They were given 18 months.
Despite this, the EA team completed NBA Elite 11, and they released a demo. When the demo came out, EA quickly wished it hadn't. The general response from players was that the controls were confusing, and while I'm sure that some contrarian out there would've argued that they're the best way to control a basketball game, the consensus among demo players was that a more streamlined game like NBA 2K was more fun.
More negative publicity came from the game's plentiful and often-hilarious glitches, like Lakers' player Andrew Bynum proudly T-posing in the center of the court. The people at EA knew that they didn't have a winner on their hands, and rather than competing directly against and inevitably losing to NBA 2K 11, they called the game off at the last minute. Basketball fans consider NBA 2K 11 one of the best basketball games of all time. Meanwhile, NBA Elite 11 is a distant memory of something that was mildly humorous for five minutes.
Here's the thing, though. The cancelation came after some copies of NBA Elite 11 were already shipped to stores. Meaning there do exist complete copies of games out in the wild, which are considered some of the rarest and most expensive games on the market. Those lucky (or unlucky?) few who have played the full retail copy have stated that ... yep, it's a mediocre basketball game with clunky controls and unfinished animations. Gamers weren't missing out on much with this one.
Star Fox 2 (Sort Of ... )
If you're reading this list and are already typing, "Well, actually ... "I know, I know. Just give me a minute. Star Fox 2 did eventually get released … just 22 years after it was officially canceled.
As the name implies, Star Fox 2 is a sequel to 1993's Star Fox, a space dogfighting game for the Super Nintendo that blew players away with its 3D graphics. Games didn't look like this in 1993, not on home consoles anyway. It may look primitive by today's standards, but it was advanced at the time.
Naturally, its commercial and critical success meant a sequel was put in the works that would be an upgrade on all fronts. Star Fox 2 was going to have a more open, strategic design to its gameplay. Some stages were even going to shift from piloting a spaceship to controlling a ground-based walker vehicle. This sequel was heavily featured in the gaming press of the time and was slated for an August 1995 release date.
Then, with 95 percent of the game finished, Star Fox 2 was canceled. This baffled players. Information wasn't as readily available as it is today, so one day, they were expecting Star Fox 2, and the next, it was canceled without anyone knowing why. So ... what happened?
According to people associated with the game, Nintendo canceled Star Fox 2 because its 3D looked dated. By the time Star Fox 2 was nearly finished, the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn were already on the market, and their 3D capabilities were well beyond the Super Nintendo's outdated hardware. The original Star Fox was impressive by 1993 standards, but Star Fox 2 would have looked obsolete in 1995.
Now, canceling the game for this may seem like a drastic decision ... and it was, but console power was a big deal at the time. Nintendo was developing their own 3D console as a successor to the Super Nintendo, and the fear of looking obsolete compared to the competition may have been justified. Still, though, the cancelation felt like a waste when the game was so close to done.
This isn't where the Star Fox 2 story ends, though. In a unique twist, Star Fox 2 was eventually officially released, and long before that, players were trying out unofficial versions of the game. ROMs of beta versions of Star Fox 2 leaked online, and because the game was close to finished, players who emulated the game got a decent taste of Star Fox 2. These ROMs were how we learned about many of the game's new mechanics.
While these ROMs were not too hard to access despite their legally dubious status, in 2017, players would finally be able to play the game officially. Nintendo announced and released the SNES Classic, a miniature Super Nintendo with 21 built-in games. One of these games would be Star Fox 2, finished and official for the very first time. The game became even more accessible when it was released as part of the Nintendo Switch's SNES collection. A game that was once lost is now readily available for anyone with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. After more than two decades lost in the archives of gaming history, Star Fox 2 got a happy ending.
Top Image: LucasArts