Monday, June 16, 2014

Video game releases that never come. Why does this happen?

Right now, If you can think about one or more video games that you have been waiting for since like forever, then you are one of the many that ask themselves why do sometimes some game franchises just vanish, leaving only good memories and a pile of game release rumors.

At first it may seem to be just coincidental business decisions, because like every business, video games must evolve, but if one looks a little further, one can see that almost every game company has a game (or several) that they just abandoned, even when it was a big hit money printing machine.There are many possible reasons that we can think about and we are going to see some of them along with some theoretical solutions. You will be amazed on how different it could be and how perplexing it becomes as the opposite happens.

Note: This article is just a theoretical analysis based on common sense and it does not claim to be a video game business guru. This is more just like one of those thoughtful conversations that you could have with your friends when talking about games over some slices of pizza on a gaming afternoon.

lots of money, business and profit
Some companies easily become the Ted Dibiase of the video game industry.

All about the Benjamins

This one is the most obvious reasons so let's get it out of the way. Some games are left in development hell because there are no financial means or financial will "to do it correctly". This happens a lot with games that were pretty ambitious at their time and were only possible because they were cheaper to do back then. By ambitious it doesn't necessarily mean giant worlds or branching game play with a lot of options. It could just mean a game with a style of game play that is complex to do (even on a linear game standard) and takes time and resources in order for it to be interesting which seems to be a problem due to rising development costs.


They need to stop thinking about those games in terms of the latest graphics, sound and effects and just make them prettier than their original versions without making a crater on their bank account. Make it look nice enough, but focus on building upon the game play that the game already had. So in summary, the solution is to re-route resources to the core elements of the game itself instead of the visuals and technical aspects. The fans will not mind if the game doesn't look like the a graphic powerhouse, they just want to continue the story, enjoy its game play and just have fun. Gamers fell in love with their creation, meaning story, characters and game play and not its polygons and resolution. An example of this is the new Legend of Zelda for the Wii U that was shown on this year's E3. The game looks gorgeous even on a platform that has a lot less power than the other rival consoles.

Rusell Baker quote about progress and change
A quote that seems kind of hard to accept nowadays.

Change for the sake of change

This one came like a wave that drowned many of the previous fan favorite game franchises, specially between the DC/PS2/GC/Xbox and the PS3/Xbox360/Wii generations. Be it because of a change of president, CEO, owner, etc, some companies dumped great gaming franchises just because they did not fit into their new philosophy even if the game was almost guaranteed to be successful up to that point. Others killed franchises by changing them so much that they became rejected, thus turning them into franchises that did not sold copies anymore. The worst thing is that at the end of the road the blame is put on game itself and not the decisions made by the game company. It's like an army blaming a soldier for a blunder caused by something they ordered him to do. Change is good, but not every time. Sometimes it is best to not try to fix what is not broken.


For them to explore the notion of NOT abandoning money making franchises just because they have an urge to make things different for the fun of it. The best thing to do is to assign small teams to make those games while keeping moderate production values and changing formats if needed (digital is cheaper). Make a study of where the fans of that game are lingering and aim for that, followed by clever marketing strategies, viral advertising and a good dose of screen time that could attract new crowds, specially on the web. Take for instance what Square Enix did with Bravely Default. The game was released on handheld where development is cheaper, but carried everything that their JRPG games are known for and became a great success that even changed the philosophy that the company had at the moment.

Monopoly custom card get out of a slump free
Moral of the story: Do not play with your fan's feelings.

Games held as trump cards

Some companies give the impression that they know they have a wanted game on their hands, but they sit on it because they expect to use it at a later time if needed. So they hold the game for a long time, limiting themselves to make small announcement and comments just to keep the fans happy and speculating. They let some "leaks" to go public and spawn some articles on the gaming media or maybe make a reference to the game on some random interview, all done with the purpose of keeping the game alive on stasis, sort of like Han Solo frozen in carbonite.


