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Never released. But never cancelled, either. They’re still coming out… someday. At least that’s what we’re told.
Game development is ridiculously hard. Some studios work for years with the faint hope that anything they’re putting down in code will ever see the light of day. Scroll through E3s of yore and you’ll find a pile of projects killed in early access or canceled after a single cinematic trailer. Or worse: games that simply disappeared, leaving us all to wonder if they’ll ever reappear.
However, there are some games that have stared down all of game development’s existential threats—regime changes, engine switches, missed release dates, frozen assets—and defiantly marched onwards. The games below have all been in development for years, but if you ask the studios behind them, they’re still going to come out someday. Some will get across that finish line, but others may in the end be lost at sea forever. Pour one out for the victims of development hell.
Originally revealed: 2012
What Cloud Imperium Games said then: “GET READY TO ENLIST”
Last seen: 2018
Current release date: TBD, but still years away.
In retrospect it’s hard to come to grips with how much Cloud Imperium Games over-promised when it first started collecting Kickstarter money a decade ago. Not only were they going to create Star Citizen—an all-encompassing space simulator that seemed far-fetched at the beginning of the decade and now looks to be slightly outmoded after Elite: Dangerous, No Man’s Sky and the upcoming Starfield.
But Cloud Imperium was also hard at work on Squadron 42, which promised to be a singleplayer, narrative-based game in the tradition of the Wing Commander series that first made founder Chris Roberts famous. Squadron 42 allegedly features a star-studded cast including Mark Hamill and Gary Oldman, and outside of a cinematic trailer, no gameplay footage has ever seen the light of day. Nevertheless, CIG still claims that Squadron 42 is in active development, and perhaps its release date will coincide with the first permanent human settlement on Mars.
Originally revealed: 2015
What Eneme Entertainment said then: They were talking openly about a Vita port, if you wondered how long ago 2015 actually was.
Last seen: 2022
Current release date: Nah.
This is a weird one. EITR made a lot of waves at E3 2015 with its mournful pixel art aesthetic and weighty medieval combat. The trailers seem to hint at a mashup between Diablo and Dark Souls, which was a genuinely novel idea seven years ago. And then… nothing. The game seemed to vanish, and I dredged up a post from 2019 where the duo behind EITR spoke about losing funding (I’m guessing from one-time publisher Devolver Digital.) Still, new work-in-progress footage hits the subreddit every couple of months, so the lights are still on in the studio. Unfortunately after a deluge of other Souls-likes in the intervening years, EITR’s core hook looks a lot less groundbreaking.
Originally revealed: 2017
What Ubisoft said then: “Sign up for beta access”
Last seen: Yesterday!
Current release date: November 8
We all loved the naval combat in Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, and Ubisoft has built a legacy by farming out its good ideas into their own, bespoke, endlessly expanding franchises. So in 2017, when the company unveiled a ship-to-ship combat simulator that brought some survival sensibilities to 18th century maritime warfare, I was all in. But then the game disappeared completely amidst reports of a lack of creative direction, which sapped Ubisoft of more than $120 million in development bandwidth (opens in new tab). Thankfully, it seems like Skull & Bones is back on track—or is, at the very least, coming out. Just yesterday we saw new footage (opens in new tab) from the game and a November 2022 release date. All of us will soon find out if it’s been worth the wait.
Originally revealed: 2017
What Nintendo said then: Nothing. All they showed was a JPEG.
Last seen: 2017
Current release date: You better ask Miyamoto for that.
Yes this isn’t a PC game. No, I don’t care. Metroid Prime 4 has to be one of the funniest pieces of vaporware in modern gaming history. At Nintendo’s 2017 E3 showcase we learned that a “talented new development team” was bringing back the adored Metroid Prime series with a sequel positioned to wash the nasty taste left in our mouth by Other M. That was it. No gameplay footage, no additional details. Just a promise. The years turned over with no new information, and in 2019, Nintendo announced that they were pressing the reset button on Metroid Prime 4 and handing development over to Retro, the studio behind the first three games—essentially starting Metroid Prime 4 over from scratch.
That’s a pretty drastic measure, and it totally obliterates the timetable. We’ll see Metroid Prime 4 someday, but who knows what it will look like.
Originally revealed: 2014
What Playdek said then: “In the hands of the veteran tactical RPG master himself, Unsung Story will re-imagine a classic game genre, as Yasumi Matsuno weaves together one of the complex and rich game worlds that he is known for, with inspiring class based tactics game play.”
Last seen: 2022
Current release date: Who knows, but it hit early access in 2020.
In hindsight, Unsung Story was clearly trying to capitalize on the name and goodwill of Final Fantasy Tactics creator Yasumi Matsuno, without having much real involvement from Matsuno beyond some initial design work. This was the early days of Kickstarter, and looking back Unsung Story bore all the troubling signs of a project too big for its britches.
In 2016, Playdek announced that it was halting development on the game, citing a lack of resources. (Pretty rich, given how they generated $660,000 from bright-eyed donors.) The rights to the game were then sold off to the publisher Little Orbit, and Unsung Story finally struggled its way into a beleaguered early access in 2020. So far, it has only racked up 20 user reviews.
