Computer or video game software or hardware with revolutionary or next-generation capabilities that is continuously hyped to the public, but doesn't seem to be coming any closer to store shelves. Note that long development cycles do not, by themselves, qualify a product as Vaporware; the game must be repeatedly postponed and put off, all the while being promoted as "Coming soon!"
Sometimes this is intentional, done by various promoters and stockholders solely to drive up the company's share prices, lure in new investors, or create a buzz in the marketplace that will keep their name on top. In the most extreme cases, the developing company itself may be a total fraud. That said, the vast majority of vaporware isn't malicious. Most of the time there is legitimate product being produced, but internal problems simply result in it falling behind schedule and being passed in the marketplace by competitors. The developers simply promised more than their programmers could possibly deliver in too short a time frame.
Often, when a big goal is for the product to be up with the current technology, it becomes a self-reinforcing feedback loop of sorts when work has to be scrapped to keep up with the times. Combine this with people leaving the project out of frustration with the lack of forward progress and it gets harder to finish with every delay. More than a few games have also fallen victim to runaway ego and perfectionism, where the designers get distracted by their own artistic visions or desire to create something revolutionary and genre-shattering and won't be satisfied until it's "perfect", cost, publishers, and release dates be damned! (With predictable results).
Whatever the cause, it annoys consumers to no end. If and when the product finally is released, its quality and abilities are often lower than what was expected, to further the disappointment of users.
Compare Development Hell, Stillborn Serial. Contrast Dead Fic and Orphaned Series, which actually manage to release more than a teaser (thanks to serialization) before eventually being abandoned incomplete. See also Saved from Development Hell for a few who managed to get completed.
IMPORTANT! If a work was ever released— if it was ever available for purchase— then it was Saved from Development Hell, not this trope, and such examples should go there (or be moved there upon release).
Should not be confused with Vapor Wear, or soon.
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Video Game Titles: A-M
Official Dreamcast Magazine did a preview write-up on an intriguing Survival Horror game titled Agartha and developed by Frédérick Raynal, the man behind the original Alone in the Dark series. Unfortunately, Sega Europe pulled the plug on many of the games in development and so Agartha never saw the light of day.
Agent by Rockstar. Revealed at e3 2006 as a Playstation 3 exclusive title, and has been MIA since. As of 2012, nothing has been shown of the title other than the logo.
There was a fourth Bard's Tale game in development. Rumor has it that it was about 80% completed before being killed for unknown reasons. Much later, a completely different company announced, via a very nice-looking website, a spinoff game called Bard's Legacy: The Devil's Whiskey. All that ever came of it was a demo and a few song files.
For a while, there were rumors about a third Baten Kaitos game for the Nintendo DS. It was later confirmed to have never gotten part the first stage of production; however, rumors about Baten Kaitos 3 still persist.
Battlecruiser 3000AD spent over seven years in development before Take-Two Interactive released it to stores as-is in one of the video game industry's most infamous Executive Meddling moments. The sequel, Universal Combat, had a half-dozen different release dates, eventually resulting in a publisher switch after initial release.
Along the same creator, there was supposed to be some episodic game by him coming out exclusively on Gametap. It was on the Coming Soon list without much info for a while. It then quietly disappeared.
Bio Force Ape, a fast-moving NES Platform Game by Seta starring a genetically altered chimpanzee using pro-wrestling moves, was previewed in 1991 as an upcoming release, but canceled within a year. Reports in 2005 that a prototype of the game had been discovered turned out to be a hoax, but five years later an actual prototype cartridge of the game was discovered.
The Bonk/PC Genjin series had an advertised but never-released RPG spinoff called RPC Genjin. Many years later, a revival titled Bonk: Brink of Extinction was being developed for WiiWare, XBLA and PSN; some gameplay footage of it was shown at E3 2010, but the next year it was canceled along with many other Hudson Soft titles.
Bounty Arms, a 2D run-and-gun game for the PlayStation by Data West starring a pair of Lovely Angels with mechanical arms, was announced for the system in its early months. All that was ever released of the game was a playable demo of Obvious Beta quality, not counting the fact that it ends after half a stage.
California Raisins: The Grape Escape instantly springs to mind, developed late in the NES' lifespan. That's right, a game based on a marketing ploy to eat more fruit. Despite being finished and reviewed by many magazines, it utterly vanished into the night without being released on the NES. It actually had some cool concepts, like moonwalking... which resulted from a game bug. More can be found here and here.
Castlevania: Resurrection was announced as a Sega Dreamcast launch title. Late in development, it was canceled for reasons that remain mysterious.
The computer game adaptation of Champions, the pencil-and-paper superhero RPG, provides an epic example of this trope. Cover-featured in a 1992 issue of ''Computer Gaming World'', it promised to be an ambitious and groundbreaking game that would be faithful to both the RPG and the superhero genre. It never happened. According to Steve Peterson, designer of the original Champions, the game was about 50% complete when it was canceled. Problems included the game's extremely ambitious design for its day along with the divorce of the game's chief developers, a husband-and-wife team. Champions would finally become a computer game in 2009 as Champions Online, but apart from the underlying intellectual property, it has no relation to the vaporware classic.
Chip's Challenge 2. The original game developer, Chuck Sommerville, produced this sequel, but then the company that had the copyright on the game decided not to have it published.
The last Commander Keen game ends with an ad for "Commander Keen in The Universe is Toast!", planned for Christmas 1992. It never happened — their publisher at the time, Apogee, offered more guaranteed money for a game featuring John Carmack's new 3-D engine rather than a sidescroller. What makes this vaporware instead of a mere tease is that it's never really been officially abandoned, and a couple of the creators still insist they'd like to make the sequel.
