The world of game development is exceptionally cutthroat. While most games come and go with varying amounts of pomp and circumstance, some titles get big announcements but then never make it off the drawing board. These games are loosely organized under the term “vaporware,” which, in layman’s terms, means that they are floating around in developmental hell, not officially cancelled but not about to see the light of day anytime soon.
The following games, for better or for worse, all received some sort of release announcement and hype but, as of this writing, are still shackled in the dank dungeons of gaming purgatory.
1. Beyond Good & Evil 2 (Platforms Unknown)
This one was originally announced at Ubidays back in May 2008 as the sequel to Xbox/PS2/GameCube game Beyond Good & Evil. The Beyond Good & Evil franchise was initially intended to be a trilogy of games, but development on the second one was shelved for years when the first title didn’t come close to the publisher’s sales expectations.
According to series creator Michel Ancel, the game’s status at the time of the announcement was a “pre-production stage,” and that the difficulty of the game will be ratcheted down to avoid the poor sales figures of the original title. Following the release of a reveal trailer in 2008, Ubisoft fell silent on any updates as to the status of Beyond Good & Evil 2. In 2011, three years after the initial announcement of the sequel, Michel Ancel stated on GameTrailers TV that he was waiting for next-gen consoles for “the power to deliver the experience he wants from the game”.
As of this writing, he has not commented on whether or not Nintendo’s Wii U has the hardware power he’s looking for.
2. Heat (Xbox 360, PS3)
Heat was intended to be an action-crime thriller game based off Regency Entertainment’s movie of the same name and was initially announced at E3 way back in 2006. The game has been floating around in various stages of development limbo for years. Titan Productions had plans in place to bring some of the Heat film’s voice actors on board and the game’s status as either a prequel or sequel was to be determined by which of those talents agreed to work on the project. If it sounds confusing, that’s because it is. At the time of the press release, Titan claimed they were in advanced talks with representatives for Al Pacino, Robert De Nero and Val Kilmer for them to be a part of the project.
Interestingly enough, the last studio known to be working on the game was Gearbox, the same minds behind the horribly-received (and most infamous) vaporware title in gaming history Duke Nukem Forever.
The last bit of news we received on Heat came at the Borderlands Press Event back in July 2009, where Gearbox founder Randy Pichford reiterated that the development of the game was in perpetual standstill and that Gearbox would not be retaining the rights to the property. It is generally assumed, based on pre-existing information, that Pacino, De Nero and Kilmer would still be open to working on the title should the IP ever be picked up by a different studio.
3. Call of Duty Action-Adventure Game (Platforms Unknown)
Back in March 2010, Activision announced via a press release that a new Call of Duty game was being developed by Sledgehammer Games. As opposed to being yet another first-person, kill-ever-breathing-human-in-sight game, this title (known only as “Call of Duty 8”) was intended to be an action-adventure game based on the war experiences of real soldiers that were apparently being interviewed for the project.
While new Call of Duty titles are about as rare as pigeon crap in New York, the idea of an action-adventure COD game is intriguing. Alas, Sledgehammer was eventually called upon to assist with the creation of Modern Warfare 3 and no information about “Call of Duty 8” has been released since. As far as I can tell, the project hasn’t been cancelled, leaving the status of the game unknown.
4. Agent (PS3)
In 2007, Sony announced that Rockstar, the minds behind the critically acclaimed, frequently banned and less-frequently sued Grand Theft Auto series was in the process of developing a new original game series exclusively for PS3, though specific details of the game, including its title, weren’t announced until E3 in 2009, two years later. The game is apparently set during the Cold War and will take players into the world of “counter-intelligence, international espionage and political assassinations” as stated in the Rockstar press release. Other than that, we know jack diddly about Agent, other than its setting in the Cold War era. Take-Two Interactive stated in 2011 that Agent was still under development and last July, the studio registered two trademarks for the game.
As of this writing, Agent has not been cancelled but (only speculation) was likely shelved once again in favor of Rockstar’s recent push of Grand Theft Auto V and its next-gen re-release that sees the series introduce first-person perspective for the first time.
Without knowing anything else about the game, it’s hard to draw an educated guess one way or another as to what Agent will be like, assuming the game ever surfaces from drowning underneath GTA’s bloody hooker-riddled aftermath, but the idea of running around in a GTA-like environment (c’mon, it’s Rockstar) shooting political prisoners and slipping the shillelagh to Boris Yeltsin’s mistress is appealing.
After all, Red Dead Redemption was basically just GTA in the Wild West and it was fun as all hell, and successful to boot.
5. The Last Guardian (PS3/PS4)
The Last Guardian has been in development since 2007, and was formally announced at E3 2009 with a planned release in 2011 exclusively on PS3. The game is being designed and directed by Fumito Ueda, the mind behind Ico and Shadow of the Colossus and is expected to share thematic, stylistic and gameplay elements with those titles.
Since its announcement though, The Last Guardian has been delayed numerous times and has seen Fumito Ueda leave Sony as a full-time employee, though he remains on-board for the game as a project consultant.
Just prior to Gamescom 2012, The Last Guardian trademark in the United States passed its three year milestone post-filing without a product to show for it and thus, the trademark expired by default. While this led to speculation that the project had been cancelled, Sony continues to affirm that the game remains under development. The last known information on The Last Guardian came recently this month, where Ueda stated that development of the game continues following the resolution of setting issues with Sony, though the details of these issues are unknown.
6. Half-Life 2: Episode Three/Half-Life 3 (Whatever Platform It Wants To Be On)
Following the abysmal failure of Duke Nukem Forever, which finally released to public flatulence after 15 years in development hell, Half-Life 3 became, arguably, the most infamous vaporware title in the gaming industry.
Half-Life 2, which was released in 2004, remains to this day one of the most critically-acclaimed shooters of all time. Since Valve’s last Half-Life game, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, back in October of 2007, fans have been anxiously clamoring for an ending to the series. As of this writing, Valve and its employees continue to refuse to comment on the nature of Half-Life 3 or the future of the series.
Since the release of Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Valve has released eight other games and, despite their claims that they would be releasing a new Half-Life “episode” every six to eight months, all that exists of Half-Life 3, as of December 2014, are three pieces of concept art. In 1999, the domain “half-life3.com” was registered in conjunction with “half-life2.com” and was owned by Valve. Though it originally redirected to the Orange Box site, it now returns a blank page.
To drive home Half-Life 3’s already-infamous legacy as vaporware, there exists an entire wiki-page (as a part of the Half-Life wiki) that documents the “Future of the Half-Life series” as it pertains to the continuing rumors of a full-length sequel.
Back in January 2014, Gabe Newell explained in an interview that Valve doesn’t crank out new Half-Life sequels because, “When we started out we were a single-player video game company that could have been really successful just doing Half-Life sequel after Half-Life sequel, but we collectively said let’s try to make multi-player games even though there’s never been a commercial successful multi-player game.”
There’s no disputing that Half-Life 3 will continue to stand the test of time as the most infamous vaporware title in the gaming industry, until such time as pigs fly, dinosaurs shoot laser beams, and Gabe Newell releases the game into the hands of the public.