Sad news today: Platinum's dragon-riding adventure game, Scalebound, is dead. Done. Finished. Colder than Smaug's corpse under the waves of Lake-town.
The cancellation is very unfortunate, but it's also not a big surprise. We've seen neither scale nor bristle of Scalebound since its brief appearance at E3 2016, where our own Kat Bailey noticed the game seemingly had a long way to go.
She wasn't the only one; confusion and snark peppered Twitter during Scalebound's E3 presentation. Observers were put-off by the messy boss fight the gameplay trailer offered, and they had few good things to say about the game's silver-haired protagonist and his inexplicable Beats by Dre headphones (or whatever the kids wear these days).
Now that the almighty Shenron has taken Scalebound into His divine bosom, Platinum is in a worrying predicament. The Xbox One exclusive was a high-profile release for the developer, which is the last of a dying breed – a veteran medium-sized studio bobbing along in a market dominated by triple-A companies and plucky indies.
The news is especially dark if you recall what Platinum producer Atsushi Inaba told Kat when they met up last summer. Namely, that Platinum "doesn't really have a future unless we develop our own original IPs [intellectual properties]." Scalebound was supposed to be one of those original IPs, and Platinum has been sitting on the chance to bring it to life for a long time. Its other attempt at birthing another original IP, Wonderful 101, actually happened, but the game had little staying power.
Platinum's survival has largely depended on making games with other companies' properties. Some of these games, though stylish, aren't very good. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is one example. The Legend of Korra is another. Other Platinum commissions like Star Fox Zero and the Bayonetta games feature highly-respected franchises and characters, but still don't belong to Platinum.
Platinum has another problem: Even the recent games it's made with IPs from Sega and Nintendo haven't exactly burned up the sales charts. The outstanding Bayonetta 2 had weak numbers compared to the first game, though Nintendo probably didn't expect amazing sales from an adult-oriented title on the Wii U. Star Fox Zero's flop is another matter. Nintendo put a lot of effort into the game's marketing, but few people wound up biting. Star Fox Zero's middling popularity looks bad on Nintendo, Platinum, and the fanbase that clamored for a new game for years, but out of the three, Platinum is least-equipped to absorb that kind of fallout.
There's some hope. Despite some missteps, Platinum has proven its talent several times over. It'd be foolish for publishers to turn their back on the studio – though as well all know for varying reasons, the games industry is occasionally a foolish place.