Canceled Games That Could Have Become Huge Hits

C&C: Tiberium
C&C: Tiberium

Video games industry is an unforgiving business, and it sees its fair share of canceled projects. This just happens, whether because developer team suddenly realizes their game just isn’t what they thought it was, or if money runs out, or if a big name publisher responsible for distributing the game decides the title isn’t worth their money because potential profits might not be high enough (we are looking at you EA), a noticeable percentage of games never gets finished.

And while, after watching a trailer or a gameplay video on YouTube and thinking “how could someone spent years working on this excuse for a video game?”, you can say that some of them deserved the cancellation, others get canceled even if looking like potential blockbusters.

The reasons for canceling promising games are usually lack of funding, the decision that came from above (from the publisher), or the developing process that lasted way more than it was planned. No matter what the reason for the cancellation was, all games that found a place on our list had huge potential and would probably become instant hits if somehow they ended up getting published.

The Lord of The Rings: The White Council

Back in 2006, The Lord of The Rings was still very popular. Only three years have passed since The Return of The King and EA, who had rights to the games based on movies and books, saw big success with Battle for Middle Earth real-time strategy games. It was time for something bigger and the publisher announced The Lord of The Rings: The White Council.

The premise of the game sounded like if a huge fan talked about the perfect Lord of The Rings game. The game was to be set in a huge open world that would include most of the Middle Earth. The player could go on story quests, could take place in one of the huge number of activities and the game also features plenty of side quests.

But, it seems history does repeat itself. You see, the game was handed to EA Redwood Shores, a developing studio that would later become Visceral Games. The While Council had lots of potential, with the letter from the game’s executive producer, Steve Gray, placed on the official website read, “The action takes place in a massive open world where you can go anywhere you want, and the characters in this world are powered by an incredible simulation AI based on the same technology used by the makers of The Sims 2. The story of the game is built around a series of Story Quests. You can choose to follow specific Story Quests, embark on a range of other types of quests, or set off on your own adventures in the massive open world environment.” As you can see, it would probably end up as being the best Lord of The Rings game ever.

The player could choose one of the races that lived in the Middle Earth (Man, Dwarf, Elf, and Hobbit) and to progress through the epic story, with the ultimate goal of becoming an ally with the White Council itself. But, EA decided to delay the game indefinitely in early 2007 because of management issues. EA Redwood Shores was taken off the development, and instead of creating a single player, story-driven, open world game, EA decided to move its resources to a multiplayer title called The Lord of The Rings: Conquest (sounds familiar?).

It suffices to say that Conquest’s sales flopped with the game receiving rather disappointing reviews. We will see if the same fate is reserved for the canceled Star Wars title by Visceral games that, instead of becoming a story-driven single-player experience, will see the light of day as a multiplayer title with “live services.” And while we talk about Star Wars title, we have to mention Star Wars 1313.

Star Wars 1313

As of this year, we didn’t get a single player Star Wars game (not counting Lego Star Wars titles) in more than a decade. The last one was Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, which wasn’t a good one. It features Starkiller (the main character, a clone and a student of Darth Vader) returning from the dead just to kill Darth Vader in the end, going entirely against the official canon, sad, we know.

And back in 2012 LucasArts decided it was time for a new Star Wars single-player experience. The studio quickly began working on Star Wars 1313, announcing the game the same year. The game quickly took shape, with the official announcement along with an impressive trailer happening during the 2012’s E3.

The game features excellent graphics, and it followed young Bobba Fet while he tried to survive in the ghastly Coruscant underground area known as Level 1313. Instead of lightsaber wielders, the game tried to put the player in the boots of the famous bounty hunter who preferred blasters over laser swords.

It was rumored that some characters from the movies would appear in the game as NPCs, with the most famous being the smuggler duo: Han Solo and Chewbacca. The game was based on Unreal 3 Engine, it supported DirectX 11, and featured pretty advanced graphics for the time. Even now, it looks rather nice.

But, in 2013 George Lucas decided it was time for retirement. He sold all Star Wars rights to Disney for a couple of billions of dollars with LucasArts game studio also becoming part of Disney. The Mickey Mouse company announced that the game would continue developing, but soon after they disbanded the whole studio with Star Wars 1313 being officially canceled. EA soon bought exclusive rights to produce games based on Star Wars, so it seems we won’t be seeing a quality Star Wars game (yes, both Battlefront titles are average at best) anytime soon.

Star Wars Battlefront III

EA tried to recreate the massive battles of Star Wars Battlefront and mostly failed. The first game was okay, but it seriously lacked content. The second, well, you know the whole story of loot box-dependent progression system and all that. But, before EA had rights to develop Star Wars video games before Disney had Star Wars rights, LucasArts developed Star Wars video games internally. Back then it was the time of the original Star Wars Battlefront.

