When Disney bought the rights to Star Wars in 2012, they jumped into hyperspace with their plans and began all manner of projects centered around the galaxy far far away. One of those projects being the reboot of the fan favorite Star Wars Battlefront games. Originally released nearly a decade prior in 2004 by LucasArts, Battlefront would go on to attain rave reviews and a mass following spawning a sequel of even greater success the following year. Fans of the games couldn’t seem to get enough of the titles and were elated in 2006 when rumors surfaced that a third installation was in the works under game developer Free Radical Games. Yet no such title ever was released, and the question remains as to why, Battlefront had no shortage of fans and both its predecessors were meet with high praise and favorable sales. Instead the games failure can be put at the feet of Free Radical Games, or can it? Upon the announcement of Battlefront 3’s cancellation EA and LucasArts claimed that the games developers had failed to meet deadlines multiple deadlines for the planned 2010 release and had not completed the game to a satisfactory level and quality, case closed, right? Not quite, these claims were refuted by Free Radical’s cofounder Steve Ellis alongside several anonymous ex-employees of the developer who claimed instead that while the studio had had it’s share of issues the game had been almost complete when EA pulled the plug, placing the blame at the feet of LucasArts for not wanting to finance an ambitious project and lengthy marketing campaign. Battlefront 3 was ultimately cancelled regardless the reason in 2008 never to be revived. That is until Disney came along in 2012, ironically rebooting the franchise with Battlefront and Battlefront 2 being created anew by EA DICE and released in 2015 and 2017 with a rumored Battlefront 3 slated for 2020.
J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is one of those classic tales that will live eternally through the ages. Written almost one hundred years ago and made into two blockbuster trilogies alongside countless video games the world of Middle Earth has been a popular spot for fans of the science fiction genre for generations. Given that popularity game developer EA Redwood Shores took it upon themselves to create a massive open world role play game in the early 2000’s. The games executive producer Steve Gray announced via the title’s official website that the planned game world would be a massive open world setting filled with AI powered by the same technology used in Sims 2, and have multiple story quests based off both the Peter Jackson films as well as original books. The title was planned to be an incredibly ambitious undertaking that would allow players to choose their race, be it human, elf, hobbit, or dwarf and ultimately lead them to align with the white council as a hero of Middle Earth. The RPG was set to launch on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC in 2007, but late in production was instead put on hold and later cancelled. It was never fully revealed why game production was halted, however upon leaks of the game being put on hold it was also revealed that project executive producer Steve Gray was no longer with EA feeding into further rumors of management issues. Electronic Arts instead chose to switch gears and create a more linear and objective based title alongside game developer Pandemic Studios. That title, Lord of the Rings Conquest was released in early 2009 to mixed reviews and forces fans of Middle Earth to wonder on what could have been.
First person shoorters is a genre long dominated by Dice’s Battlefield and Activision’s Call of Duty franchises, two series’ born from their World War 2 roots and transformed into the modern-day powerhouses they would become. Yet, the two franchises have not always held the keys to the genre. Indeed, in the early years of the two series’, while Big Red One and 1942 where the newest things on the market, another series stood beside them, Medal of Honor. Developed by Dreamworks Interactive and launched in 1999 the series was, much like its peers, grounded in a gritty sense of realism inserting players into the theaters of World War 2 across twelve games spanning eight years, but as gamers grew tired of World War 2 based games developers were forced to re-evaluate their direction. As Call of Duty brought gamers Modern Warfare and Battlefield released Bad Company Medal of Honor could not seem to adapt quick enough to consumer needs. Finally, with a new developer in Danger Close games the series brought gamers Medal of Honor in 2010, a gritty first-person shooter set in modern day. The game was meet with positive reviews from fans and critics alike and followed by a sequel two years later, Medal of Honor Warfighter. Warfighter was not as fortunate however, with bad reviews and worse sales, Danger Close Games gave the impression that they had focused more on playing catch up to their peers than focus on creating a quality title, and in doing so created a subpar product filled with glitches, weak graphics, and a mediocre story. Medal of Honor was thereafter put on hold and seemingly forgotten by publisher Electronic Arts, a shame given the franchises massive potential, all be it lack of adaptability.
