Making video games is no easy task. So many games have a tremendous number of developmental hurdles that come up behind the scenes — and some games never even see the light of day. While video games are an art form that is often driven by passion, it’s also a business. This means they need to be profitable first and foremost. Sometimes, video game publishers will opt to cancel a game instead of continuing to pump money into a project that isn’t working out.
Other times, developers and publishers might have trouble seeing eye to eye from a creative standpoint during the production of a game, which could also lead to the cancellation of a project. The point is that it’s impressive when any game comes out, let alone some of the ambitious titles we’ve grown to love over the years. With that in mind, we’ve decided to take a deep dive into video game history and look at some of the most famous canceled games of all time. Get your tissues ready because many of these cancellations are extremely sad.
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Project Ragtag was the codename for this canceled Star Wars game, which was under development at EA’s Visceral Games. The game started development around 2013 and was shuttered in 2017 due to many factors — one of which being the lack of proper staff at Visceral to create a game of this caliber.
EA had laid off a large portion of Visceral’s staff in 2016, and other teams, such as EA Motive and EA Vancouver, were assisting with the development of Star Wars: Battlefront and its sequel. Project Ragtag would have been a large-scale linear action adventure being led by Uncharted creator Amy Hennig. Following the cancellation of the game in 2017, EA shut down Visceral Games entirely.
Here’s a weird one: NBA Elite 11 was a game that was finished (sort of). In fact, certain retailers and media outlets had copies of it ahead of its launch for PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2010. Before the game was launched, EA released a demo for it to get some quick feedback and make any last-minute adjustments for the full release. Due to a slew of glitches and bugs that rendered the game unplayable at times, the feedback was overwhelmingly negative.
This feedback led EA to pull the plug entirely on the console version, and all reviewers and retailers were requested to send back the copies. However, a handful of copies still remain in the wild. As we covered in our post about the rarest and most expensive games ever, a copy of NBA Elite 11 is worth around $1,500.
While Rockstar’s Agent was never canceled in an official sense, all signs point to the abandonment of its development. This was going to be a stealth game under development at Rockstar North, the team that brought us the acclaimed Grand Theft Auto V. Agent was first announced at E3 2007 as a PS3 exclusive, and it wasn’t until E3 2009 that we heard more about it. Agent was a game that Rockstar had wanted to make for a long time, and its partnership with Sony would finally allow the team to realize its vision for the project.
Since then, nothing much has been shown of Agent, but in 2013 and 2016, publisher Take-Two Interactive renewed the trademark for the “Agent” name. However, in 2018, the “Agent” trademark was listed as “Abandoned because no Statement of Use or Extension Request timely filed after Notice of Allowance was issued.”
In 2012, publisher THQ was planning on releasing an Avengers game to coincide with the release of the Marvel Studios film of the same name. Interestingly, it was supposed to be a first-person action game with an emphasis on cooperative play and would have launched for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, and PC. The game would have been based on the Secret Invasion storyline from the comics rather than tied to the narrative of the 2012 film.
However, THQ shut down in 2013 due to financial issues stemming from the failures of Homefront and uDraw Studio, and the Avengers project was canceled as a result. As part of the company’s closure, many of its properties and assets were sold off or auctioned to other publishers — one of which was Ubisoft, which acquired some of the game concepts that would later be used for Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth, a motion game for Xbox 360 and Wii U.
While DOOM 4 never released as intended, it laid the groundwork for what would become the hit 2016 reboot DOOM. However, in 2011, DOOM 4 was on track to be a cinematic approach to the series that took place on Earth. The issue is that it was trapped in development hell and, as some sources stated, it was a lot like Call of Duty, which was a far cry from what DOOM fans would have wanted.
Many who had gotten to play early versions of DOOM 4 stated it lacked personality and called it generic. It would have been something the fans would have disliked, so instead, id Software opted to reboot the series entirely, leading to DOOM (2016) and DOOM Eternal.
During the Xbox One generation of consoles, Microsoft was known for closing studios and canceling games. It canceled a few highly anticipated games, one of which was Fable Legends, an asymmetrical multiplayer action RPG that was being developed by Lionhead Studios. Fable Legends would have taken place 100 years before the events of the original Fable trilogy and was supposed to feature a heroes-and-villains system, with one player controlling the events of the quest (sort of like a Dungeon Master from Dungeons and Dragons) while the others were tasked with overcoming them.
In 2016, Microsoft closed down Lionhead Studios, and Fable Legends was canceled, partly due to the large cost of the project, which was said to be around $75 million. Considering the game was going to be a free-to-play title, Microsoft would have been unlikely to earn a profit on Fable Legends due to its high cost.
Sure, many fans love to recall the critical success of 2017’s Prey reboot, but before that, Human Head Studios was working on a sequel to the 2006 game, Prey. Aptly titled Prey 2, this sequel was announced in 2006 shortly after the original game’s release. However, it did not actually begin development until as late as 2009. This sequel would have featured an open world and had been handed off to publisher Bethesda.
