Microsoft

Gremlins (Krome Studios) [Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

As you probably know Gremlins is a 1984 comedy horror film directed by Joe Dante and released by Warner Bros, a commercial success spawning a sequel and lots of merchandise. A few officially licensed video games were published for Atari 2600, Commodore 64, Game Boy Color, Wii and DS. A Playstation 2 Gremlins was in development in the mid ‘00s, but soon cancelled.

Many years later, Krome Studios (mostly known for Ty the Tasmanian Tiger and Spyro: A New Beginning) pitched another Gremlins video game, planned for Xbox 360. In the end the game was not green lighted by Warner Bros, and it became another cancelled Gremlins game we’ll never play. A few screenshots were found by fans of the series, preserved in the gallery below to remember the existence of this lost project.

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Guerrilla: Jungle Revolt [Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

Swingin’ Ape Studios were a mostly forgotten studio behind the now cult-classic title Metal Arms: Glitch in the System, a third-person shooter published by Vivendi Universal and Sierra Entertainment in late 2003, for Playstation 2, Xbox and GameCube. While the game did not sold much, many gamers loved it for its fun gameplay and multiplayer. Around 2004 after Metal Arms was shipped, Swingin Ape Studios proposed many different projects to publishers: Metal Arms 2, a new SWAT (Police Quest), a GI-Joe tie-in, and a game called “Guerrilla: Jungle Revolt”, to be developed as an exclusive launch title for Microsoft’s soon-to-be released Xbox 360.

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All of these projects were never released, but a few details were shared online thanks to former Swingin Ape developers. Guerrilla: Jungle Revolt was initially conceived as a Mad Max inspired post-apocalyptic coop shooter, but when the team approached Electronic Arts to pitch the project they suggested to change it into a military shooter set on an island, somehow similar to Far Cry. EA knew the talent of the studio and maybe they were interested in publishing Guerrilla as a new IP to contrast Crytek / Ubisoft FPS series.

Swingin’ Ape Studios re-worked their game pitch as suggested by EA, but then proposed it to Microsoft instead. The company though to make Guerrilla an important launch title for their “Xbox 2”, along with other games such as Call of Duty 2, Kameo, Perfect Dark Zero and Quake 4.

Swingin Ape had already worked on an early prototype for Guerrilla using their original Xbox dev-kits: it was playable in local multiplayer on four linked Xbox consoles. This proto was enough to demonstrate basic gameplay mechanics with cooperative on-foot and vehicle combat against AI, but Guerrilla’s concept was much more than a simple FPS.

They planned a free-roaming set of islands, with base-building elements, squad commands and seamless integration of online play. We can imagine Guerrilla’s gameplay as a small open-world in the vein of Just Cause, where you could create your own military base, explore the environment to find enemies and attack their own camps. From slides used to pitch the project to Microsoft we can read more details about their idea:

  • Free roaming access to the 3 islands of Panuba
  • Access grows wider as the game progresses
  • Panuba has diverse regions: cities, jungles, dunes, snowy peaks, ruins, volcanic plains
  • Interactive and alive with islanders walking / driving around, birds reacting to gunshots, destructible environments, etc.
  • Up to 3 Live players may seamlessly join another player’s campaign on-the-fly
  • Coop players may bring their squads with them
  • Other players may became mercenaries, free to roam the island and play against the main player
  • Dozens of vehicles available on ground, water and in air
  • Acquire vehicles trough base buildings, by stealing or by earning

Microsoft offered to Swingin Ape 3 months of funds to develop a Guerrilla prototype on the Xbox 360, as an initial contract to test its potential. While the team was excited for this opportunity, something unexpected happened: Blizzard proposed them to work on their StarCraft: Ghost project, recently removed from its original team (Nihilistic Software).

In the end accepting Blizzard offer was their best option, as they were willing to fund a few years of development for StarCraft: Ghost, compared to just 3 months for Microsoft on the Guerrilla prototype (without knowing what could happen next). Guerrilla was then halted, to focus on the new collaboration with Blizzard.

The rest is history: While work on StarCraft: Ghost proceeded, in May 2005 Blizzard Entertainment decided to fully acquire Swingin’ Ape for their talent. After a while StarCraft: Ghost was also put on indefinite hold and never completed, while the Swingin Ape team became officially part of Blizzard, working on such projects as World of Warcraft.

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Raiders (Coop Tomb Raider) [Cancelled – PS3, Xbox 360, PC]

Raiders is a cancelled project in the Tomb Raider series, that would have been developed for Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC as a coop multiplayer spin-off, before Crystal Dynamics decided to instead working on Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Raiders’ concept was heavily different from The Guardian of Light, as it would have been much more similar to the original Tomb Raider games, with third person exploration, platforming and shooting combat.

The story focused on the clones of Lara Croft, known as the Doppelgangers. It’s currently unclear if players would use these Doppelgangers as their playable characters, or if they were the main enemies. In the end the game was canned in pre-production, when they just had some concept made with placeholder graphic and some gameplay ideas to pitch to the studio managers.