Crimsonland 2 is certainly taking its sweet time to appear.
Cube World was released to the public for purchase in its alpha state in July of 2013. While the game is rough around the edges, it's very playable, but is also severely lacking in content; there's nothing to do but find dungeons and get powerful gear from boss characters over and over again. There had been promises of more fleshed out quests, more abilities for classes, and more monsters to fight. The game has not received any updates after the alpha release.
Doom 4 was first announced in 2008, but has repeatedly hit delays due to id Software being bought out by Zenimax, as well as development resources being channeled into Rage, and is not expected to be released until 2013.
Dreamfall Chapters, the third game in The Longest Journey series, was first mentioned in 2007 and only started production in November 2012, due to designer Ragnar Tornquist working on The Secret World (itself also delayed frequently). Also, it's apparently not even going to be the proper conclusion to the series, which is going to have to wait for The Longest Journey Home... expected to be released some time around 2030.
Dwarf Fortress's interface ('It's not coming in your lifetime, but it's coming.') will supposedly get a revamp when it gets closer to the fabled v1.0. Understandable, since it's an alpha product. Tarn Adams jokingly estimated in one interview that at his current rate of progress 1.0 will come out sometime in the early 2020s.
Which isn't to say that it's not being worked on. The Toady One releases progress reports on a fairly regular basis, but given the type of game that Dwarf Fortress is, it will be a very, very long time before it's near completion.
Edge of Twilight, a fantasy-based Action Adventure game, was first revealed in 2007, but thought to be cancelled when developer Fuzzyeyes laid off many of its employees and ceased development of all projects in 2009. In late 2012, they announced it had not been cancelled, and gave a projected release date of summer 2013. Nothing has been heard since.
Fallout 3 spent five years in development at Black Isle studios, and was almost at a releasable stage in development, when Interplay went belly-up in 2003 and closed Black Isle down. Bethesda Softworks eventually acquired the rights to develop the game for a late 2008 release, but opted to begin entirely from scratch, meaning that Black Isle's "Van Buren" version of the game will likely never see the light of day, outside of the leaked tech demo that the Fallout community began distributing in 2007.
Black Isle Studios. Baldur's Gate III: The Black Hound (A.K.A. "Jefferson", the source of "Van Buren"'s engine; supposedly coming out as a Neverwinter Nights module some time soon) and Torn are two of the more infamous examples.
Other Fallout vaporware included Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel 2, Fallout Tactics 2, and Fallout Extreme.
Fallout: New Vegas was developed by Obsidian Entertainment (primarily made up of former Black Isle staff), who incorporated elements of Van Buren's plot into the game's backstory and setting. The group called Caesar's Legion in particular is inspired by a similarly named group of slavers from Van Buren.
Talking about Fallout and all the problems the whole saga already had with development through time, its spiritual predecessor Wasteland also suffered many backdrafts with its own sequels. After been published in 1988 and receiving many awards, problems within Electronic Arts and Interplay leads to the former publishing its own "second part" (Fountain of Dreams, albeit they removed the "Wasteland 2:..." from the title in the last minute) with poor results, and later Interplay tried to get lucky by creating "Meantime", the true second part and succesor (but in some sort of alternative timeline due to the history of the game itself) to the original Wasteland (but without the usage of the original name in the title, which copyright belonged to EA) Regrettably, several problems led to Development Hell, and after many unsuccessful tries for reviving the game, it turned to vaporware...all of this is always remembered by old Fallout/Wasteland fans with great pity, and for a very good reason, since the game was going to allow you to travel through time, fixing the whole events which leaded to the WWIII, fighting back the "bastards" who intentionally created the apocalyptic scenario (thus repairing the events in Wasteland...and somehow in the Fallout saga although the two universes are not related...well not exactly true...), and even recruiting historical characters for your team during your journeys like Albert Einstein, Al Capone, Amelia Earhart, Cyrano de Bergerac, Wernher von Braun and P.T. Barnum from a wide range of many others from all the world history, all with a big f*cking Grand Finale repairing the future and thus eliminating all the events foretold in both franchises (this is why this game will be always the "holy grail" for all the older Wasteland/Fallout fans) Fun fact? They´re finally going to release a Wasteland 2...25 years later, and ignoring the alternative timeline with the great fix and the historical characters (and no, of course, they are not going to put and end and give away their money maker saga...)
Fear and Respect was a wide-open sandbox game set up as a vehicle for Snoop Dogg and was produced by John Singleton that was set to be ready for a 2006 release. But despite having much buzz (such as a cover story in Game Informer and the announcement of a film version that would also feature Snoop Dogg), Midway canceled the game due to a crowded market.
A couple of years after Final Fantasy VI was given its release Square turned to a Western PC game company to oversee a PC release of Final Fantasy V (which was going to be titled Final Fantasy Extreme), but due to communication breakdowns between the company and Squaresoft Japan (and the company pretty much not caring about video games at all in the first place) that project was scrapped too. A remnant of their work exists: They are the source of the "Blind Idiot" Translation that V got in the Final Fantasy Anthology for the PlayStation, released in 1999.