In 2014, Bethesda formally announced Prey 2’s cancellation: “It was a game we believed in, but we never felt that it got to where it needed to be — we never saw a path to success if we finished it.” Bethesda added, “It wasn’t up to our quality standard, and we decided to cancel it. It’s no longer in development. That wasn’t an easy decision, but it’s one that won’t surprise many folks given that we hadn’t been talking about it. Human Head Studios is no longer working on it. It’s a franchise we still believe we can do something with — we just need to see what that something is.”
Bethesda next worked with Arkane Studios to bring us the hit first-person shooter game known as Prey in 2017. Arkane did not use any of the concepts or ideas from the canceled Prey 2 game but instead came up with everything on its own to bring us the reboot.
In 2008, EA was working on a Dark Knight video game tie-in based on the Christopher Nolan Batman film series. It would have served as a sequel to the 2005 game Batman Begins, which was based on the film of the same name. Pandemic Studios was in charge of development on Batman: The Dark Knight, which would have featured an open world design (much like what would later be used in Batman: Arkham City).
The biggest issues with the game had to do with its assets, many of which were not compatible with the Odin engine Pandemic wanted to use. Prior to deciding which engine to use, the development team had done a tremendous amount of work with the upcoming game’s assets, and when team members attempted to transfer them into Odin, the game would crash or cause the frame rate to dip so low it was unplayable. Because of this, EA canceled the game, as it wouldn’t have been ready by the end of 2008. The game’s cancellation reportedly caused EA to miss out on $100 million in revenue.
Before Rainbow Six Siege, a competitive multiplayer game that’s now home to over 70 million players, Ubisoft was working on Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Patriots, which would have come out as a cross-generational title for the PS3 and Xbox 360 as well as the PS4 and Xbox One. Patriots was victim of a troubled development cycle and had a lot going against it, particularly a shift in engines.
With the upcoming release of the PS4 and Xbox One, the development team wanted to take full advantage of the new hardware, and instead of shifting the progress on Patriots, Ubisoft opted to simply create an entirely new game that would become Siege. Ultimately, it was a wise move since Siege was so successful for Ubisoft.
Scalebound is one of the most famous canceled games due to how enticing it looked as well as the amount of progress that had been made on it before development stopped. It was going to be published by Microsoft and was being worked on by renowned Japanese studio PlatinumGames exclusively for Xbox One. Scalebound was first announced at E3 2014 and was going to be an action RPG that focused on dragon companions in a large open world. It was also supposed to have a four-player cooperative mode wherein players would work with each other to defeat enemies and gather XP.
Sadly, in 2017, Microsoft canceled the game for undisclosed reasons, though many believe it had failed to reach the expectations of its publisher and developer. In 2019, PlatinumGames’s studio head Atsushi Inaba felt that “both sides failed,” referring to his team and publisher Microsoft. It was confirmed in 2020 that Microsoft still owned the rights to Scalebound. Inaba said the team at Platinum would “love to return to” Scalebound if given the chance.
As one of the saddest cancellations on this list, Star Wars 1313 was a highly anticipated game that fell victim to Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars IP in 2013. It would have put players in the shoes of Boba Fett, a bounty hunter tasked with navigating the underground metropolitan world of Coruscant. After Disney acquired the Star Wars IP, the company laid off most of the LucasArts staff, meaning all current projects were either canceled or put on hold indefinitely.
In regard to the layoffs, a Lucasfilm representative said, “After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games. As a result of this change, we’ve had layoffs across the organization.”
Technically speaking, Star Wars 1313 was never officially canceled, and some believe it will make its triumphant return at some point. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said the game was “something we’re spending a lot of time looking at, poring through, discussing, and we may very well develop those things further.”
In 2014, Konami released a demo called P.T. (Playable Teaser) exclusively for PS4, which was revealed to be Silent Hills — a reboot that was being worked on by Hideo Kojima in collaboration with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. The P.T. demo featured gameplay from a first-person perspective and had a slew of notoriously difficult puzzles that caused its audience to flock to the internet to share how to advance, resulting in lots of free publicity. At the end of the demo, it was revealed that Walking Dead star Norman Reedus was set to take on the lead role as protagonist.
However, after a dispute between Kojima and Konami during the development of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Silent Hills was canceled in 2015. The full details of the dispute are still unclear, but many speculate it had to do with Konami pressuring Kojima to finish development on The Phantom Pain before it was ready. That game is notoriously referred to as unfinished despite being one of the best of the generation.
Following Silent Hills‘ cancellation, Konami pulled P.T. from the PlayStation Store and made it virtually impossible to get your hands on unless it was already on your system’s hard drive. Kojima then went on to create his own company, Kojima Productions, and would immediately start work on Death Stranding, which then launched in the fall of 2019. Konami says it’s still interested in continuing the Silent Hill series, though it hasn’t published a new entry since 2012.
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