Revisiting Xbox E3 2014: Remembering All The Games That Died

Microsoft's E3 2014 press event was a time of joy and dreams. Now we have to live with the crushing reality.

News by Mike Williams, .

Yesterday, Microsoft announced that Scalebound, its Platinum Games-developed open-world action game, was cancelled. This marks the end of a game first announced at Microsoft's E3 2014 presentation. That press event was key because it was the first event after the launch of the Xbox One and the first event with former Microsoft Studios general manager Phil Spencer as the head of the entire Xbox division. It was a look forward, promising more games and less of the general entertainment that categorized Microsoft's E3 press event a year earlier.

What dreams may come.

The eventual outcome of those initial Xbox E3 2014 announcements has been less than stellar.

The first up was Halo: The Master Chief Collection, a game that ultimately launched with a number of bugs and severe matchmaking issues. 343 Industries spent the next year patching and fixing the game, but even today some fans are still dissatisfied with the MCC's current state.

"With the initial release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, however, we have not delivered the experience you deserve. I personally apologize for this on behalf of us all at 343 Industries," wrote studio head Bonnie Ross at the time. "On the matchmaking front, we have encountered unexpected issues that were not apparent in our internal test environment and that have resulted in a frustrating experience, including long matchmaking times and low session success rates."

Fable Legends, we'll see you in Valhalla.

Fable Legends, a new multiplayer take on Lionhead's RPG action-adventure series, was also announced at the press event. The game had been in development since Summer 2012 and in closed beta since October 2014, but by 2016 it was clear that it wasn't coming together. Legends was an early casualty of 2016, with Microsoft cancelling the project and closing Lionhead Studios in March. That marked the end of a studio founded in 1996 by veteran developer Peter Molyneux. Lionhead was acquired by Microsoft in April 2006, after a successful collaboration with the studio for the first Fable.

Xbox Brand Will Continue On, Microsoft Doubling Down on Exclusive Games

The Xbox One is firmly in second place this generation, but Microsoft still has hope it can turn things around.

Crackdown was revealed as well, a sequel to the fan-favorite Xbox 360 open-world title. The game's brief trailer touted full cooperative play and a destructible city via the power of Microsoft's Cloud. Fans were excited for Crackdown because of the return of series creator David Jones. The game became Crackdown 3 a year later at Microsoft's Gamescom 2015 event, with a planned release in 2016. Last year rolled around only for Microsoft to delay the game into 2017, with an undisclosed release window at this point.

The dust was indeed a phantom.

Phantom Dust was my personal pain point, a reboot of a Japanese-developed cult classic for the original Xbox. Phantom Dust was an arena-based combat game with a collectible card game core. It's the kind of game that would fit right in with current free-to-play, eSports market. Phantom Dust's development went so awry that it killed independent developer Darkside Games after Microsoft cancelled the project. Phantom Dust is still returning, but now it's a simple remake of the Xbox original.

Then there was Project Spark, Microsoft's "open-world digital canvas". It was a game that allowed players to create and share new game worlds on Xbox One and Windows 10. Project Spark was actually announced the year before, but it returned for E3 2014. Like Fable Legends, Project Spark was ultimately discontinued in August of 2016.

Microsoft has never had a strong, sustained tie to Japanese games development, so the announcement that Platinum Games was working on Scalebound was something of a coup. It made fans of Japanese action titles excited to pick up an Xbox One. With yesterday's cancellation, that excitement is gone.

Scalebound is a memento mori for Japanese developers and the Xbox One.

That's not say that Microsoft didn't deliver on some of its promises from E3 2014. Sunset Overdrive, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Forza Horizon 2 were great Xbox One exclusives, even if the former two didn't light up the sales charts. There's the feeling that something isn't quite adding up with Microsoft's first and second-party efforts though. The end of 2016 and early 2017 releases are solid, including Forza Horizon 3, Gears of War 4, and Halo Wars 2, but there's the belief that not much new is coming.

Nintendo's Switch and Microsoft's Scorpio Quietly Herald a New Console Generation in 2017

2017 IN PREVIEW: New consoles from Microsoft and Nintendo highlight changing expectations for gamers.

Especially ahead of the official unveiling and launch of the more powerful Xbox Scorpio in 2017, Microsoft has to convince players that great Xbox-exclusive games are on the horizon. Instead, the highlights are falling off the radar for Microsoft, in a year where Sony is counting on PlayStation 4-exclusives like Persona 5, Horizon: Zero Dawn, NieR: Automata, Yakuza 0, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix, Gravity Rush 2, and Dragon Quest Heroes II.

