Epic kicks, whips, then cancels Bulletstorm 2

Epic is in a killing mood. Word came out over the weekend that the studio behind the ubiquitous Unreal Engine had cancelled Gears of War: Elite, a Kinect spin-off of its popular sci-fi shooting series. Now company president Mike Capps says that Epic has pulled the plug on a sequel to its most recent new intellectual property. Bulletstorm 2 has been cancelled.

“We thought a lot about a sequel, and had done some initial development on it, but we found a project that we thought was a better fit for [Bullestorm studio] People Can Fly,” said Capps speaking to Gamespot at the PAX East conference. “We haven’t announced that yet, but we will be announcing it pretty soon.”

Published by Electronic Arts at the beginning of 2011, Bulletstorm was expected to become another major hit for Epic. Critics praised the game’s slapstick, high-score-driven shooting. Its blend of crass humor and self-serious melodrama didn’t connect with consumers though, as it was widely reported after Bulletstorm released that EA was disappointed with sales. “I think Bulletstorm was very critically successful, and I think a lot of folks really enjoyed seeing something new. From a sales perspective it was good, but not amazing. I think EA was hoping we’d do better,” said Capps.

Piracy was a limiting factor for the game as well, according to Capps. “We made a PC version of Bulletstorm, and it didn’t do very well on PC and I think a lot that was due to piracy. It wasn’t the best PC port ever, sure, but also piracy was a pretty big problem.”

The Epic executive did say that the series may not stay away forever. “I’d love to go back. I think there’s more to do with Bulletstorm. Heck, it kind of ended wanting more. I’d love to see another project, but right now we don’t have anything to talk about.”

Epic has had some trouble getting new franchises to thrive in recent years. Gears of War has become a monumental success for both Epic and Microsoft, but Bulletstorm and exploration game Shadow Complex have failed to become more than just interesting one-offs. Epic’s IP struggles seem to be turning around though. Its iOS series Infinity Blade has already spawned two sequels, the second of which was teased at the March unveiling of Apple’s new iPad. The company is also veering away from its traditional grim militarism with its next attempt at a new property, Fortnite. Maybe that game’s cartoony vibes are just what Epic needs.

It is encouraging to hear that People Can Fly is working on a new project. Both Bulletstorm and that studio’s Painkiller are great fun.

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