Fable Legends had been in development since 2012 when Microsoft recently announced that it was cancelling the game and closing down one of its longest-serving first-party developers, Lionhead Studios. That’s four years of development squandered on Legends and 20 years of Lionhead history just discarded like it’s nothing. The general attitudes towards Legends might have been chilly, in part because it turned a single-player series into an online co-op game, but it’s still surprising to see Microsoft pull the plug on a game that was nearly finished.
This isn’t the first time a publisher scrapped a game nearing completion or shut down a venerable studio with little notice. Fable Legends’ untimely demise is a powerful reminder of the sad history of canceled titles within the games industry. From the impressive and beautiful-looking Star Wars 1313, to the frightening and exciting Silent Hills and its P.T. demo, here are eight canceled videogames that never had the chance to live up to their potential.
At E3 2014, Microsoft shocked plenty of anxious and excited viewers by randomly announcing a reboot of the Japanese cult classic Phantom Dust. The original title made its debut on the first Xbox back in 2004, and offers a combination of strategy and pseudo-card-based action. It was a critical darling that failed to sell. The reboot looked real enough, what with the debut trailer and the lengthy time it had at gaming’s biggest stage. Microsoft was actually resurrecting an old fan-favorite back from the dead.
However, after over a year of total silence, news broke that Microsoft had indeed canceled the game and cut ties with developer Darkside Games. Reasons for the cancellation are still unknown, but it seemed the game was just not up to Microsoft’s standards. Xbox head Phil Spencer claims the company is still interested in the reboot, but it’s currently in no rush to bring it back.
It’s been awhile since Blizzard Entertainment has made a completely brand new flagship game not associated with its three main franchises—World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. Titan was to be that game—a next-gen MMO—but the company officially canceled it back in 2014. Rumors about the ambitious project began swirling as early as 2007, but its development was rebooted a few times throughout those seven years. Some reasons for the cancellation are believed to be a lack of passion for the project, and the growing success of some of Blizzard’s smaller-scale titles. However, the upcoming Overwatch does contain a few maps that were originally developed for Titan.
Oh, Fez 2. It was to be the direct sequel to 2012’s beloved Fez, an indie 2D puzzle platformer that allowed players to rotate between four sides of the game’s colorful 3D world in order to solve a deluge of challenging puzzles. It was a huge success for its creator, Phil Fish, and was supposed to be the beginning of a wonderful career for the game maker. Fish announced Fez 2, only to cancel it a month later following several heated Twitter arguments between fans and some journalists. Fish was fed up, and quit making games entirely. He has yet to return.
The concept of Prey 2 sounded exciting. Players would take control of a bounty hunter who’s trying to regain his memories on an alien world called Exodus. Early footage and concept art for the game indicated a dark, brooding tone and tale that would take heavy inspiration from sci-fi gems like Blade Runner and Alien. It was officially announced back in 2011 and was being developed by Human Head Studios. To further rub salt on the wound, the developer was using a heavily modified Id Tech 4 engine to help create one of the better looking games of its time. Three years later, Bethesda finally confirmed that Prey 2 was no longer in the works.
Poor Playstation Vita and its owners. Will they ever catch a break? Ken Levine, Bioshock creator and co-founder of the now-defunct Irrational Games, walked on stage at Sony’s E3 2011 press conference, held up a Vita, and announced a brand new Bioshock game for Sony’s handheld. No, not some lazy port. An original game in the series built from the ground up for the system. The nature of the game was never revealed, though recent rumors indicate it would’ve been similar to a strategy RPG like Final Fantasy Tactics.
In July 2014, it was confirmed Sony and Bioshock publisher Take Two weren’t able to reach an agreement, and the project was scrapped. Irrational Games shut down that very same year as well, forever destroying any hope for the game to ever materialize.
Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun was set to be the return of Crystal Dynamics’ long-running Legacy of Kain series, stretching back to 1996’s Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. Former Uncharted creative director Amy Hennig was one of the main writers behind the first few entries. Dead Sun, like most of the games in the series, was a third-person action-adventure title that would bring Legacy of Kain to next-gen consoles. Development for the game began back in 2009 when Square Enix chose Climax Studios to head the project. Square Enix canceled it three years later in 2012, before the game was able to reach full production. The last single-player game in the series is still 2003’s Legacy of Kain: Defiance.
With a lengthy E3 demo that can still be viewed today, and with the now-defunct LucasArts passionately speaking about the project and what it aimed to achieve with it, Star Wars 1313’s untimely demise is still a sour spot for many. The premise was exciting enough: It followed the early exploits of a young Boba Fett exploring an underground area of Coruscant known as level 1313. The demo was a technical marvel, and the gritty take on the Star Wars universe was a refreshing change of pace.
But once Disney purchased the Star Wars license in 2012, and the company decided to pursue a licensing model for the property’s games, 1313 was unfortunately canceled. Who knows, maybe Dead Space developer Visceral Games’ and Amy Hennig’s upcoming Star Wars title takes some inspiration from it.
Of course Silent Hills had to be last on the list. Not only was this reboot of Konami’s psychological horror series to be headed by both Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro, but its infamous demo was a thing of nightmares. The “playable teaser” known as P.T. took the industry by storm for months, offering players a tense, slow paced take on horror. The marketing for the project was nearly perfect, and the game’s leading man Norman Reedus could’ve brought in a slew of The Walking Dead fans over to the series. Instead, Kojima has parted ways with Konami and is confirmed to be working on something different with his new studio.
Alex Gilyadov is a freelance writer who loves Breaking Bad and dislikes The Sopranos. He’s written for GamesBeat, Polygon, Playboy and Rock Paper Shotgun, among others. Tweet him @RParampampam.