Will we ever see a 1.0 release? Updates from Little Orbit have been frequent, but I’m not holding my breath.
Originally revealed: 2017
What Campo Santo said then: Nothing, all we saw was a trailer.
Last seen: 2017
Current release date: Not looking good.
It’s weird to think that Campo Santo—which broke out with the wildly popular indie hit Firewatch—hasn’t released a video game in six years. The follow-up to its ponderous Wyoming mystery was supposed to be In The Valley of Gods, which earned some airtime at the Game Awards five years ago. Since then, the company was purchased by Valve, and said that this next project would be developed underneath the Newell estate. Unfortunately, in 2019 development on In The Valley of Gods was put “on hold” after Campo Santo developers moved over to work on Half Life: Alyx.
No information on In The Valley of Gods has escaped since (one member of the team, artist Jane Ng, left Valve in 2021) and you wouldn’t be wrong to presume the game dead even if it’s never been officially declared.
Originally revealed: 2019, but they’ve been talking about it forever.
What Paradox Interactive said then: “For anybody who has played the first one, they’re going to start playing and immediately feel at home.”
Last seen: 2019
Current release date: Your guess is as good as mine.
People have been talking about a sequel to Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines for as long as I’ve been following the games industry. The original captured the filthy, carnal world of the tabletop setting beautifully, and you’d think with more resources and a whole lot of cult momentum, a follow-up could sell a ton more copies and christen a brand new generation as creatures of the night. It was looking good there for a while! Paradox bought White Wolf, the Masquerade IP holder, and reunited the principal members of the original development crew, as well as longtime game critic Cara Ellison and veteran worldbuilder Chris Avellone.
However, after a delay in 2020, Paradox cleaved off the leadership team while Ellison left the project. Avellone was mired in his own sexual misconduct scandal, and was erased from the picture as well. Last we heard, Paradox was working with a new, unnamed developer to get Masquerade across the finish line. I hope it works out, so we can once and for all put this prodigal sequel behind us.
Originally revealed: Teased in 2008, formally announced in 2017.
What Ubisoft said then: “If you’ve been waiting for news about BG&E … well, here you go.”
Last seen: 2017
Current release date: Who knows, but supposedly development is progressing well.
Seriously, how has this thing taken so long? The original Beyond Good & Evil was a platformer with some interesting ideas about resistance, surveillance, and the nature of truth. It didn’t sell particularly well, but quickly gained steam as one of the great cult classics of the PS2 generation. A sequel fleshing out the rest of Jade’s story seemed like a layup, and E3 attendees first caught a glimpse of an alleged continuation of the fable all the way back in 2008. It never materialized.
Nine years later, the world was finally graced with a glorious announcement trailer as the capstone of Ubisoft’s summer press conference, featuring a teary-eyed Michel Ansel getting his day in the sun. Things took a much darker turn three years later, as Ansel left the project amidst a string of sexual misconduct allegations. (You will not be surprised to learn that Ansel was accused of being a scattershot, in-over-his-head studio head, considering we’re nearly 20 years removed from the first Beyond Good & Evil.) However, Ubisoft has confirmed that the sequel is still in the works, and maybe without the embattled creative lead in tow, Jade’s story can finally be told.
Originally revealed: 2014
What Deep Silver said then: “Dead Island 2 takes players from the iconic Golden Gate to the celebrated beachfront boardwalk of southern California’s Venice Beach.”
Last seen: A 2015 version of the build leaked in 2020, if that counts.
Current release date: The rumors say 2023.
Dead Island was a classic B-game. Released at the start of the zombie boom in the early 2010s, it briefly seduced players with its gleefully stupid undead combat. Remember how we all played a ton of Just Cause despite its obvious technical jank?
That’s the sweet spot Dead Island hit. A sequel seemed inevitable, and it was formally unveiled at Gamescom 2014. The project then disappeared for a year, before Deep Silver ripped development away from Yager and handed it off to Sumo Digital. A year after that, Deep Silver intervened again, and gave the IP to Dambuster Studios who continues to work on the sequel today. The rumor mill seems to believe that Dead Island 2 is just around the corner, so maybe the game is back on track. Vaporware no longer?
What Valve said then: Hahaha
Last seen: I think we both know.
Current release date: Dream on!!!
Okay, okay, I know. This was mean. I’m sorry. But hey, who knows. Maybe someday we’ll figure out what’s going on in the arctic. Ideally without needing to wear a VR headset.
Luke Winkie is a freelance journalist and contributor to many publications, including PC Gamer, The New York Times, Gawker, Slate, and Mel Magazine. In between bouts of writing about Hearthstone, World of Warcraft and Twitch culture here on PC Gamer, Luke also publishes the newsletter On Posting (opens in new tab). As a self-described “chronic poster,” Luke has “spent hours deep-scrolling through surreptitious Likes tabs to uncover the root of intra-publication beef and broken down quote-tweet animosity like it’s Super Bowl tape.” When he graduated from journalism school, he had no idea how bad it was going to get.
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