Monday, August 18, 2008

Missing in Action:
The World's Most Elusive Vaporware

Trailers are just the dardest things. They give us a peek at the latest and greatest games that are coming down the pipeline. They also make us a promise. A promise that we will be able to play that game sometime in the near future. Then it gets delayed. And delayed again. Will it ever come out? Why advertise a game years in advance? Titles that become Vaporware can either create a lot of buzz or make a laughing stock out of it.

Let's take a look at some of the top Vaporware titles right now. Who knows, maybe a year or two from now some of these will be released.

Sadness (Wii)

Originally announced even before the Nintendo Wii was released, Nibris promised us a black and white survival horror game set in a pre-WWI Slavic country. A live action teaser trailer was released which was "based-on" the game and we were supposed to get some game footage by the end of 2007. We didn't. There's been two screenshots that have surfaced, but we don't know if they are in-game or not. Frontline Studios was supposed to co-produce the game but back in March of 2007 they split. The game is not "officially" dead... but it is. Here's what Nibris said: "The scenario will have associations with narcolepsy, nyctophobia and paranoid schizophrenia. The scenario will surprise you." (Surprise! it's never coming out!)

Original Release Date: ?
Current Release Date: TBA (AKA: NEVER)

StarCraft: Ghost (Multiplatform)

Who knows what black hole sucked this game up. Announced all the way back in 2002 for PS2/XB/GC, but after E3 2005 we found out that the GameCube version was dropped, but it was still on the way. We waited until March of 2006 for Blizzard to finally announced that the game was on "indefinite hold" while it was updated for the seventh generation consoles. We get little bits and pieces of information about this title from time to time. The latest being at the DICE Summit in 2008 where we learned that "there still was an interest in finishing Ghost". It's pretty obvious that Blizzard is more concentrated on StarCraft II (and possibly Diablo 3 if the rumors are true) than it would be on Ghost.

Original Release Date: 2003
Current Release Date: When does the PS9 come out again?

Metroid: Dread (Nintendo DS)

It's crazy how a game is never announced but people think it's real. While we would all love another 2D hand held Metroid game, I doubt we will see one anytime soon. Ever since rumors emerged in 2005, Nintendo has never officially released anything about this game. The only clue we ever got was in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption where a computer panel says "Experiment status report update: Metroid project 'Dread' is nearing the final stages of completion". Retro Studios and Nintendo both denied any connection. Could this be a secret kept under Ninny's hat that will be unloaded at this year's E3? We'll see!

Original Release Date: ?
Current Release Date: Whenever the project is completed! Can't you read!

Killzone 2 (PlayStation 3)

As one of the first PS3 games announced, it would seem Sony hoped that this could be their "Halo killer". The first trailer from E3 2005 led to much controversy where it was argued that it could be just a concept video or possibly pre-rendered game footage. We didn't really see anything else until GDC 2007 where an in-game trailer was shown to the media. I'm not really sure why Sony is banking on this one so much. The original Killzone wasn't that good and wasn't even that popular. By missing their window of opportunity, Sony now has to hope that Killzone 2 will be a Halo 3, Gears of War 2, Left 4 Dead, etc. killer

Original Release Date: 2008
Current Release Date: February 2009

Gran Turismo 4 Mobile (PlayStation Portable)

By digging up the bones of E3 2004 we find evidence that this game once did exist. It was supposed to be the game to get for the forthcoming Sony hand held. Many thought they wouldn't even be able to fit the entire game on on one UMD. They were probably right. GT4M's producer, Kazunori Yamauchi, told us back in April that the game "took much more time and effort than we had first imagined". Luckily, it fits nicely on top of the pile of broken promises that Sony has accumulated over the years.

Original Release Date: April 2005
Current Release Date: It's Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiige Racer!

Gran Turismo 5 (PlayStation 3)

Right on the heels of GTA4M, Sony kept the fire burning when Gran Turismo 5 (or Gran Turismo HD, originally) was announced and shown in 2006 to the pants-wetting joy of Sony fanboys around the world. This one is taking so long, they released part of the game a few months ago. I'm sure the rest of it will be coming soon! Recently, Yamauchi has stated how 150 people have been working on the game for four years and has cost 50 times more than it's PS1 ancestor. I'm sure it'll be ready for release right before the PS4 comes out. Sweet!