While the game was never announced by Eidos nor Crystal Dynamics, fans of the series found documents of the project online, preserving its existence from being forgotten.

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“PreCore” (Armature Studio) [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

In April 2008, after completing Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for Nintendo, game director Mark Pacini, art director Todd Keller, and principal technology engineer Jack Matthews left Retro Studios to start Armature Studio.

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Their early years were not easy: they pitched many games (such as a first-person Mega Man reboot titled “Maverick Hunter” and a military FPS for the Wii) to publishers (such as EA, Warner Bros and Capcom), but never release any project until 2012, when they worked on the “Metal Gear Solid HD Collection” port for PSVita.

As wrote by Superannuation on Kotaku:

“Shorty after the studio’s formation, Armature struck a deal with Electronic Arts through the publisher’s Blueprint division, headed up by industry veteran Lou Castle. Under its arrangement with EA, Armature’s small team was to serve as an incubator of intellectual property for the gaming giant‚ & developing various concepts and prototypes that would then be handed off to another team, with Armature’s staff keeping a close eye on the projects. The Armature deal was one part of Blueprint’s overall mission to figure out ways to counter the rising cost of game development. […] Unfortunately, two months after Armature’s public debut, EA shuttered the Blueprint division, which likely caused the relationship between the two to go south.”

Between 2010 and 2011 Armature were working on an interesting action adventure game, featuring a young protagonist and a robot, somehow similar to Studio Ghibli’s anime “Laputa: Castle in the Sky“. From the few images and footage available it seems players would have been able to explore a sci-fi, post-apocalypse world, with the help of that strange mech. The robot could destroy walls in a cavern and it seems to have an independent AI with its own emotions, as seen in the scene where it covers the protagonist from the rain.

Unfortunately the project was not completed at the time, probably with no publisher interested in funding the full game. Armature switched their time and resources to work on “Metal Gear Solid HD Collection” and “Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate”.

In 2014 the team started working with Keiji Inafune on a new project for Microsoft, titled “ReCore”. This new game show a few similarities with their old prototype, such as the post-apocalypse world and the use of robot companions. That’s why we’d like to indicate this old prototype as “PreCore”, even if we don’t know it’s original title at the moment.

We can speculate Armature were somehow able to reuse some concepts and models from their prototype to develop ReCore. We hope one day to learn more about this and all their other cancelled projects from the late ‘00s.  

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Contra Online [PS2, Xbox, PC – Cancelled]

After the cancellation of Castlevania: Resurrection and the death of the Dreamcast, the same team at Konami of America pitched a few other projects for different consoles. One of these unrealized games was a new 3D Contra with online multiplayer, planned to be developed for PS2, Xbox and PC.

They wanted to have classic single player and local coop story mode for old-school fans of the series, but at the same time testing online multiplayer for the first time.

Some details about this lost Contra game were found by fans, and preserved below to remember the existence of this cancelled concept.

“Contra’s HQ have intercepted SOS from the biggest Russian nuclear submarine that is sinking to the bottom of Barents Sea. While Contra’s HQ continues monitoring the unsuccessful rescue attempts, suddenly the submarine crews stop responding to the Russian Northern Fleet hails. Meanwhile, Contra’s spy satellite registers the beginning of nuclear missiles launch form the sub, and transmission to Russian Navy operations that Red Falcon is demanding to stop the rescue attempt otherwise there are will be a missile strike retaliation. After analyzing the spy satellite data, Contra intelligence realizes that Red Falcon is preparing its third attempt to conquer Earth by using Russian submarine as its base to assemble and power it’s robotic war machines in the safety of deep sea.

Members of Contra Forces are called in and ordered to stop the Red Falcon, and were successful in defeating evil alien entity and its forces. Or, at least they thought so. The “Red Falcon” had actually been merely wounded. It escapes the submarine blast to a secret retreat located in the mountains of Bosnia. Were alien forces lie dormant aviating for decoy Barents Sea invasion to begin, so they can start a real attack of the Earth forces? The Contra intelligence is learning that Red Falcon is not the brains behind an operation but just a pawn controlled by a mysteries alien only know as “Dark Queen”. Contra marines are called again for the final showdown.”

Story mode would have been divided into 3 worlds (Submarine, Mountain Trail and Underground Base): each one with several levels and Bosses. Past Contra protagonists could have been unlocked during the game, to be used as playable characters.

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The team planned many different modes for online multiplayer. An idea was to have online coop up to 4 players, split in 2 teams that would fight through different missions before meeting again to kill the boss together. Online Versus mode was also planned, set in a virtual-reality world similar to VR missions in Metal Gear Solid. This could have been a third person or first person shooter, depending on the best prototype they could work on.

As this was only an early pitch they were still thinking about the best Konami IP to use for their first online game. If Contra could have been a risky series (because of its hardcore fans), other possibilities were open such as using the Project Overkill IP instead.

In the end disagreements between Konami of Japan and Konami America killed the american team. Many of their latest games were canned, such as Survivor: Day One for Nintendo 64