When Spyro the Dragon was launched in 1998 by Insomniac Games it created something of an unlikely phenomenon as gamers fell in love with the colorful dragon and his antics. The platform-based game series would change developers’ multiple times over the years and launch an incredible eleven games, including a remastered ‘Spyro Reignited Trilogy’ in 2018. Yet through all the fanfare, and all the success the series fell victim to its share of cancellations and `` the rights Spyro immediately setting game developer Toys for Bob on a mission to come up with ideas for the scaly protagonist. The studio indeed had no shortage of ideas with everything ranging from a dark and gritty Spyro focused on a more mature audience down to an origami transforming Spyro, but after a short period of brainstorming the studio began to shape something else entirely unique for the series. Developer’s came up with an idea of a toys-to-life style game, where players could put their toys on a device that would bring the character to life in game. The concept behind Spyro Kingdom was that of a full-grown Spyro now reigning as king of his kingdom. It was in this world that players would go the King dragon and receive quests to carry out. The game was prepared to go into alpha testing in 2010 when it was decided however that studio could be more ambitious and create something with a larger scope. This decision by Activision and Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick scrapped Spyro Kingdom and replaced it with an evolved version spanning characters from every world imaginable in a game that became known as Skylanders.
With Disney’s acquisition of LucasArts in 2012 many a great game was left on the drawing board by the Great Mouse House. One notable title lost to the cosmos being the infamous Force Unleashed 3. LucasArts first released the game series in 2008, to rave reviews and strong sales, and it was no wonder why. Players took on the guise of Starkiller, secret apprentice to the Sith lord Darth Vader, and through an incredible story driven campaign were taken across the galaxy as the fateful apprentice’s destiny was unfurled. The game took players to never before seen worlds in the Star Wars universe and introduced an ambitious play style where gamers could interact with almost everything in their environment and use the force on a scale never before experienced in any game prior. The titles extremely ambitious story and complementary gameplay to match landed it a sequel two years later, but unfortunately, this go around would not go as well. Players would play as Starkillers clone, and once more apprentice to Darth Vader, the game was impressive with a similar gameplay style to its predecessor, however the story was insultingly small leaving players unsatisfied and plummeting the games sales stunting the development of a third installation. Stunting it, but not stopping it all together the game remained in early development up until LucasArts was bought and subsequently shut down in early 2013, subsequently shutting down work on The Force Unleashed 3 as well.
When Alien was released in 1975 the world was captivated by the film. A terrified crew facing off against a huge angry alien in deep space aboard the fated Nostroma, Ridley Scott created something no one could have ever imagined, but not something that would never be recreated (At least to a degree). Dead Space was a horror media franchise consisting of three games, two films, and a whole lot of angry aliens and jump scares, combining a unique combat style focused on ‘strategic dismemberment’ of aliens called necromorphs, alongside a holographic heads u display the game was considered revolutionary for it’s unique feel as well as its powerful story. Developed by Visceral Games and Published by Electronic Arts the game was considered by many to be one of the greatest titles ever made upon its launch in 2008, an opinion so strong that the game went on to have two sequels in 2011, and 2013. Dead Space 2 was meet with relatively positive reviews staying true to its roots with a gruesome and gritty horror survival game, while its predecessor drifted further from the adrenaline rushing horror, focusing instead on a reward driven action thriller style of play. Dead Space 3 suffered a weak and unfocused story to boot, and with that failed to meet its sales goals. While Dead Space 4 has not been officially cancelled, the series is currently sitting in a long-standing stasis of six years that does not seem to be lifting any time in the near or distant future.
Fable is a series that stands tall among its action role playing game peers. Something reminiscent of Skyrim, The Witcher, and Lord of the Rings, players could never seem to get enough of the fictional world of Albion. Developed by Lionhead Studio’s, players roamed, conquered, and quested on a choice driven journey where good or bad, right or wrong, each player had the ability to choose their own destiny, and in doing so the destiny of Albion. The series launched in 2004 and would go on to spawn two sequels of equal scope and popularity driving Lionhead Studios ever onward to create something bigger and better with each sequel. Fable Legends was the pinnacle of that ambition, made to be a cooperative action role play game that offered cross compatibility alongside a massive and beautiful world Lionhead put all their chips on the table when they announced the title in the summer of 2013. Publisher Microsoft reportedly chose to push for a ‘game-as-a-service’ model (something akin to Destiny, Anthem, or Fortnite where content is continuously added) and sunk a massive sum of $75 million into the project before ultimately before canceling it. No official reason for shutting down the game’s development was ever given but it’s suspected that Microsoft pushed too far and received to little in return forcing them to shut down Lionhead Studios, reign in spending, and leave an unfinished Fable Legends on the drawing boards.
