One underappreciated fact of game development, especially with big teams and huge budgets, is that tons of work can go into prototypes and pitches that end up going nowhere. That work rarely ends up seeing the light of day, even for finished games, which is one reason why this decade-old target footage for a canceled Prince of Persia is such a treat.
Today, via a thread on ResetEra, footage of a project called Prince of Persia Redemption finally came to the attention of fans despite having been uploaded to YouTube all the way back in 2012. Initially, there were some doubts as to its authenticity, but author and animator Jonathan Cooper was first to confirm that it was indeed made by Ubisoft—it's a pre-rendered game pitch for a title that never materialized. At the time of publication, it's still available on YouTube.
With a bit of Prince of Persia's trademark time manipulation in the mix, the footage mostly shows off combat and traversal reminiscent of contemporaries like the early Assassin's Creed and Uncharted games. There is a fair bit of dynamism to the world, though—the player character (a new take on the titular Prince, one assumes) is running through a crumbling city that's gradually shown to be lifted atop the back of a giant, tentacled monster.
Cooper adds that the Redemption pitch reel inspired later pre-rendered target game footage for Assassin's Creed 3, which was eventually released publicly alongside the Remastered version. Given that the latter reel was completed in 2010 over a period of three months, it seems that this test footage for Prince of Persia was likely devised sometime between the release of the 2008 Prince of Persia reboot and early-to-mid 2010.
Khai Nguyen, named by Cooper as the pitch's animation director (now an art director at Ubisoft Montreal) also corroborated the clip's legitimacy with Kotaku. USgamer reached out to Ubisoft for comment, and received the following response:
Prince of Persia is a beloved franchise and one that's been important to Ubisoft's development over the years, however, we don't have anything new to share at this time.
At present, there's no telling exactly how this footage ended up online. The YouTube account it's on, PositiveLauncher, has no associated name or email address and has uploaded no other videos.
One person did find the footage in the intervening years where it gathered dust on YouTube: Marc-André Belleau. An Assistant Technical Director at Ubisoft, Belleau left a comment on the video two years ago asking where the uploader got it. Since the wave of attention the video's received today, Belleau has chimed in again in the responses to his old comment. "I'm just very impressed it stayed that long up without a takedown notice," he writes.