Final Fantasy XV, as disclosed in E3 2013. Originally named Final Fantasy Versus XIII, it was announced as a part of the eventually-named Fabula Nova Crystallis saga alongside Final Fantasy XIII at E3 2006, but changed enough over the years that it was made a separate title entirely (though still a part of Fabula Nova, as briefly shown at the beginning of the trailer, the tagline at the end implies Noctis will have his own saga). Actual discernible information on the game for a long time after 2006 was very sparse, and up until early 2010, trailers for it only contained CG and cutscene footage. The game languished for so long that Noctis' costume hadn't even been finalised until some time in late 2009. Development picked up after the release of FF XIII, and really got into gear after its team, also a part of the Kingdom Hearts franchise, fully switched over to it around 2011. Though originally slated for the Playstation 3 in those 7 years, its move to the Playstation 4 was confirmed in the same announcement. Its development time has made it the most delayed Final Fantasy game so far.
After its cancellation, Joss Whedon expressed interest in further exploring the universe of Firefly as an MMORPG, and there was even evidence that it was in the works; Penny Arcade even remarked on it ("Everyone just rolls shaman"). There's been little word on the game since 2006, and while developer Dark-Cryo has picked up the pieces of what was developed, they seem to be doing so without authorization from 20th Century Fox or Mutant Enemy.
Fireteam Rogue, an Action Adventure game developed in the mid-1990s for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Publisher Accolade intended it to be the launch of a major franchise, including a toyline and a TV series. For all its ambitions (Accolade promised over 100 hours of gameplay), and despite being previewed in several magazines, the game was never finished.
Freedom Fighters had a sequel announced half a year after its release in 2003. Very little has been heard of it since.
Back in the early days of Gaia Online, before Houses and Towns, there was an announcement sent out about an MMO they were going to develop, referred to as the Battle System. While details were slim, there were several times during the development where it was announced as an upcoming feature users should be on the watch for. By the time Pinball materialized, a few months before zOMG! finally entered closed beta testing, "When the Battle System is finished" had already become a running gag among the userbase.
George A. Romero's City of the Dead. It showed up at E3 2005 with no playable demo, and was soon canned.
Grandia Online was announced a few years ago but very little, if any, details have come of it.
The recent Gran Turismo games, particularly Gran Turismo for the PSP, have their experience in this field. The PSP iteration was announced at E3 2004 as Gran Turismo 4 Mobile, and was scheduled for release in 2005. However, due to the frankly astonishing amount of content that will apparently be in GT 5 (close to 1000 cars and around 70 variations of 20 tracks), the bigger project demanded most of Polyphony Digital's 100+ development staff, causing the PSP game to be stuck in development until its eventual release over 5 years after its announcement. An interesting case of one game being stuck in a long development phase directly causing another game to also get stuck in development.
GURPS Online. It's still advertised in the text for GURPS 4th Edition.
For that matter, many of the online tools for Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition (Especially the online game table app) have still not been released, despite advertising that they would be bundled with 4th edition on release in 2008.
Harvest Moon games, and indeed most anything localized by Natsume, are notorious for being delayed months or even years at a time before finally being released. Most fans know that any release date is tentative at best and could be pushed back at any time right up to the day before release (A Wonderful Life, anyone?). You're probably safe if you assume that "release date" means "will likely be released within a year of this date."
Of particular note is the long promised, but still missing Harvest Moon MMORPG. Online connectivity (read: the ability to buy, sell, and trade items between other players) has also been long promised since Save The Homeland debuted. It finally appeared in limited form in Island Of Happiness via the Nintendo DS' WiFi.
Just how slow Natsume is was further emphasized when Marvelous let XSEED Games, which it has partnered with on other games, handle localization of Rune Factory Frontier. The result? The game came out mere months after the Japanese release with zero delays.
A Highlander video game was announced several years ago, then repeatedly postponed and pushed back until the company making it was sold in 2011 and the new owners ultimately pulled the plug.
The graphic adventure Indiana Jones and the Iron Phoenix, a sequel to Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, was never produced except for a comic book tie-in. One reason for its cancellation was the worry that a No Swastikas version could not be produced for Germany, as the plot involved Nazis using the Philosopher's Stone to resurrect Hitler.
Infinity: The Quest for Earth, a indie space combat/trading MMO has been continuously in development for nine years, with the "expected release" generally a year to two years ahead of the date at the time. The game appears to be caught in the development hell of constantly trying to stay up-to-date; the development newsfeed is composed almost entirely of graphical changes.
Jet Moto 4 for the PS2, which was semi-officially announced, but never started, probably due to poor sales of Jet Moto 3 (which came out in the PS1's dying days).
There was supposed to be a 2.5D Kirby game for the GameCube, but it never materialized on that system and soon reincarnated into the Wii game Kirbys Return To Dreamland in late 2011, to the fanbase's delight.
Knights of the Old Republic 2 was released in late 2004 in a very reduced state due to LucasArts giving Obsidian Entertainment only 13 months to work on it. Obsidian even offered to do a mega-patch for the game to restore all the cut content but in their infinite wisdom, LucasArts refused the offer. In Spring 2005, shortly after its release on the PC, a group of modders calling themselves Team Gizka started work on restoring the content that was still in the game, but not accessible. This effort was known as The Sith Lords Restoration Project. Work went on for many years, with even the developers of the game hoping to see it complete. As time went on, people began to think that the mod was just Vaporware, until 2008 when a closed beta was announced (the beta was later leaked to torrent sites and the like). In Summer 2008, a video was posted on YouTube which seemed to suggest that the mod would see a release very soon, but summer came and went without a release or any news. Cut to 2010 and it seems that Team Gizka's website is gone and the mod is apparently dead for good.
Fortunately, another team of modders known as Zbyl2 and Darth Stoney decided to attempt to restore much of the same content that Team Gizka was working on after progress on the Sith Lords Restoration Project seemed to slow to a trickle. They finished their mod, which can be downloaded here.