Star Wars Battlefront II was released in 2005 and garnered positive critics’ response. The game wasn’t a revolution by any means, but it managed to further refine Battlefront Formula and to offer plenty of stuff to do. In general, the game was a success, so a decision has been made to start the work on a sequel.

The development was handed to Free Radical, and the studio already worked on the game in 2006, when first rumors started to circle. It was set to release on the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. But soon after game media discovered that a sequel to Star Wars Battlefront II is in the works, Free Radical were canned from the project, with the studio co-founder Steve Ellis stating in 2008 that at the time the game was “pretty much done,” and that the reason for shelving it was LucasArts’ refusing to throw lots of money at promoting the game, which is weird decision especially because the game was practically complete.

Leaked footage showed a new form of planetary fighter battles, which were reserved for space in the previous game, but in this one, the player could set off from a planet and travel to outer space in order to destroy enemy cruisers. It seems like the game features a single-player campaign along with lots of multiplayer maps. Graphics were solid, for the time, and the game certainly had tons of content, unlike the two released by EA.

Command and Conquer: Tiberium

The C&C universe has an incredible amount of different stories, and during the last decade, it seemed EA was starting to rebuild C&C universe, especially its Tiberium realm. C&C 3: Tiberium Wars was an amazing RTS game that came out in 2007 and managed to sell in loads, which was a massive success for an RTS game, even back then.

And a year after the release of Tiberium Wars EA announced Command and Conquer Tiberium, a second take on translating the franchise into a first-person shooter format. C&C Renegade tried to do this in 2002, but the game received a lukewarm reception mostly because of its uninspired action and mediocre campaign.

But Tiberium looked more promising. The game featured excellent graphics and intense action. The main character was named Ricardo Vega, and he battled Scrin forces who tried to reach the origin point of Tiberium infection placed in Italy near Tiber. The gameplay included classic FPS gunplay but also features squad mechanics allowing the player to coordinate assaults, asks for reinforcements, and take place in more massive battles while managing tactical decisions. The game also featured orbital strikes that could be summoned by the player when the times was right so that they could destroy a large number of enemy troops.

The game focused on squad-based mechanics, making players to think before they act, to come up with a strategy before engaging enemies. The gameplay was tactical, gritty; slow-paced while guiding your team, and suddenly becoming fast-paced and intense as hell once bullets start to fly.

Tiberium held lots of promise but in 2008, two years after the game was announced, EA decided to can it. According to the publisher the game didn’t fulfill Electronic Arts standards, and its development process faced many troubles. Tiberium looked excellent for the time, it tried to broaden the FPS gameplay, its story seemed more than decent, and the game just felt good. But we will never know how good (or bad) it is.

Prey 2

The original Prey title that came out in 2006 was an excellent first-person shooter. The player controlled Tommy, an American Native who lived on an Indian Reservation and dreamt of life beyond it, only to be abducted by a race of aggressive aliens and taken to their mother-ship.

Its sequel featured a different main character who also was human, but instead of taking place inside an alien vessel, Prey 2 takes place in Exodus. Exodus is an alien planet, the home of villains from the original game. The main character was a U.S Marshal Killian Samuels, who was abducted several years ago and ended up in this strange alien world with his memory wiped. Samuels soon starts working as a bounty hunter and later on he meets Tommy with whom he plots a plan to take down aliens who abducted them both while trying to tie his memories together.

The game featured as developers called it, agile combat, where the player could run from cover to cover, quick pull his weapon and shoot at enemies, run and gun and doing all this stuff in a swift manner. The game looked extremely interesting; with its neo-noir open world and lots of weird alien life forms that could be meet in the world of Exodus.

Development of the game started shortly after the first Prey came out, in August 2006 with Human Head Studios at the helm. In 2009 the rights for the game switched from 3D Realms (publishers of the original game) to ZeniMax Media, and the game headed to the new direction, with Killian becoming the main character instead of Tommy, who was planned to star in the sequel as well.

Once Bethesda re-announced Prey 2 the game, aside from changing its main character, also switched to being an open-world title. Development process suffered, with the game being handed out to Arkane studios in 2013, and since Arkane wanted for the game to take a different direction, Prey 2 was canceled in 2014. In the end, we got a re-imagined Prey game, made by Arkane. Prey reboot is quite good but it is sad to see Prey 2 canned because the game showed excellent gameplay and amazing story, but we won’t see any of that. The saddest part of the whole conundrum is that the game was practically finished before being handed to Arkane Studios, according to Jason Blair, an ex-Human Head employee.

A psychologist turned freelance writer and reviewer, Goran is a hardcore gamer with more than twenty years of experience, and interested in all kinds of technology. He also likes Sci Fi novels and basketball.