The Greatest Vaporware Games That Were Never Released
Oftentimes, when a game title is hyped through the moon and back and takes years from trailer to release, there’s no way it can not be a disappointment. Take Cyberpunk 2077 , for example. The game was first announced in 2012! Obama was still president, Hearthstone was just a twinkle in Blizzard’s eye, Pokemon Go was still four years in the future!
Even though Cyberpunk 2077 did actually launch, it belongs squarely in the segment of the history of technology known as “development hell.” This comprises games, systems, and other tech that either took so long to finish that their eventual releases were crippled, or they were (wait for it)… never released at all!
For every disappointing release you have suffered, there are gamers a generation or even two generations back who are still waiting. “Never” is the longest time of all. These are the greatest vaporware games that were never released, for one reason or another, according to us .
Half-Life 2 : Episode 3
This is probably the most famous never-released game. Being one of the premier AAA franchises, and from a certainly stable game studio that is thriving today more than ever, the purported next sequel in the Half-Life franchise became one of the Internet’s longest-running jokes. HL2-1 and HL2-2 came out lickety-split, in 2006 and 2007. Half-Life 2 : Episode 3 was originally due in 2008. But soon its release got dragged out, and then we got this guy:
This is Valve president Gabe Newell. Whenever you see an old guy like this showing up at game cons making sweeping speeches promising how grand a vision this thing will be if it ever comes out, you’re either looking at George R.R. Martin promising the last Game of Thrones installment or a game company president promising vaporware. To be fair, Half-Life was eventually revived with Half-Life : Alyx, which kind of counts, but doesn’t resolve the loose ends of the Half-Life 2 storyline.
Starcraft : Ghost
Well, if there was ever an aptly titled non-released game, that was Starcraft : Ghost. The Starcraft franchise was just so stellar hot at one point, we’re just now seeing it fall off the cultural radar. It’s still an actively-played eSport in South Korea. Starcraft, when it was out in the turn of the century, was actually bigger than the Warcraft franchise for a time. It birthed memes such as “zerg rush,” and put RTS (real-time strategy) games back on the menu. After the Brood War sequel came out with no problems and plenty of enthusiasm, it seemed like Starcraft : Ghost would be a done deal.
Starcraft : Ghost was first announced in 2002, and to this day Blizzard has never officially announced that the game was canceled, even though new releases in the franchise and other Blizzard properties have gone on and on. Even Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, pictured above, has never put the Starcraft : Ghost rumors to their well-deserved rest. But then, Blizzard (“Do you guys not have phones?“) never has been that great at P.R. We’re partly mentioning them just to stay warmed up, because that fabled mobile Diablo game is just slipping out of the gate as I type. We’re sure to have Blizzard to kick around some more here, stand by!
Star Citizen is almost worth a post in itself, because it’s branched beyond a mere vaporwave game title to become its own conspiracy theory. Start with Freelancer, a space-faring merchant and strategy game published by Microsoft in 2003. Star Citizen was supposed to be a spiritual sequel to that, but without any Microsoft support. Instead it is supposed to be developed by indie publisher Cloud Imperium Games, helmed by a former developer of the Wing Commander franchise – yes, the 1990s Wing Commander! That would be Chris Roberts:
So they announced Star Citizen in 2011, but needed a Kickstarter. “No problem,” said the gaming community, and crowdfunded the game up to $6+ million dollars by 2012. Well, said Chris, it’s going to take $23 million dollars to be completely sufficient, a sum achieved by 2013. This already made it the game that broke all video game industry crowdfunding records up to now. By dribbling out teaser content, they’ve kept investors pumping in money, now up to $300 million plus another $60 million in external investments. This currently makes it the most expensive development in gaming history. At this point, something is starting to smell fishy and the rumors have flown, despite the developers’ efforts towards transparency.
Beyond Good and Evil 2
The speculative entry on this list, because Beyond Good and Evil 2 is still a possible candidate for release… maybe? Regardless, this franchise is suffering from the kind of curse you’d normally never suffer unless you raided an Egyptian tomb and pissed off a mummy. The original Beyond Good and Evil was a critically acclaimed, fan-favored, award-winning, underrated flop by Ubisoft in 2003. So badly did it fare that free copies of the game were distributed with cheese.
Don’t look at us like that, we just tell the news.
Ubisoft vowed to venerate the title with the sequel release first announced in 2008. Creator / director Michel Ancel:
…has been drummed out of the industry and Ubisoft employment due to some cancel-worthy behavior as of 2020. But prior to that, Ubisoft has done its best to keep hopes up, churning out trailers at game cons and expos, and backing Ansel’s insistence that the game is in production. As recently as 2017, Ubisoft has kept up the trailers and promises, though sometimes walking back to say the concept of the game has changed. Meanwhile, Netflix is even in talks to produce a series adaptation of the game. So on the one hand, we have consistent on-going buzz and Ubisoft’s reputation as a solid, if not always delightful, AAA game publisher. On the other hand, they just lost their lead man on the project, but hey, that’s why they have pocket studios all over the world, right?
The Phantom Game Console
This just goes to show that the vaporware effect can even happen to whole game consoles. Start with a company called Infinium Labs, Inc., which in 2003 made a big announcement at a game con – they were going to make a console. Not just any console, but one which could go online, download games, rent games, and play PC titles, all at once. This may not sound that amazing now but in 2003, this was like announcing you’d made a flying car powered by cold fusion and a glass of water. The game system was the “Phantom,” and by now you’re noticing a pattern. The CEO of Infinium, whose name later changed to Phantom Entertainment, was Timothy Roberts:
The Phantom console was promised on and off, even with prototype cases brought to game cons, for a few years before getting canceled. Tim Roberts is now facing 20 years in the clink, not just for the pump-and-dump scam that was the only thing behind his promised Phantom console, but for investor scams and fraud through many other industries including an early web services portal, a venture capital firm, and a cyptocurrency scheme. The US SEC even fined Roberts $30K for fraudulent stock inflation spurred by his vaporwave Phantom console.