The Last Guardian has reportedly been in development since 2007 and was announced in 2009 with a target release year of 2011. As of late 2013 it has not been officially canceled, but nothing new has been released about it in years and questions from the press are met with "it's still in development" and blank stares.
The Legacy of Kain series has had a long history of finessing out of development and legal complications. However, its admirable run ended tragically with the cancellation of the sixth installment, to be titled Legacy of Kain: Dark Prophecy, after only three months in development. Only some concept art remains as evidence of its existence before evaporation.
Development of Limbo of the Lost began in the early '90s on the Atari ST. It was finally released on the PC in 2007, and befell the same fate as Daikatana — except Daikatana didn't get forced off the market due to accusations of copious plagiarism.
Line's End, the sequel to the freeware RPG, A Blurred Line, has been eluding expectations of a conclusion to A Blurred Line's engrossing story for several years. The creator seems to have abandoned it in favor of a career in law.
Lobo, a fighting game based on the DC Comics character, for the SNES and Sega Genesis. Very little info was released before it was cancelled. A prototype was eventually found and a ROM dumped.
Kemco also announced a Lobo game for the Xbox. That was it. No screenshots were ever released and Kemco eventually announced it was cancelled with no work whatsoever having been done on the game.
Lugaru 2 was like this for awhile, mainly due to the core programmer being in college. It was announced in 2005, with some initial work. However, the one-man programmer went to college and Lugaru 2 just sat there collecting dust. Although he did create some physics tests and such (one even involved a moving ball that actually sounds like it's moving), the core of the game wasn't worked on a lot. After he graduated (near the end of '08), he changed the name to Overgrowth and his company, Wolfire Games has been "leaking" out alphas Since the beginning of November '08. Overgrowth was originally planned to be released in the first quarter of '09, then the second quarter, now it's done when it's done.
A very meta example: Makai Kingdom included a preview of the next game's protagonist, Asagi, as a bonus character. Her game, Makai Wars, has never surfaced so she's become a running gag who attempts to take over other games for her own. In-universe, Makai Wars was being worked on as a movie for well over a hundred years and Disgaea 2's PSP port's Axel Mode, tells us that it was scrapped during or after the game, and they skipped directly to Makai Wars 2.
The latest Mech Warrior game was announced to much rejoicing from the fans along with a spectacular looking trailer, in 2009. Then, news surfaced of a lawsuit by Harmony Gold, and nothing had been heard since. Fans had already resigned themselves to another Mech Warrior-less decade. Then, the game resurfaced asMechWarrior: Online, a free-to-play game set to go live in August of 2012. Word of God in 2011 was that were was no lawsuit, but rather a cease and desist order aimed at IGN, where the original trailer was first posted. The real issue was being unable to scare up a major publisher for what would have been a Mech Warrior 5.
Mega Man Anniversary Collection for the Game Boy Advance would have collected MM's five original Game Boy adventures. One speculation was that creator Capcom had lost the source code for the original games. Eventually, Capcom declared it too expensive to produce, and that the GBA was in decline anyway.
Mega Man Legends 3 wound up being unceremoniously cancelled in July 2011, after a promising start from positive fan reception, eventually culminating in Capcom's own disappointment in the project, without even releasing the prototype/prologue that was supposed to be used to judge whether the final game would sell.
Mega Man Universe was another Mega Man title cancelled around the same time as Mega Man Legends 3. It would have been a 2D sidescroller with a level creator in the vein of Mega Man Powered Up, and would have allowed you to customize your Mega Man's appearance as well as play as other characters (i.e. Bad Box Art Mega Man and Ryu from Street Fighter). Capcom cancelled the game citing poor reception from testers.
Metroid: Dread was hinted at in the Metroid Prime series, and since then, every Metroid fan has been demanding to know its status or quick to assume any upcoming title will be Dread. With the announcement of Metroid: Other M, the first thing Nintendo did was state that it was not, in fact, Dread under another name (Dread was supposed to take place after Metroid Fusion while Other M takes place before it and after Super Metroid (the cutscene containing a 3D remake of the final battle of the latter game makes this clear)), and were coy that such a game was ever even under development. Later, they claimed that it definitely existed, but had been "shelved indefinitely" during work on Other M. More recent interviews have stated that Dread exists, without a doubt, but no further details about which studio will work on it, where in the timeline it will fit, or when work on it will resume have been released.
After Other M was released, one developer for Nintendo basically confirmed a script has been worked out, but nothing else. What power-ups and enemies will be used will be determined by the design team, and the script is being shelved "until the right time."
Another classic that promised a never-to-appear sequel like the previously-mentioned Commander Keen was Infocom's take on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, potentially called Milliways: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Delays, including the development of Bureaucracy (also written by Douglas Adams), meant the game was delayed, with Infocom eventually going bankrupt before the sequel could be made. All that is left to show for it are some of Douglas Adams' notes and a very, very small amount of code with nothing more than a few locations on the surface of Magrathea, only two of which have any description whatsoever. All of the code, what little there is, is playable online here. A complete history (as complete as anyone can make it, anyway) can be found here.
Minecraft has been modded by the community basically since it launched, and the developers (Mojang) acknowledged this by committing to developing an official Application Programming Interface for the game. Mojang went as far as recruiting the lead developers of the community-made API Bukkit to lead the project. Within a few months, they established a blog and public Github, and then proceeded to go silent. Neither the blog nor the Github have seen activity in nearly a year.