Original Release Date: 2008
Current Release Date: 2010

Bob Ross: The Joy of Painting (Multiplatform)

Such a sad, short story for such a happy, strange game. Announced back in March of 2006 for Nintendo DS, Wii and PC by AGFRAG Entertainment. I'm assuming gameplay would be similar to the likes of Mario Paint back in the days of SNES. In December 2006, Bob Ross Inc dropped them and, to this day, is looking for a new developer. Maybe they thought that due to Bob's death the previous year it would seem inappropriate. Or, maybe they realized that you can get this game for free: It's called a pen and a piece of paper!

Original Release Date: ?
Current Release Date: Let's paint a happy little tree!

Tekken 6 (PlayStation 3)

Here's a rare specimen. This game is already out in Japanese arcades as of November 2007 but we're still waiting to play it here in the states. Tekken is one of my personal favorite fighting games ever since the PS1 days and it's latest expansion for the PSP/PSN was great. Tekken 6 has over 30 confirmed characters (a total of 41 when it's done) and features multi-tiered levels and day/night time transitions. Trailers were shown back at E3 2005, but with no release date in sight it looks like we'll be waiting a long time. Now, with it's PS3 exclusive status in question, it will take all that longer to develop. The game's director, Katsuhiro Harada, has said "We want Tekken 6 to both look cool and play good" Adding "We don't want to disappoint our Tekken fans, so we're working hard on making Tekken 6 good". Um, ya. So it looks like I'll be buying SoulCalibur IV instead!

Original Release Date: ?
Current Release Date: Finish Him!

Project H.A.M.M.E.R. (Wii)

A much needed beat 'em up announced at E3 2006 as a first party title possibly for Wii's launch line-up, but by mid-2007 with no additional info we realized we may never find out what H.A.M.M.E.R. could possibly stand for. Rumors fly back and forth about this one all over the internet. The last we heard was Nintendo confirmed at E3 2007 that development was put on hold, but has not officially canceled it and “may come back” in the future.

Original Release Date: 2007
Current Release Date: Reggie Mad!!! Reggie Smash!!!

LittleBigPlanet (PlayStation 3)

It's pretty pretentious to codename your project "The Next Big Thing". Nintendo sure did it with the codename "Revolution". The only difference is that Nintendo actually pulled it off! This DIY puzzler's dream looks fun and I would love to play it. Phil Harrison, SCE's ex-head honcho, announced it in 2007 and was due by early 2008. Now, a beta is scheduled for the summer and we're hoping for even just a demo by the end of this year! With even more footage shown at this year's E3, it makes me want it even more! Oddly enough, even with so much game footage out there already, it's hard to believe that this game isn't close to being done. Sony's pile is getting bigger...

Original Release Date: Early 2008
Current Release Date: October 2008

Disaster: Day of Crisis (Wii)

I'm pretty sure that this game will eventually see a release, but until then it's been possibly banished to development limbo. Featured at E3 2006 as one of Nintendo's attempt at some new franchises, it's an original idea for a survival game that takes place during various natural disasters. The Big N has told us the game has “Cutting-edge physics and gripping visuals” to re-create the sheer terror of major catastrophes. It's quite possible that due to recent real-world natural catastrophes, this game is on hold until the "it's too soon" factor wears off. But, truth be told, we'll always have some kind of disaster going on at some point in the world. So Nintendo should just finish it up and get it out there because we need a good survival game for Wii.

Original Release Date: ?
Current Release Date: Is it safe to make Pearl Harbor jokes yet?

PlayStation Home (PlayStation 3)

This has been in development since early 2005 and officially announced by Sony in March of 2007 at GDC. While not really a "game" per se, it is an free online social experience that is supposed to be similar to the popular Second Life. PS3 users can customize a human avatar and meet up and chat or play games and movies with friends. You can buy clothes and furniture for your crib. There's even going to be a trophy room for your gaming accomplishments (but since I can just download any game save at 100% completion, I really don't see the point). The closed beta is now reported to be running until sometime in the Fall of 2008. Sony's CEO Kazuo Hirai has stated that "Spending more time on the development and on the Closed Beta testing reaffirms our commitment to bringing a quality service, maintaining the PlayStation tradition." (They should probably commit to bringing some quality exclusive games to their console, first)

Original Release Date: Fall 2007
Current Release Date: 2009

Duke Nukem Forever (Multiplatform)

Here is is. You knew it was coming. The granddaddy of them all, and the title that sets the bar for all Vaporware. So, let's take a trip back in time! All the way to April of 1997! The fourth installment of Duke Nukem was supposed to be out no later than mid-1998 and would use the Quake II engine. 3D Realms later fooled the world in August by releasing fake screenshots made in the developers free time because they didn't even get the game engine code until November.

