Unseen Innovators: Why Have So Many AAA Games Taken This Long To Release?

Pictured from Left to Right: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Quantum Break, Final Fantasy XV, Tom Clancy’s The Division, Deep Down, Cyberpunk 2077, Mighty No 9, Mirrors Edge Catalyst, and Kingdom Hearts 3 (All of these titles were announced after the year 2012 and have yet to be released)

In the respective year of both current gen consoles being announced and released, we’ve had many exciting announcements become present no-shows. These include such titles as Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Quantum Break, Final Fantasy XV, Tom Clancy’s The Division, Deep Down, Cyberpunk 2077, Mighty No 9, Mirrors Edge Catalyst, No Man’s Sky and Kingdom Hearts 3. However, when the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 were announced around a decade ago, the only titles that took upwards of three plus years to release after their respective announcements were Grand Theft Auto IV, Ni-Oh, Alan Wake, Red Dead Redemption, Final Fantasy XIII Versus, and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of The Patriots. The difference is that most of these last-generation games were announced in informal ways without proper gameplay footage or trailers until a year prior and the others became vaporware, unlike the more recent examples on new consoles. So why have so many “next-gen” titles bit the dust? We’ll be diving into all the recent examples mentioned, to see if there’s an underlying trend in the state of game development.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

A screen from the first trailer for Uncharted 4. (At this point, it had a working title)

Date of Announcement: November 14th 2013 at the Playstation 4 launch party

Release Date: April 26th 2016

Although it’s widely known at this point, Uncharted 4 came across a major development issue early on the road, causing over 20 employees and the game’s writer (Amy Hennig) to leave for other companies such as Visceral, Giant Sparrow, and Riot Games after being “forced out” according to IGN. (circa March 2014) During the situation, Sony representatives tried to claim that it was normal and that it didn’t harm development; but re-introduced game directors Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley have recently admitted that they lost around eight months of work due to this fiasco, whilst explaining the three delays the game has received in the past year. If Uncharted wasn’t a high profile franchise during this moment in time, it likely would have entered development hell.

Quantum Break

One of the few games announced at Xbox One’s infamous reveal; Quantum Break was shown with a live action trailer teased with hints of gameplay, which implied the TV show aspect of the game

Date of Announcement: May 21st 2013 at the Xbox One reveal conference

Release Date: April 5th 2016

Believe it or not, Quantum Break hasn’t had any reported development issues despite being one of the longest developed games this generation. It’s just in the camp of being announced a little too early, as present in the VGX 2013 trailer, where they repeat footage of already shown B-roll and concept art. Remedy actually planned to release the title last year, but didn’t want to go against juggernauts like Halo 5, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Forza 6. If anything, it’s smart for Remedy to fight for more breathing room, as a reported reason for Alan Wake’s poor sales came from being released in the same month as Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction and Red Dead Redemption. Plus, Remedy is known for taking a very long times to get their games out there, so nobody should be too worried.

Final Fantasy XV

Date of Announcement: June 10th 2013 at Sony’s E3 2013 conference

Release Date: TBA 2016

Much like Remedy, the whole bulk of Square Enix tends to announce their games very very early, as a healthy sign of fan-service. In fact, when Final Fantasy XV was originally revealed, it was only 20–25% done, a sharp contrast to games like Fallout 4 and Far Cry Primal, that only need bug-fixing in the small timeframe from announcement to release. However, everyone at Square has shown a huge passion in keeping the game on track, and developers like shovelware developer XPEC Entertainment and Square’s own Avalanche Studios have been assigned on contract-work to finish it in time for its 2016 release. Maybe they wouldn’t have had this problem if they just announced it later?

Tom Clancy’s The Division

Date of Announcement: June 10th 2013 at Ubisoft’s E3 2013 Conference

Release Date: March 8th 2016

In what might be the second biggest game on the list, (competing with Final Fantasy XV) The Division is yet another case of an ambitious game being announced too early. (Probably because developers wanted to show off everything they had due to the new console hype three years prior) A supporting claim for this is that The Division had only been out of pre-production for a year prior, according to PCGamer. By announcing it too early, Ubisoft has kind of entered an unhealthy state. They’ve assigned numerous contractors on the game, and have even had to cancel the much talked about companion app to meet it’s release date. Rumors also show that more time was spent on development on the game’s engine than the game itself, something that was apparently similar to the last big Ubisoft stinker, Watch Dogs. Ouch.