Mirror's Edge 2 has reportedly been languishing in development hell since 2008. It was revealed then that the original game was only the first part of a planned trilogy, and less than a year later, Electronic Arts confirmed that the sequel was in full production. Since then, various announcements have popped up online every few months, usually with one or more EA executives or developer staff members saying the game is being worked on. Yet, more than one prototype for the game was scrapped by the publisher, and despite the dev industry generally knowing the game is in development at DICE, there's been no announcement for months as to the overall status of the game. Rumors suggest that the game is being pushed for a next-gen release on the Frostbite 2 engine.
Reportedly, it's been put on hold until DICE finish Battlefield 4.
A new teaser trailer for the game was shown off at E3 2013, with the official word being that 'it's coming when ready'.
On the fraud front comes Mythic: The Story of Gods and Men, an entirely fake game fabricated and promoted with media from other, existing games just to raise funds for the project. Fortunately, it was exposed and the contributed funds returned.
Mythri was an indie RPG by Team XKalibur initially announced for the Gameboy Color in 2000 that first received press when news site RPGamer began covering it and started a campaign to get a publisher for it. Variant Interactive eventually signed on board and the project jumped from the outdated (by 2003) GBC to the then-viable GBA, complete with comparison screenshots of improved graphical engine updates. After two years with absolutely no updates, news eventually trickled out that Variant had dropped the game and Team XKalibur was once more seeking a publisher. The game was finally quietly cancelled. Not long after, the developer was disbanded and the staff scattered across the industry.
Video Game Titles: N-Z
Nexus: The Jupiter Incident, produced by Mithis and HD Publishing, released way back in 2005, was scheduled to have a Nexus 2 come out later in 2007. Its 2011...wait, it's July 2013, yikes! Many claim that no ship-to-ship space combat sim produced since has ever rivaled it, yet only a crusty layer of dust-caked die-hards can even remember its name. This is probably past vaporware by now...
Koei announced Ni-Oh! back in 2005, based on a lost script by Akira Kurosawa. The movie never happened, and the game was believed completely cancelled. Until late 2012, in which the President of Koei revealed there was a working alpha build, and the game is still happening.
Freeware space exploration simulator Noctis IV saw a good (and justified, given how an entire galaxy was squeezed in 700 kilobytes of data) popularity in the early 2000s; the author announced Noctis V, a version with native Windows support, a renewed engine and many more new features and adjustments, around that time. For a while, it completely fell off the radar, and contributions to the NIV starmap weren't even included in the game anymore. Then, support to NIV resumed and its source code was released, but as of July 2009 (when the author once again assured that he hasn't given up on the project), NV still hasn't come out, while the older iteration shows more and more the signs of its age (like complete lack of sound, a very cumbersome interface, and low resolution).
Quantic Dream had originally planned on making a sequel to Omikron: The Nomad Soul called Nomad Soul: Exodus. However tensions between Quantic Dream and Eidos forced them to scrap it. A few years later they announced yet another sequel, this time called Omikron 2: Karma. Once again, the project was put on hold so Quantic Dream could focus on Heavy Rain. Given the long developmental cycles their games tend to have, who knows when—or if—Omikron 2 will actually see the light of day.
The Wii game based on Connie Talbot's Over The Rainbow album was scheduled to be released on the first quarter of 2009, but copyright issues with the songs to be used left the game in limbo. And guess who developed it...
Planet Michael, a Michael Jackson-based MMORPG, was announced in 2010 for a 2011 release. Nothing's been heard of it since. Even the official website slid to a halt; its latest news blurb was in January 2011.
Only Puzzle Quest players on the Xbox 360 and PS3 got the expansion pack Revenge Of The Plague Lord. Versions were announced for the Wii and PC, but never emerged, nor were any cancellations of same announced. Though apparently, many of the elements from Plague Lords were integrated into the iPhone version of PQ. The PS3 version came out so much later than the others that it was bundled with the expansion.
Resident Evil 2 was intended to be released during the spring of 1997, but ended up being revamped from scratch after the designers were unsatisfied with the nearly finished build of their first version (now dubbed Resident Evil 1.5), delaying the game by a whole year. The original version (1.5) had Leon S. Kennedy as the main male protagonist like in the released version, but instead of Chris Redfield's sister Claire, 1.5 had Elza Walker, a college student/motorcyclist with no relation to Chris or any other previously existing character. The police station the game was set in looked more like a regular office building in 1.5 than the art museum-like design of 2. A group that had gotten hold of an early build has since compiled a playable ISO image of 1.5 that can be found online. It's buggy as hell and not even close to a complete game, but sure to please those who've been itching to try 1.5 ever since news first broke that it was canned.
The Game Boy Color port of Resident Evil was canned at about 90% completion. Two ROM images were eventually released online, and even though both are unfinished, it's possible to play through the whole game between the two beta images.
Robotech: Crystal Dreams for the N64 slipped into vaporware oblivion when its developer, Gametek, went belly-up. Only a ROM of the demo version exists.
This appears to what has happened to Rock Band Japan. In June 2008, Harmonix said they were codeveloping the game with Q Entertainment for Japanese release, featuring popular Japanese artists. There has yet to be word of it since.
Rockman Online, a Korean Mega Man MMORPG that was announced in 2010. It was ultimately cancelled in 2013 after developer Neowiz underwent internal restructuring.
Sadness for the Wii was announced so long ago that Nintendo's machine was still called the Revolution at that point. During "development" of the game, Nibris came under heavy criticism for not producing any evidence of any development, no images, demos, gameplay trailers, etc. All Nibris has to show for it is some concept artwork and broken promises. In the end, Nibris stopped develping games.
