Delayed games are pretty commonplace, and can happen for any number of reasons. Sometimes game-breaking bugs crop up late in development, maybe the team is having trouble adjusting to new hardware, or maybe the studio simply wants to change the timing of the release for commercial reasons. In any case, most times it just means we’ll have to wait a few months longer to get our hands on the game… unlike these ten games, which left fans waiting for a half a decade or more.
A quick disclaimer: this list only includes games that actually got released (sorry The Last Guardian and Half-Life 3), so nothing that still may or may not be in development.
10. Shenmue: 1994-2000 (6 years)
Shenmue was often referred to, sometimes reverently, sometimes derisively (and sometimes both at the same time) as the most ambitious game of all time. At the time of its release, it boasted the largest budget for any video game’s development, due in large part to things such as voice acting for every single character, super detailed environments and animations, and a cinematic score with a full orchestra.
Development on Shenmue was slow and painstaking, mainly because of the limitations of the aging Sega Saturn. Things appeared to be moving in the right direction when the game was shifted over to Sega’s next console, the Dreamcast; although anyone who’s aware of how that console ended up doing should know better.
Due to the game’s huge budget (somewhere between $47 and $70 million), it would’ve needed to sell two copies to every single person who owned a Dreamcast to break even. For obvious reasons, that did not happen, and Shenmue was a crushing disappointment for Sega, despite critical acclaim.
Sega had sunk quite a bit of money into the project though, and so a sequel was developed and released the following year, only to struggle with sales once again. Fans have been lobbying for a third game ever since, but given the series’ history, that’s a really tough sell.
9. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty: 2003-2010 (7 years)
The sequel to the mother of all competitive RTS’s was revealed at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational in 2007. However, development on the game had actually begun four years earlier in 2003, right after Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne hit stores.
A year after the announcement though, Blizzard reported that development on the game was only about a third of the way done, and that the game wouldn’t even include singleplayer campaigns for two of the factions, Zerg and Protoss. Instead, the story would be split up amongst this first release, Wings of Liberty, and two expansion packs.
Things continued to dip south in 2009, when the game missed its planned beta window. Blizzard was forced to push the beta testing to February 2010, less than six months before the game’s release date. Luckily, 2010 went smoothly for the studio, and the game was released to a pretty satisfied fanbase in July.
8. Galleon: 1997-2004 (7 years)
Galleon is more often remembered for what it failed to do than what it actually achieved. It was the brainchild of Tomb Raider creator Toby Gard, who was at the top of his career in 1997. Instead of leading the development on the next Tomb Raider game though, he left to form his own studio, with Galleon announced as its first release.
Technical issues emerged though when the team tried to port the game from the PlayStation, to the Dreamcast, to the GameCube, and finally the original Xbox; and despite a lengthy development time and ambitious plans, Galleon was nearly unplayable when it was finally released in 2004.
7. L.A. Noire: 2004-2011 (7 years)
L.A. Noire spent a long, long time in development, but not because of any major issues in the game’s production. Instead, the seven years spent on the game could largely be attributed to the its ambitious plans, which included an original engine and, at the time, extremely complex facial motion capture and animation.
The technology needed to create the game eventually ballooned the budget to somewhere in the range of $50 million, making it one of the costliest video game productions at the time.
6. Spore: 2000-2008 (8 years)
Chalk this one up to Will Wright’s pure, blinding ambition (or insanity, as some might call it). The iconic creator of SimCity wanted to basically make a game that would follow the evolution of a species from a microscopic organism to a space-traveling super-civilization.
Wright began work on the game in 2000, and four years later, rumors began to circulate of what was dubbed “SimEverything.” In 2005, Wright officially announced and demoed Spore, to the rabid excitement of fans.
Unfortunately, when the final game was released in 2008, it was nowhere near the experience that players were anticipating. Instead of “SimEverything,” it was more like “Sim A Few Things, Most of Which Aren’t That Great.”
5. Too Human : 1999-2008 (9 years)
Too Human has got to have one of the strangest development stories in the history of gaming. It was first announced in 1999 for the original PlayStation. Then, in 2000, the developer, Silicon Knights, apparently changed its mind and signed an exclusive partnership with Nintendo. Too Human was subsequently repositioned as a GameCube exclusive.