Microsoft needs to find itself and find its games. This year will be key for Microsoft, with E3 and Gamescom representing a chance to blow off all the doors ahead of a console release. Hopefully whatever they announce this year actually makes to retail shelves.

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Comments 22

  • Avatar for gigantor21 #1 gigantor21 A year ago
    Scalebound was the only upcoming MS exclusive I was interested in.

    With that gone, they are in the position of having the most powerful console on the market this year (Scorpio) with nothing that I'd even want to play on it. :/Edited January 2017 by gigantor21
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  • Avatar for KCC #2 KCC A year ago
    Having been a Vita owner since day one, that little handheld has taught me to never get my hopes up about any announcement; one empty promise after the next.

    So yeah; shame, but also very common anymore with gaming to have all these unfulfilled promises and endless delays and all of that stuff. Unfortunately though, only way for the gamer to curb disappointment is to not get excited, but goodness knows that gamers are an excitable bunch.
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  • Avatar for anusface #3 anusface A year ago
    Forza Horizon 3, you mean
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #4 MHWilliams A year ago
    @anusface Nope. E3 2014, Forza Horizon 2.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #5 LBD_Nytetrayn A year ago
    To Project Spark's credit, it did come out and was supported for a while.
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #6 UnskippableCutscene A year ago
    The core concern here is that Microsoft is shutting down it's studios and slowing down production of software. I mean, is there anything wrong if the Xbox goes the Steam Box route?

    There's enough built in intertia among the Xbox audience that turning Xbox into a value purpose-built gaming PC running a custom OS with Windows technologies wouldn't be unsuccessful. It could also be more popular with developers and in the PC space it could finally threaten Valve's monopoly. It wouldn't bring down Steam, but at least there would be competitors other than stores selling codes to distribute through Steam.

    Microsoft's problem seems to be "No Exclusives," but doing the Rise of the Tomb Raider route and paying third-parties to stay off PlayStation for a time is probably less expensive for them and effectively does the same thing.
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  • Avatar for AstroDemon #7 AstroDemon A year ago
    The Halo Master Chief Collection problems were such a bummer for an otherwise excellent collection of games. My first Halo experience was on the PC with Halo: Combat Evolved, and I didn't like it. At the time I thought it was slow and repetitive compared to other PC shooters. The Halo Master Chief Collection changed my opinion on the series. I got it as a gift, and I was surprised at how much I liked the Halo remaster, and I went on to play the entire series from there. The Halo 2 remaster is incredibly well made, and it likely didn't receive much fanfare because it was overshadowed by the problems with the multiplayer at launch.

    I think Halo MCC was an ambitious title to bring all Halo titles (except Reach) together and to make all the multiplayer available and merge them together in a mixtape type situation, though I didn't engage with the multiplayer much. The ambition doesn't excuse the bugs and problems they had, but I just wanted to say that playing all of them together was one of the better experiences I've had on a console, certainly the best HD remasters I've played in recent memory.

    I am excited more about PS4 games this year now that Scalebound is out, but besides King of Fighters XIV (and maybe Last Guardian when it gets cheaper), I have been bored with the PS4 the last couple years.Edited January 2017 by AstroDemon
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  • Avatar for link6616 #8 link6616 A year ago
    @gigantor21 with lost odyssey now on the digital storefront and backwards compatible, that is the one game that would make me move for an Xbox.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #9 NiceGuyNeon A year ago
    I don't think Microsoft's mainstays have the staying power they once did, and the new stuff they try out like Sunset Overdrive and Quantum Break or whatever it was called haven't really panned out.

    I know people don't use the term killer app too often anymore, but I'm a believer in it. If you have a killer app you can woo me to your system. If you don't, why would I care that you also have Tomb Raider or Call of Duty or Madden? So do the other guys, and they have actual killer apps! BLOODBORNE! PERSONA 5! UNCHARTED 4! These are reasons to own a PS4 over Xbone because guess what, on one you get Bloodborne and Dark Souls III, on the other you just get Dark Souls III. On one you get Persona 5 and Final Fantasy XV, on the other you just get Final Fantasy XV.

    And that's just PS4 vs Xbone. If you have a competent gaming PC you suddenly have access to almost every third party game, mods, better performance, and PC exclusive content like Civilization VI that you can't access.

    I'm not saying anyone made the wrong decision in getting the Xbone. If you're into it because your friends game on it, or you really like Halo/Forza and all that jazz, that's great. It's not a system without merit. But it is a system with generally weak exclusives when compared to PS4, PC and Wii U.