Sam & Max: Freelance Police, a 3D Sam & Max game that was to be published by Lucasarts and released in 2004, and even finished development and got rated by the ESRB, was infamously cancelled because Lucasarts claimed that "no one would be interested in the project", and fired most of their "creative division" as a result. Some of those people in the "creative division" went on to forming Double Fine, while the others went on to forming Telltale Games, who would later remake the 3D Sam & Max project. The rest is history.
Predating this is Sam & Max Plunge Through Space, a game that would've been an action game rather than a point-and-click adventure, and was going to be released for Xbox. The developing company went under about six months later, and so they pulled the plug on the project. To this very day, not much is known about the project.
Seiken Densetsu: The Emergence of Excalibur, a Famicom Disk System title that was planned to span five disks. What makes this entry so bizarre is that pre-orders were placed before one line of code could be typed because of a clever marketing campaign that involved very convincing-looking mock-ups. It was apparently unrelated to the later World of Mana games except for the title. More info here on that game and the planned fourth Final Fantasy game for the Famicom that was canceled to focus development on the Super Famicom sequel that became Final Fantasy IV.
After severing ties with Banpresto, Winky Soft, developers of Super Robot Wars Gaiden, created a similar game called Seireiki Rayblade. In 2001 they announced a sequel... Which hasn't come out yet, despite the official site being updated every few years. With the release of Duke Nukem Forever, it now holds the dubious honor of being the oldest unabandoned videogame project.
There was a sequel planned for the Macintosh First-Person ShooterSensory Overload (which came out about the same time as Doom), but development apparently never commenced.
Shadowgate Rising was fairly close to complete as another Nintendo 64 installment in the franchise, but the GameCube's imminant release coupled with the middling reception Shadowgate 64 had garnered both combined to seal its fate.
Shadow of Atlantis, first in development for the Sega CD and later for the 32X, was ultimately canceled in 1997.
Shogo: Mobile Armor Division had two Expansion Packs, Shugotenshi and Legacy of the Fallen, neither of which was released due to a sudden drop in sales the month after the main game's release (blame Half-Life). Rumors of a sequel were substantiated by a tech demo of a new version of the LithTech Game Engine with images labeled "Shogo 2"; unfortunately, LithTech 3.0 turned out to be too buggy to be used in any released game.
A sequel to Skies of Arcadia has occasionally been hinted at, but with no media to back it up. It's also been rumored that they were going to make a sequel at one point, but cancelled it for the Gamecube remake instead. Also of note is that said remake, Legends, was slated for a PS2 and PC port as well, but both were cancelled for unstated reasons.
Sonic 2 HD, a Fan Remake of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 had potential when the alpha stages of the remake were shown to the public with brand new shiny HD graphics and remixed music, and quickly became very popular. However, after months of releasing no further information of the game after the Emerald Hill Zone release, the development team decided to come out and say that L0ST, the main programmer of the game, had refused to stay in contact with the team, put DRM in the demo to stop people from trying to look at the game's code (Which was actually based off of Sonic 2's) and spent ages trying to make the game suit his vision perfectly, even going so far as to replace other members' work if he wasn't pleased with it. Eventually, the team got sick of his antics and cancelled the project.
Sonic X-Treme is a notorious example of Vaporware meets Finagle's Law: thanks to an overdose of Executive Meddling, a massive drop in employees, the director's failing health, and the failing popularity of the Sega Saturn (which the game was to be released on), X-Treme never made it out. Although game content such as music and level design as well as game engine builds of the game have been publicly released, it's highly unlikely the game in it's entire form will ever see the light of day.
An unofficial continuation/recreation of Sonic X-treme known as Project-S (which was supervisied by one of Sonic Xtreme's original staff members Chris Senn) began production in 2006, only for the fangame to cease production four years later, much like it's (spritual) predecessor.
The name Project S was also used as a code-name for Sonic Rivals during the early stages of that game's development. This caused some confusion in 2006 when Sonic Rivals was released, but when what was done of the aforementioned fangame was also released to the public, it became obvious that the two had nothing in common.
It wasn't a complete loss, however, since many of its design ideas were eventually reused in the game Sonic Lost World.
StarCraft: Ghost, a Stealth-Based Game starring a Terran Ghost named Nova. Initially announced in 2002, it was postponed six times before being put on "indefinite hiatus", a month before its projected release date. Nova turns up for one mission in StarCraft II where you can either help her keep a bunch of deranged criminal psychics from escaping a prison complex, or make life hell for her employer, The Dominion, by helping them all escape.
Given a Shout-Out in World of Warcraft with a special grave stone in Netherstorm Outland for Nova, the would-be protagonist, with the N.O.V.A written on it. Nova herself appeared as a stealthed blood elf next to the grave at one point but has since been removed. The grave stone is known as the Nova Shrine among players.
Blizzard never actually canceled it (despite what some people may say) and keep saying they have plans to MAYBE finish the game (hence its "Postponed Indefinitely" status). Whether or not this can be taken as a glimmer of hope is up to you. Given the fact that Diablo 3 was in development for 11 years before release and survived the closing of Blizzard North in 2005, it's not beyond the realm of possibility.
Also from Blizzard, their unannounced MMO, code named Titan, which has been in development since 2006, has recently undergone a "reset" and isn't expected to release until 2016 at the earliest, if at all.
Star Fox 2 on the SNES, despite being almost complete, never saw the light of day. Then again, it was near the end of the console's lifespan and the developers didn't think it would do well. Instead, some of the elements (such as all-range levels and the Star Wolf team) were worked into Star Fox 64, and Command for the DS got the rest.
