After early morning reports from Kotaku that Platinum Games' action RPG Scalebound may be cancelled, Microsoft confirmed to media outlets on Monday that they have in fact pulled the plug on the Xbox One exclusive. Indeed, those looking to battle mythical beasts while sporting a stylish pair of Beats by Dre will need to find a new vice.
Originally announced at E3 2014 and slated for a holiday 2016 release before being pushed back to 2017, the PlatinumGames title would have been at least three years into production when things shut down. Being canned so late in the game sounds shocking, but it's hardly the first time a title has been terminated late into development.
We've decided to look at other promising video games that were cancelled and never released in order to ask whether there's any silver lining to the slaying of Scalebound. A discussion has been stirring online with voices from Xbox and PlatinumGames suggesting that maybe - just maybe - Scalebound's cancellation is a good thing.
Star Wars 1313 - PS4, Xbox One, PC
Star Wars 1313 was an early 'next gen' action adventure game touted by critics and fans alike as the most gorgeous looking game presented at E3 2012. The game, set on the Capital Planet of Coruscant, would star Boba Fett and focus on the darker elements of the Star Wars Universe. "It's what people want to see - this dark and gritter version of Star Wars. And that's what we're working to deliver," LucasArts game director Dominic Robilliard told Geoff Keighley during a live E3 showcase.
1313 had fans eager for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One era, until development was halted and later canned altogether following Walt Disney Company's acquisition of all Star Wars properties. Disney decided that their game studios would be better off as publishers only, and shut down all internal development, including 1313.
With the game being worked on in secret for an unknown amount of time before E3 2012, no one outside of LucasArts knows how long development on 1313 lasted, but anyone who saw gameplay clips from E3 that year can attest to how polished and promising the game appeared to be.
Silent Hills (PT) - PS4
It's hard to say exactly how long this game was cooking, what with it's Playable Teaser, better known as PT, simultaneously announced and released in August of 2014 without any trailer or buildup. Master game maker Hideo Kojima and film director Guillermo Del Toro's PT was a phenomenon in the summer and fall of 2014, inspiring streamers, YouTubers, and friend groups alike to take on the abstract, life-like, and utterly petrifying puzzle of a demo.
Plenty were devastated to find out the game was not going to be made, including none other than Del Toro, who told horror site Bloody Disqusting, "That makes no f*cking sense at all that that game is not happening. No f*cking sense at all."
News of the game's cancellation came in April of 2015, a mere 8 months after the PT demo took the world by storm. Of course, years worth of time and energy had gone into the game before the demo hit the PlayStation store; Del Toro went on record in 2015 as saying that he remembers seeing ideas they had for Silent Hills also appearing in "games that came after, like The Last Of Us," which launched in June of 2013. The 14 months between June 2013 and August 2014, plus the 8 months between PT's release and its cancellation in April 2015 equal 22 months, or just under two years.
Gotham By Gaslight - PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Although this game was not in production tragically as long as the others on this list, its concept is so thrilling that it's hard not to dream about what could have been. Gotham By Gaslight was an open world Batman game pitched by F.E.A.R 3 developers Day 1 Studios and based off of the comic of the same name. An Elsewhere story, the game would take place in a late '1800s Industrial Gotham City and see steampunk Batman tracking down and taking on Jack The Freakin' Ripper.
Ultimately the game was scrapped after now closed studio THQ failed to obtain the licensing for Batman, but prototype footage exists showing steampunk Batman traversing through an eerie yet gorgeously realized 19th century Gotham. Most stunning, though, are the cape physics found on Batman's epic cloak-influenced cape. Mesmerizing.
Pitched in the late 2000s, it's possible that we would not have got the celebrated Arkham Games if Gotham By Gaslight was green-lit, so perhaps we had best count our blessings. Still, it's hard not to imagine a perfect world where we got both Batman series.
Star Fox 2 - SNES
Given the success of the original Star Fox game, a sequel to the jaw dropping Super Nintendo epic seemed inevitable. Of course, fans got 1997's Star Fox 64, but before that, a direct followup on the SNES was planned to be the console's swan song - Star Fox 2. The game would supposedly push the SNES to its utmost limits, presenting even more realistic 3D graphics and taking players off the rails of the first game and throw them into the sorts of sprawling, open space battles seen in later games' All-Range mode.
Star Fox 2 was reportedly fully complete, despite never being released. Development kicked off virtually right after the original game launched in 1993 and lasted into 1995, with a planned release of summer 1995. However, that summer saw the arrival of both Sony and SEGA's 3D consoles, the PlayStation and Saturn, respectively, and Nintendo was concerned about launching their next 3D game on inferior hardware.
"The decision was made because they didn't want the old-gen 3D going up against the much better 3D of the next generation, side-by-side," Dylan Cuthbert, a game developer who worked on both SNES Star Fox titles told Nintendo Life in 2015. This, paired with the fact Nintendo had a Star Fox in the works for its very own, next generation console, tilted the decision towards ditching Star Fox 2. Cuthbert still thinks about the game, confirming that "the fully complete Japanese ROM at least does exist," giving hope to fans holding out for a Virtual Console release.
So, is Scalebound's cancellation all that bad?
Is the cancellation of Scalebound a modern tragedy for PlatinumGames, or a blessing in disguise? With longstanding rumors that the game was trapped in development hell, it's entirely possible that when the game finally did ship, it may not have been able to achieve its ambitions or live up to the hype that three years of heavy Microsoft promotion creates.
In a tweet, Xbox head Phil Spencer responded to fan concerns, insisting that the difficult decision will prove in time to be best for Xbox gamers.
With Scalebound out of the 2017 equation, Microsoft may be able to present a more curated gaming experience for players. Presumably the marketing and resource budgets allocated for Scalebound can instead be put into titles like Halo Wars 2, Crackdown 3, and Sea of Thieves to ensure that the year is a powerhouse for the platform and its players. It's comforting to hear, but the most interesting statements are those coming from PlatinumGames themselves.
We'd be remiss not to mention that the studio had a rough year in 2016 as far as the critical reception of their games goes. Star Fox Zero was divisive among fans, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan was panned across the board. In a way, perhaps the trouble Scalebound faced in development may serve as a wake up call for PlatinumGames.
It certainly seems that's how Scalebound's director Hideki Kamiya sees it. On Twitter, Kamiya wrote, "I'll work extra hard to never have to let you down like this again," after apologizing to disappointed fans.
Kamiya even went so far as to open up to fans, admitting that the stress brought on by everything surrounding Scalebound led him to seek time off for his own mental health. In a crunch-heavy industry where AAA developers often have to prioritize projects over their own health, the fact that Kamiya was willing to accept that he needed to preserve his own health is inspiring. If a project lead like Kamiya understands the importance of mental health, it's a bright sign for the future of development at PlatinumGames, that staff can know their health and livelihood are valued.
If there's one trend that carries through between all these cancelled games, it's that the decision to scrap them can be devastating to the creators who poured themselves into the projects. Scalebound may be a heavy loss, but if it means its creators are vowing not to let fans down again, all while accepting the importance of mental health, perhaps it's best for both Platinum and game enthusiasts. Star Fox 2's disappearance paved the way for the beloved Star Fox 64; Silent Hills getting the axe ultimately led to Kojima and Del Toro having full creative control on their new project, Death Stranding. It's still early, but maybe there's a bright side here, too.
We may be down an angsty dragon slaying hero, but I'm willing to bet whoever steps in to fill his shoes will be even better.