If you’re interested in over the top, supercharged first-person shooters, DOOM may be the first thing to come to mind, yet right alongside it is People Can Fly’s own chaotic frenzy of firepower, Bulletstorm. Released to the world in 2011 players followed the story of Grayson Hunt and his black ops squad ‘Dead Echo’. A series of ill-fated choices lands Grayson and company in a precarious position and you are forced to shoot your way to the other side in a game world reminiscent of Rage and Gears of War, and a combat style eerily similar to DOOM and Call of Duty. Bulletstorm’s gameplay was first and foremost a combat focused shooter, a trait developer’s emphasized by giving players a plethora of fighting styles to choose from. Whether you wanted to kick, slide, punch, or shoot your way through the battlefield, People Can Fly made sure to give players the freedom to explore different combinations and playstyles to their hearts content in a hectic and fast paced environment. The games release was meet with a positive critic review alongside plans for a sequel. However, said sequel was derailed early on in development due to Bulletstorm’s low sales, and despite a cult like following years after the games release it seemed to little too late with Bulletstorm 2 careening away into the void all gamers fear, cancellation.
As Disney gets ready to roll out their streaming service, and with it several gritty down to earth series’ set in the galaxy far far away, some fans can’t help but to look back at a time not so long ago. A time when LucasArts sat hard at work putting together several incredible titles centered around George Lucas’s beloved world, one of those games being Star Wars 1313. A tale that would have placed gamers in control of a young Boba Fett and sent them on a journey through the seedy underbelly of the city planet of Coruscant, all with a mysterious robot sidekick in tow. The action adventure game would have focused on a smooth yet fast paced player experience that blended Jango’s vast arsenal of weaponry with a wide assortment of hand to hand combat moves. When the games footage was released it looked truly special and fans grew ever more excited to join Jango as he made his way through the underground level 1313, but it was never meant to be. In October of 2012, just four months after the official reveal of Star Wars 1313, Disney bought the rights to Star Wars, and with them came LucasArts. From there the rest is history, LucasArts was shut down, its employees laid off, and with the departure of studio and team alike, Star Wars 1313 sat in a Disney induced limbo. Could the title be revived? Disney failed to renew 1313’s trademark in 2013, and with that the game slipped to the depths, and with it so many fans dreams of guiding a young Jango on the adventure of a lifetime.
August is an amazing time for football fans, preseason NFL games have begun, college football looms in the near future, and yet another Madden game rolls out to the masses. Yet as teams and fans, college and pro alike gear up for yet another football season something seems to be missing from the picture, where is Electronic Arts NCAA football? A game that lasted for a decade and stole the hearts of countless sport loving gamers, a game that has been absent from the world of video games for over six years now. What happened to NCAA and why was it cancelled? In 2014 Electronic Arts announced they would discontinue the title due to an ongoing legal battle over the rights to use players likeliness in the games, or in layman’s terms players wanted to be paid for being put in the NCAA video games, and the NCAA committee refused to allow such a thing to happen. Rather than get overly involved in such a legal dispute Electronic Arts decided the only choice forward would be to cancel the series. Fans of the beloved franchise would miss out as a result, and despite some teasers in the years following it would seem no NCAA games will be forthcoming in the near or distant future. No more marching your dynasty teams to unlikely bowl games, no more turning your alma mater into the Patriots of college football, and no more four across hail mary formation when it’s fourth and ten on your own 5 late in the fourth quarter.
Whether it’s a good action role play game, a 2D retro style arcade masterpiece, or a modern-day hack and slash thriller it can never be denied the popularity and magnitude of fans ensnared by the digital world of video games over the decades. Putting aside opinions, aside the shaky accusations and political agendas, video games have been a phenomenon ever growing over the decades. With a fanbase getting larger every year and a footprint ever growing momentum game developers can’t help but to raise the bar higher with each passing title. From player immersion, to graphic realism, to overall quality developers have pushed harder in the last decade than ever before to evolve the world of gaming into an incredible spectacle. With great expectation comes great sacrifice however, massive amounts of time, money, and manpower are poured into every game and while every developer puts their hearts into the projects they work on some inevitably never make it into the hands of consumers. Be it financial failures, fan disapproval, clashes of developmental opinions, or just bad luck, the countless titles lost to ages hold within them so many incredible possibilities. So, rather than look to the multitude of titles waiting to be released, instead let’s look back at the gems that could have been but where instead cancelled before fans could ever experience them.