Also worth mentioning are the other cancelled Super FX2 chip games: Commanche, FX Fighter (which saw a PC release), and Power Slide.
Quite infamously, Star Trek: The Secret of Vulcan Fury was heavily hyped for a 1997 release, featuring the full cast of Star Trek: The Original Series reprising their roles and 3D character animation that could arguably rival Pixar's work in animated film ten years later. By 1999 the project had been cancelled due to Interplay's financial difficulties, key team members jumping ship, and a rapidly inflating budget.
Star Wars 1313 has apparently been put on hold due to Disney acquiring ownership of the Star Wars franchise, delaying the game for at least another year.
With the closure of Lucasarts and the cancellation of all of its current projects in 2013, we most likely won't be seeing this game anytime soon, if ever.
On the news of Star Wars video games, Star Wars Battlefront III was first (unofficially) claimed by Computer and Video Games magazine all the way back in September 2006 that Free Radical Design was developing the game, and it took a full year and nine months later from a different magazine just for a rumor that a LucasArts employee was in the creation process. Then, nothing for another five months before Activision Blizzard got a ratings classification from the Austrailian Film and Literature Classification (Which got an E10+ equivalent for the Nintendo DS), along with announcements that Free Radical lost the rights to develop the game. After that, things started to leak, such as gameplay footage, character renders, models and textures, and pre-alpha footage. As of yet, however, Pandemic Studios and LucasArts seem to be pretty much up on the air on this one. However, the general consensus is that the game is pretty much dead.
Footage from an Alpha version was put on the internet after Lucasarts was shut down. However, EA was announced to be making new Star Wars games, and named DICE (see above) as developing a Star Wars game. Given that Battlefront takes many concepts from DICE's Battlefield, this could be seen as A New Hope.
Stellar Dawn, a Sci Fi MMORPG by Jagex, has been in development since 2008 or 2010, depending on whether or not you include the never finished predecessor Mechscape. Its development has currently been paused indefinitely.
Introversion Software (Uplink, DEFCON and Darwinia) spent many years hinting at their new project, Subversion, and even produced an intriguing twenty-part development blog - before abruptly halting all announcements and going dark for ten months. A lot of people feared Author Existence Failure, but the reality was more mundane; they'd realised that Subversion's ideas weren't coalescing into a game in they wanted it to, so they threw it onto the back burner and turned to a new game, Prison Architect. Subversion remains as a project and an idea, but it's pretty much on indefinite hiatus as a game.
Ever heard of the (very NSFW) Emo Game? There was a Super Emo Game III' in development for a long time. Scheduled for a 2006 release, it... was never released. Very, very occasional updates were released for years. For a while, it was claimed the game was going to be on a CD you could order online. And then, to close the cycle, superemogame.com was taken down and all mention of Super Emo Game III was removed from emogame.com, as were the links to the blogs discussing it.
There was a SNES platformer called "Socks the Cat Rocks the Hill" which was a political satire about Bill Clinton's cat, Socks. It had reviews in at least three gaming magazines, had advertisements, and had completed box art.. But in the end it was never released. A cart apparently exists but the owner won't dump a ROM or show clear footage.
Sword of Legendia was first announced in 2006 by Namco Bandai Games and was to be an RPG for the Wii. Though the title sounds similar to Tales of Legendia, produce Tsutomo Gouda said it wasn't actually part of the Tales series and that the name would likely change. Other than one piece of character art, nothing was revealed about the game for years. No other pieces of art were shown, no screenshots, no trailers, not even any basic information on the story or gameplay. In a 2008 interview with Gouda regarding Tales of Vesperia, he said that Sword of Legendia was still in development. Kentaru Kawashima, producer of Fragile Dreams Farewell Ruins Of The Moon also claimed the game was still in development in a 2009 interview. Finally, in a Japan Expo 2011 interview with Yoshizumi Makoto, it was revealed that Sword of Legendia was cancelled years ago.
The now-defunct Tabula Rasa, an MMO by gaming legend Richard "Lord British" Garriott, spent ten years in Development Hell, cost $100 million, and, according to the hype, was going to do to MMOs what Ultima did to RPGs. The game was canned about a year after release. Ultimately, Garriott sued the publisher, with each claiming the other was responsible for one of the game industry's most spectacular failures to date. It turns out it was NCSoft's fault, through what can only be called a real life example of Corrupt Corporate Executive behavior — they cancelled the healthy MMO and forged a resignation letter from Richard Garriott to keep him from getting a stock windfall. This backfired gloriously though, as Garriott successfully sued them for $28 million.
One running joke among players of the serial MMORPGA Tale In The Desert comes from the lead developer's insistence that 'This Telling (iteration) will be shorter'. Of course, that was back in the second Telling, which ran for a year and a half, and led to the third Telling, which ran for over two years. At this stage, there are no predictions for how long the fourth Telling will run, though a Tech Tree quickly pushed forth light years ahead of its predecessors is a good sign...
Thrill Kill. The game was raked across the coals of Development Hell for years, its publisher - Virgin Interactive - trying to tone down the violence in it to conform to an M rating before being picked up by EA. While it's now available through filesharing by the game's developers, there will never be an official release of it; EA found the game so senselessly violent that they actually refused to sell the game off to someone else, for fear of it getting out and tarnishing their reputation.
Although a developer did get the rights to use the engine, which was the basis for Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style.
The controversy it had already stirred up might have been a factor. (The BBFC had refused to give it classification, essentially banning it in the UK).
Thunder Force VI was first announced for the Sega Dreamcast, and an intro movie from late 2000 exists. The next year, Sega abandoned the console market, and Technosoft folded. The unreleased game's soundtrack was released. Sega ended up licensing the series and releasing an all-new Thunder Force VI for the PlayStation 2 in 2008.