They need to realize that freezing or delaying a game is something that will only work for 3-5 years tops. Games that go longer than that away from the spot light start to fade, as gamers take refuge in other games and little by little lose interest in the original idea, up to the point when they can begin to see it as something "passe" and just plain ignore it when it finally comes out. This is the case of franchises like Duke Nukem and even the notorious Daikatana in the 90's. If they need to take a temporary break from a franchise, that is understandable, but coming out of the blue with a 10 year old concept and expecting gamers to go crazy over it would be like leaving a lover and saying "I will be back later" then come back 10 years after and expect that person to be single and waiting for you, it just doesn't work that way. So the bottom line is... If history has told us that something doesn't work then why do it?

Office war between employees
War never changes, not even on the office.

A civil war of games 

This is one very theoretical reason, but quite possible if one takes into account how humans think. It is in human nature to protect our own things and with video game new I.P's (Intellectual Property) it isn't any different. New developers and rising talents will want to bring their ideas to the table and will most likely repel anything that means them living under the shadow of a successful franchise from the past. One example is the rumored problems that Hideo Kojima was having with the team assembled to create a new Zone of the Enders game as the group was not following his vision and this ended with Kojima losing interest in the project which is now dead. So things been like this mean that newer designers and project managers will try to influence the company into making new things, their things instead of building upon the already established. It is a natural instinct, but it is not always productive.


To be mindful of each of their employees on the creative/development department and see what are their influences and vision as game developers. Be sure to put the right people in the right projects. Do some assessments to get to know the members of their company and see how they react to different development options. Also get their strongest developers to feel comfortable with what they are doing and see how they influence those around them. Then when they finally have a profile of each of the members of their development team, they can assign teams more efficiently and have an all around better working environment which will make games to turn out better and be developed faster and with greater passion. Otherwise it would be a random affair, like putting plumbers to work as clothing designers.

Some of our childhood heroes are not there as we knew them anymore.

The heroes of the past been long gone

This one is all about the passing of time. As years come and go, some of the great developer teams that made some of our favorite games are little by little disbanding or changing. Other times, big-time developers retire or go into making their own developing studios for various reasons (some of them included in the things previously mentioned). Like Team Silent (original Silent Hill development team) disbanding,  Hironobu Sakaguchi (original Final Fantasy creator) forming his own team with Mistwalker, Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil creator) going solo with The Evil Within, Keiji Inafune (Mega Man's creator) leaving Capcom and even Koji Igarashi (Castlevania creator) leaving Konami in order to make games he wants to make without creative constraints and limitations.


The masterminds behind games can easily move to greener pastures, but sadly the franchises can't as they are property of the company itself, so what it would be good thing to do is for the game companies to publish the game, but lease the development of that game to its previous creator so that the game keeps its potential and both parties profit from the deal. It is something that will be barely noticed by gamers and all the popularity and loyal following the game has will be left unchanged, making it a win-win situation for everybody. In the case that the artist is not available any more, the best course of action would be to study his creation and come up with a game that feels fresh, but is true to its roots.

Wrapping things up

If you have a game that you crave as a fan, but never see it released, that game could pretty much be part of any of the situations previously explained. The industry is a hard place and the battle between business and creativity still rages on. As gamers, the least we can do is use our greatest weapon which is the net and show the gaming companies that these games are wanted and still mean business. If it worked for the Mass Effect 3 ending and made Microsoft backpedal from of their notorious policies, it could also work to see your favorite game franchises brought back to life.

Drawing of knights, cavalry riding on
Become the cavalry!

Don't just reminisce about the games, become active!

Here are some links to communities/petitions you can join/sign to help in the effort of bringing some lost games back to life:

100,000 Strong for Bringing Back Mega Man Legends 3

Operation: Akumajo (Castlevania Demon War)

Final Fantasy VII Remake Request

The Last Guardian Petition: Make Toriko fly

Shenmue 3 500K: All Fans Needed

Various miscelaneus video game petitions

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