At E3 1998 the first game footage was revealed using the Quake II engine. We knew they'd miss their mid-1998 deadline, but things still looked like they were pretty much on track. Come June of 1998, developers switched the now overused Unreal engine. Now we knew for sure 1998 would not be Duke's year. Although, we were reassured that the transition would only take four to six weeks and now would be released in 1999. Phew! That's not so bad, right?

Wrong! By November of 1999 all we got were some screenshots of Forever running on the upgraded Unreal engine. 2000 passed with no new info and E3 2001 was the next time we'd heard anything about the Dukester. Some in-game footage was shown which featured a large city and how to get a sandwich from a vending machine (huh?). Later that year, GTA's Take-Two would take over the publishing rights. Could this project finally take shape?

Wrong again! By 2002, Take-Two completely overhauled the game's mechanics, which now contained parts of the Unreal 2.0 engine, and added more developers. TT announced the game would see release by the end of 2003. Then by the end of 2004. Then by 2005. Then another physics engine switch. Flash forward to 2006. We're told that Forever is almost done and being given some final tweaking and polishing. Looks like we'll finally get to play it soon! Right?

You know you're wrong! Come on now! 3D Realms put Duke on the back burner to free up some room for the mildly successful 2006 shooter, Prey. In more recent news, a teaser was released last year around Christmas but was never actually confirmed to be a work of 3D Realms. An official trailer was released in February of 2008 which doesn't actually show any in-game footage, but rather a cut scene showing a blonder, buffer Duke and some nastier looking baddies. The trailer ended with the words "Stay Tuned" instead of "Coming Soon" or something like that.

So here we are in 2008. Over 11 years after the initial announcement, and with no official release date in sight, Duke Nukem has become a running joke around the world wide web. I'll finish this epic saga with a quote from 3D Realms CEO Scott Miller who stated "of course as soon as Duke is done we'll begin a new one." (Ya, and I'll start my second spaceship as soon as I return from my first trip to the moon).

Original Release Date: 1998
Current Release Date: Come Get Some!

Honorable Mentions: Final Fantasy XIII & Versus XIII (PS3), Raid Over the River (Wii), Resident Evil 5 (Multiplatform), Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix (Multiplatform), Devil May Cry (PSP), Afrika (PS3), Infamous (PS3), Dragon Quest IX: Protectors of the Stars (DS), Zombie Massacre (Wii), Final Fantasy: Dissidia (PSP)

So there you have it. Sony definitely holds the title for the biggest heart-breaker out there. You may have also noticed that there's no Microsoft titles listed. It would seem there's pretty much caught up for the moment, but they have had their share of Vaporware blunders (Halo 3 for one). Let's hope that if I write another one of these articles next year that none of these titles will be repeat offenders. Developers and publishers really need to keep a tighter lid on projects before people start getting really excited about them. In one way, it's nice that peoples' feedback early on in development and beta testing can change the shape and feel of the game for the better. But, on the other hand, waiting several years for one game just isn't worth it in the long run. I suppose ignorance truly is bliss!



Franklin said...

I think a few of these games like Sadness are supposedly still in development (Sadness is supposed to come out Fall 2009)... and LittleBigPlanet is coming out in 2 months!

I got a PS3 just a few weeks ago for titles like LBP and Metal Gear Solid 4. If you haven't gotten a PS3 (or 360, for that matter) you should take a look at this Stacker 2 contest going on where you design a 6 Hour Power t-shirt. You have the chance to win the system of your choice, a copy of Rise of the Argonauts, ten t-shirts with your design on it, and a year's supply of 6 Hour Power energy shots. There are less than 170 entrants right now so to check out the details and enter, go here:

Let me know if you have any questions or if you enter. I'll be glad to vote for your designs. By the way, I hope you don't mind me commenting on your blog. Good luck to those who enter.

Franklin Keane

Anonymous said...

just to let you know metroid dread was never a game, retro even confrimed it multiple times it wasn't even a game. Just some random talked that people took to seriously.

Heather Conover said...

This is brilliant. Thank you so much for posting this. So true. A list like this really needed to be created.

Oh and I love the pictures.

to the anonymous poster: I suggest you actually read the article (cause he states exactly what you did very clearly)

Raenius said...

Thanks for the backup, Heather!