    I mean, Wii U flopped hard. Wii U was like an Olympic diver trying to go for a record dive only to have their foot hit the diving board on the way down, spiral out of control and belly flop in the pool. And it still managed to have three more Platinum developed games than the Xbone does right now.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #10 Ohoni A year ago
    Phantom Dust was one of the reasons I bought the XBone. I have since played three games on mine, and may not ever play another. My PC is now a better platform, and any game I might play on XBone will be on PC too. PS4 has some good exclusives coming though.
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  • Avatar for ATBro #11 ATBro A year ago
    Microsoft's problems are deeper than can be fixed by a more powerful console. They really need to branch out, and stop relying on the diminishing returns of the same stuff year after year. Halo Forza and Gears are not enough to prop up that business. If Nintendo's output isn't enough to move systems any more, Microsoft doesn't stand a chance.
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  • Avatar for Mr.Spo #12 Mr.Spo A year ago
    Well, if there are still precious few Xbox One exclusives after E3 2017, then I'd be concerned.

    Personally I'll admit I was disappointed by the cancellation of Scalebound, and have been considering trading in my Xbox One plus games towards a Switch. That's not just down to a lack of enthusiasm around Xbox exclusives, that's more a reflection of limited money and time for videogames, an enormous Steam backlog, and a preference for portable consoles and Nintendo exclusives making Switch a decent bet, depending on details yet to come.

    I'll happily jump back in to Xbox in the future, because I've been a fan since the original machine, but it is a real shame that Microsoft's exclusive software line-up has become increasingly reliant on Forza, Gears and Halo. Great franchises, but you need some variety in there too. Here's hoping Sea of Thieves marks a return to form for Rare, and that Microsoft knock it out the park at E3 this year.
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  • Avatar for Bander #13 Bander A year ago
    For a company that is primarily about software, it's remarkable how far they are falling behind in this area when their hardware is looking pretty good (Xbox One S, Scorpio, the success of the Surface range, forward thinking projects like Hololens, and even their phones boasted some of the best cameras and displays out there).

    Falling behind on software has largely been the problem with Windows Phone 7/8/10 Mobile also. How do MS keep making this mistake? It strikes me as unlikely that it's beyond their ability, as the original Xbox had incredible success in attracting lots of enviable exclusives despite MS starting from scratch as a games console maker.

    I'm very sad about Scalebound. And it's apparent many others are also. We wanted to see what Kamiya and Platinum could do next with a completely original game on modern hardware.

    If it's true that the game was cancelled because of missing development milestones, that's an incredible shame when compared to Sony's willingness to wait so much longer for The Last Guardian.
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  • Avatar for matthewcooley77 #14 matthewcooley77 A year ago
    Those PS4 exclusives are pretty underwhelming as well.
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  • Avatar for siamesegiant #15 siamesegiant A year ago
    @matthewcooley77 Really? Persona and Nier look fantastic, and Horizon looks great too, as long as it isn't some Ubi style open world drudge. Gravity Rush is reviewing really well too.

    Really disappointed about Scalebound. Kamiya can basically do no wrong so the fact that years of work have gone down the tube is an unbelievable waste.
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  • Avatar for ShawnS #16 ShawnS A year ago
    I wasn't into Halo, Fable or Phantom Dust but seeing that many games worthy of their E3 stage being hobbled or canned is so disheartening. I was such a fan of the Xbox since the very beginning but the Xbox One has let me down at almost every step.
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  • Avatar for reptilio #17 reptilio A year ago
    Is it possible MS is considering leaving the console business (in the traditional sense)? A lack of a strong line up in the future, plus the integration/move toward PC has me wondering. Could be good for Nintendo...
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #18 kidgorilla A year ago
    What's up with Capy's Below? Is that still a thing?
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  • Avatar for Jerkface-Killah #19 Jerkface-Killah A year ago
    @kidgorilla It has been delayed for an undetermined amount of time.
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  • Avatar for Spazgadget #20 Spazgadget A year ago
    "There's enough built in inertia among the Xbox audience that turning Xbox into a value purpose-built gaming PC running a custom OS with Windows technologies wouldn't be unsuccessful."

    I'm assuming that is their exact backup plan since their console aspirations seem to be flagging after the 360. They want to monetize Microsoft services at the end of the day, not Xboxes. I still think it's a mistake not to invest in developing a variety of franchises that give the Xbox brand a desirable identity (like Playstation clearly has over 20 years). Xbox without those appealing franchises is, frankly, just Windows, and I don't know how much "inertia" that has as a brand amongst gamers. They're unwise to rely solely on brand loyalty if their brand just ends up being the same yearly games.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #21 Roto13 A year ago
    It's like Microsoft had some kind of midlife crisis where they thought they wanted games that were actually interesting and different, but then they realized that that's not who they are so they cancelled them all.
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  • Avatar for TeeeJaaay #22 TeeeJaaay A year ago
    @link6616 it was free last December
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