Deep Down

Date of Announcement: February 20th 2013 at Sony’s Playstation 4 reveal conference

Release Date: TBA

What took so long?: According to numerous press site sources and director interviews. Deep Down has expanded heavily since it’s original reveal. What was originally supposed to be a randomly generated Dark Souls clone has now taken a life of it’s own. Yoshinori Ono has now stated that he expects the title to have lasting appeal for fifteen years, and since the title is being worked within Capcom’s brand new Panta Rhei engine, this makes it even more challenging to develop properly. Even worse, the director of the game has more recently had his hands full with Street Fighter 5. At this point, we wouldn’t be surprised if this game doesn’t come out within this generation. Ambition can be cured, but when it’s not frenetic and excessively long.

Cyberpunk 2077

Date of Announcement: May 30th 2012

Release Date: TBA

What took so long?: The longest waited (and one of the most anticipated) titles on this list, Cyberpunk 2077 has been under the wraps for what seems like forever. In fact, even CDProjektRed has had to recently admit to fans that the game is still being worked on. Luckily, the game actually hasn’t had it’s fair share of development issues. Greg Miller and Colin Moriarty of Kinda Funny fame have both stated that it’s well known in the industry that this game announcement was only to hire more employees to work on The Witcher 3. It’s also worked exposure-wise. The trailer’s amassed over eight million views (a new record for the company, and more than any Witcher 3 trailer), and shows no signs of stopping!

Mighty No 9

Date of Announcement: August 31st 2013

Release Date: February 9th- 12th

What took so long?: One of the more sketchy crowdfunded games in recent memory, Mighty No 9 promised big things and then took a nosedive. After the game became fully funded, it’s art style changed, new modes were added, and even a movie became funded, all six months before release. Although the game has a publisher, there’s still been rumors among rumors of mismanagment and poor developer communication coming from sites like Kotaku and VG247. Plus, the recent acquisition of the game’s spinoff from a shady Chinese developer known for creating cheaply made PS4/Xbox One knockoff’s doesn’t leave a good mark to supporters.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

Date of Announcement: June 10th 2013 at EA’s E3 2013 Conference

Release Date: May 26th 2016

What took so long?: In the case of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, it’s been one of the more controlled examples on this list, which can seem surprising coming from a company like EA. However, employees, designers, and EA’s own COO Peter Moore, have explained the game as a passion project, accurately designed for the fans of the original. There’s been no genuine account as to why the game was announced so early, but we can safely assume it was a move of fan-service by EA. After all, that was what made their E3 2013 conference so memorable.

No Man’s Sky

Date of Announcement: December 7th 2013 at the VGX Awards

Release Date: June 2016

What took so long?: In what’s likely one of the most anticipated indie games of all time, No Man’s Sky has had unlucky dev issues even before Sony brought their hands in. The game was developed in secrecy from many Hello Games employees from quite a while (causing reported tension), and shortly after it’s blowout announcement at VGX the teams studio was flooded in. Although it didn’t cause significant damage, it certainly didn’t help. Besides for this, there’s been a couple major rumors reported by Jimquisition and Destructoid of how the game was delayed to 2015 because it couldn’t run well. Since this was stated by two separate press sites, we’re pretty sure some side of it is true, equaling a troubling state for the highly ambitious project.

Kingdom Hearts 3

Date of Announcement: June 10th 2013 at Sony’s E3 2013 conference

Release Date: TBA

What took so long?: Square Enix really does have their hands full, with two of their biggest titles appearing on this list. (not to mention the likely long-in-development Final Fantasy 7 Remake) The director of the game stated directly after the announcement that it was announced “too early” based off the current development, and was only released to appease impatient fans. Even worse, “significant” development on the game only began recently, with the director of the game claiming that PR would be ramping up in the middle of the year for both these titles. (Likely E3) If this comes as a shock, it shouldn’t be. A sign of many long-in-development titles, reused B-roll was used in the most recent E3 and D23 Expo trailers.

Conclusion

Although most of these games have come a long way from distant pipe dreams to fully in reality, there’s still many troubling causes at hand. The biggest two are the prospect of ambition and the valiant efforts to please series devotees. Both come off as particularly strong, as evidenced by how companies, Square Enix, Ubisoft, and CD Projeckt Red have been maintaining to pull things off. Their long dev cycles stretch the hype to unattainable levels, and only succeed in making the end product more disappointing, especially if the games wandering into unfamiliar territory. While there isn’t a plethora of prodigious issues in AAA game development, some come off as a bit concerning. In order to solve these qualms, developers and publishers are going to have to forcefully tie the leash, before things become even worse,

Info was sourced from IGN, Gamespot, Dualshockers, GameInformer, Kotaku, PCGamer, Kinda Funny, 4Gamer, VG247, Gametrailers, Playstation Blog, Destructoid, Jimquistion, Attack Of The Fanboy, Famitsu, and KingdomHeartsInsider

For more analysis articles and features like this one, please check out The Cube on Medium.com, or our twitter account @TheCubeMedium

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