Five years later, Silicon Knights again opted to change their platform, moving the game to the Xbox 360. It would take another two years of development (missing its planned 2006 release date) before Too Human would arrive
Upon its release in 2008, Too Human was a sizable disappointment both critically and commercially, despite a decade of development and a reported budget of $60-100 million.
Oh, and it resulted in a lawsuit between Silicon Knights and Epic Games over the Unreal Engine. It ended with Silicon Knights paying up to the tune of $4.5 million.
Considering all of that, it makes sense that Silicon Knights would want to forget this entire experience, and in 2013, they served Microsoft a recall notice to get the game removed from the Xbox Marketplace.
4. Team Fortress 2: 1998-2007 (9 years)
The original Team Fortress was a free mod for Quake. The creators of that mod decided to make a sequel to it in 1998, and were subsequently hired by Valve in an official capacity. This resulted in Team Fortress 2 being developed as a standalone game, and in 1999, it was revealed to critical acclaim at E3.
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that this version of TF2 looks nothing like the final release. Instead, it was a serious military shooter with a heavy emphasis on tactical teamplay. It even included a “commander” role who viewed the battlefield from the game from a top-down perspective, six years before Battlefield 2‘s own “Commander Mode.”
Delays caused by a transition to Valve’s Source engine, and the company’s notoriously quiet development process, left players in the dark for another half a decade. Finally in 2006, after years of teasing and fan speculation, TF2‘s “final form” was revealed at the EA Summer Showcase.
In the seven years of development after the E3 reveal, TF2 had transitioned to a hyper-stylized look and feel. Gone was the military focus, replaced with fast-paced, cartoon-ish action, and a color palette and art style that’s become synonymous with the game itself.
Valve would later reveal that during this process, the studio had built and scrapped three or four different (and functional) games before settling on this final design.
It would be another year before the game was finally released, although considering it’s still massively popular eight years later, it’s safe to say that TF2 was worth the wait.
3. Prey: 1995-2006 (11 years)
Prior to its release in2006, Prey had been in development in one form or another since the mid-90s. The game was originally envisioned by 3D Realms (this won’t be the last time that name appears on this list) as a flagship title for their in-house engine, similar to what Epic Games did with Unreal.
A series of possible directions were outlined by project lead Tom Hall, but were thrown out a year later when he left to found Ion Storm with John Romero. 3D Realms assembled a new team to continue development, and over the next half a decade or so, the game went through a number of new iterations before the process was completely rebooted in 2001.
This “modern” version took another five years of development before it was finally released in 2006. A sequel was almost immediately put into production, although in true Prey fashion, it’s been eight years since then with very little to show for it.
2. Diablo III: 2001-2012 (11 years)
Development on Diablo III began so long ago, Blizzard North was still a thing. Work on the sequel began just a year after Diablo II was released, although it would be another seven years before the studio would officially announce the game at Blizzard Worldwide Invitational in 2008. It would be another four years after that before the game finally hit store shelves.
What took so long? Blizzard has been pretty quiet on that story, but considering games like Starcraft: Ghost, Warcraft Adventures, and Titan, I guess we should be grateful that Diablo III came out at all.
1. Duke Nukem Forever: 1996-2011 (15 years)
Oh boy, here it is, the mother of all delayed games. Duke Nukem Forever was originally in development at 3D Realms, to follow the success of 1996’s Duke Nukem 3D. The studio officially announced it the next year in 1997, then proceeded to waffle about on the release date for the next four years.
Eight years after the original announcement, 3D Realms finally released video footage from the game, the first actual look at Duke Nuken Forever in action. Then, two years later, 3D Realms was downsized due to the company’s poor financial performance, resulting in the game’s team being fired.
This led to a lawsuit by Take-Two Interactive, who held the publishing rights to the game, and a year later, Duke Nukem Forever ended up in the hands of 2K Games. 2K chose Borderlands developer Gearbox Software to finally bring the game to stores, and in 2011, 15 years after the original announcement, Duke Nukem Forever was finally released.
Aaaand, it was a pretty big disappointment, with mediocre reviews and sales across the board. Lesson learned: sometimes good things do not come to those who wait.