One of the most anticipated and hyped Xbox One exclusives is no more.
PlatinumGames, the studio behind the Bayonetta franchise and the upcoming Nier: Automata, had teamed up with Xbox to bring action-role playing game Scalebound exclusively to Xbox One.
Microsoft lifted the lid off the game at E3 2014, and considering PlatinumGames’ pedigree for making extravagant action games, the game quickly shot to the top of many “most wanted” lists.
It didn’t make an appearance at E3 2015, but some footage at Gamescom 2015 reignited hopes for a 2016 release.
A quiet 2016 brought concerns back to the forefront, but a new four-player cooperative mode was enough to assure gamers that PlatinumGames was hard at work on the title.
Then came the delay: no longer would it meet its late-2016 deadline, and instead it was pushed into 2017.
Enter 2017, and Scalebound stood as one of the Xbox One’s most anticipated titles. If only we knew something — anything — about the progress of the game’s development.
And then came the update we had craved, but not the one we wanted: on January 9, Microsoft and PlatinumGames officially parted ways, and Scalebound — the ambitious action game with intriguing promises of dragons and fire — was cancelled.
The concept for Scalebound surfaced at PlatinumGames back in 2006. The studio was yet to release a game, but had a number in the pipeline. MadWorld, Infinite Space and Bayonetta formed part of the Sega trio set to hit all major platforms.
While Scalebound seemed like a promising project, it was Bayonetta that ultimately won out, with little if any interest in Platinum’s dragon pitch.
It moved onto Vanquish and Anarchy Reigns, and now Platinum had established itself as one of gaming’s premiere action game developers.
As such, it returned to Scalebound and created a prototype in the hope it would attract publisher interest.
The likes of The Wonderful 101, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and Bayonetta 2 assured that Platinum was now one of the most revered and respected studios coming out of Japan.
And so, with audience interest and a growing roster of talented designers, it tried one last time for Scalebound, and finally got a bite, almost eight years since the idea first swept through Platinum’s offices.
Once development on The Wonderful 101 finished up, work on Scalebound began. It was to be something the studio had never worked on before according to creator Hideki Kamiya.
He had always described it as a massive challenge for the studio, unlike anything that had come out of Platinum in the past. Its portfolio, filled with exaggerated action sequences and hack-and-slash gameplay, seemed at odds with Scalebound‘s ambitious role-playing philosophy.
Almost each and every time Kamiya spoke about the game publicly, he made mention of the challenges the studio faced in developing it. While he promised the traditional combat gameplay that Platinum had become renowned for, he also spoke of role-playing and exploration elements, and retro inspiration from the likes of Sorcerian, Hydlide 3 and Dragon Quest.
The talk from Platinum, however, was never enough: fans just hadn’t seen enough of the game to justify the hype, and interest was waning.
Had Platinum dropped the ball? Was there trouble in paradise? Microsoft always seemed hesitant to show Scalebound to the press: a behind-closed-doors screening at Gamescom 2015 was extremely tough to get into, and anyone that did see it didn’t know what to expect.
The reality was that no one really knew exactly what Scalebound was, what Platinum had hoped to achieve, and if it would ever actually be released.
That a game that was supposed to be released in late 2016 still hadn’t really been shown to the general public was enough to raise eyebrows, even if the Platinum faithful strung to every piece of information. Gameplay trailers showed off some base functionality and combat, while its most recent showing — an E3 2016 trailer — didn’t impress.
Report out of Kotaku claimed the game had been in development trouble for quite some time, and that a cancellation was imminent. Once news of the cancellation hit, CNET Australia contributor Adam Bolton accused Microsoft of forcing unachievable milestones and shady contract work on Platinum. “They were denied resources,” Bolton claims.
It’s ultimately a sad end to what was at first an exciting and highly anticipated Xbox One exclusive.
And that it comes in a year when exclusives are far and few between suggests Scalebound was not quite what Platinum had wanted it to be.
It was, however, ambitious beyond its years, and never anything more than a dream.