Tiberium, a strategy/FPS hybrid in the Command & Conquer universe, drew along for some two years before being canned by EA's Quality Control. According to Game Informer, it controlled well, but they just couldn't make it fun.
The team developing the game said it was cancelled for very different reasons, simply put there were rampant disagreements amongst the dev team, as several people wanted to take control of the project and all had they're own ideas for the game, with so many people competing for control of the project, the game development severely slowed down to the point where EA decided it was cheaper to cancel the game outright, rather then risk any more delays.
Tiny Toons: Defenders of the Universe was being developed by Treasure in the early 2000s under contract from Conspiracy, with screenshots and previews being shown. However, years passed by and there was nothing new on the release of the game. Eventually, the game was confirmed as cancelled, the reason supposedly being that Conspiracy went bankrupt around 2002, and lost the rights to Tiny Toon Adventures before the game was released. Fortunately, the game wasn't completely lost, as a ROM of the beta was leaked, and can be played on a PS2 emulator.
Twisted Metal Black 2: Harbor City was supposedly cancelled due to several developers dying in a plane crash, though that's now widely believed to be a hoax as there is no actual proof that anything like that ever happened and Jaffe himself more or less admitted it was false, it's more likely that Jaffe was too busy working on God of War to be able to devote his full attention to Twisted Metal, so he ultimately pulled the plug on the game because of it.
Ultimate Journey was to have been released by Bandai America for the NES in the early 1990s. Apparently a Ninja Gaiden-like game with an Magical Native American warrior who could transform into animals, it must have been at least nearly finished, since box art was produced and Electronic Gaming Monthly gave it a full-page review, yet little more about it has emerged since.
Vic Viper, a 3D racing game by Konami, was described by EGM as "30-percent finished" when they previewed it in 1995. EGM's suspicions that the game might not be released proved correct.
Viewtiful Joe stated during the ending that the world would have to be saved three times. After Viewtiful Joe 2 came out, Double Trouble and Red Hot Rumble were released to pad out the third game's development. However, Clover Studios was shut down by parent company Capcom and the game never saw the light of day. However, Joe recently made an appearance in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and PlatinumGames have made a spiritual successor, The Wonderful 101.
Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium will most likely be left unfinished thanks to the fall of Vigil Games after its parent company went bankrupt and was unable to sell the studio. However, the members of the studio have repeatedly tried to calm down the crowd, stating that game isn't dead yet.
Warhawk 2 for the PSX. They did recently revive the franchise on the PS3, though.
The Survival Horror game Winter for the Wii was originally announced in 2007 and after making a demo and a trailer no publisher has been interested in publishing it. Last word from the company on the game was in 2009 and saying they were hoping that as they continue to update the game a publisher would grow interested.
Ys IV was slated to be released for all three of the main 16-bit platforms in Japan: the PC Engine, the Mega Drive and the Super Famicom. Each version was to be developed by a specific team based on a rough outline provided by Falcom. While the Super Famicom and PC Engine versions (produced by Tonkin House and Hudson Soft respectively) were eventually released (though Ys IV in general was a case of No Export for You until Ys: Memories of Celceta was announced for a Western release), the Mega Drive version, which was to be developed by Sega-Falcom (the same co-production between Sega and Falcom members that developed the Sega CD port of Popful Mail), was canceled without even a single screenshot released, as was a Sega CD version of Brandish.
Video Game Titles: Multiple-game Examples
Vaporware is not a new phenomenon. Way back in the 8-bit days of 1984, Psyclapse and Bandersnatch (for the Commodore 64 and the ZX Spectrum, respectively, although practically the same game) were in development for Imagine Software. Advertising promised much - hardware dongles to support new features Never Seen Before on either system, and promoting the achievements of its outrageously large development team (of nine, nearly nine times the average for the time). Despite the hype, it eventually became clear that Psyclapse never got past the design stage, and Bandersnatch would need to sell for a ridiculous amount of money just to break even. By the time the BBC arrived to film the spectacular successes of a Liverpool-based firm at the forefront of the then-upstart computer games industry, Imagine were absolutely in the toilet, and the BBC found themselves making a cautionary tale about corporate excess that finished with the bailiffs arriving to repossess everything Imagine ever owned (and very nearly the BBC cameras, too). A couple of splinter companies later, Bandersnatch was picked up by Psygnosis and released as Brataccas for the Amiga, Atari ST and Apple Macintosh. Imagine and Psyclapse were resurrected In Name Only as secondary labels of Ocean Software and Psygnosis, respectively.
Another notorious ZX Spectrum example was Street Hawk, a spin-off from a barely-noticed American action TV show that suffered such severe delays that the software company had to give a completely different game with the same title to a magazine that they'd promised copies to for a subscription gift offer.
Yet another notorious Spectrum effort was Spirit Software's Formula One, which promised greatest ever realism because it included a steering wheel peripheral (at a time when joysticks were not standardised but were an expensive add-on which were at least usable for many games). Adverts ran for literally years until the game eventually dribbled out onto the market to poor reviews and annoyance that the "peripheral" wasn't something you plugged into the computer, it was a cardboard ring that you rolled across the keyboard.
Scooby-Doo in the Castle Mystery was originally previewed in magazines as a Dragon's Lair-like game for the ZX Spectrum. The publisher ultimately decided the original concept was technically unworkable, and so commissioned a simpler game using the same license. This inspired Crash Magazine's "Scooby Award" for much-delayed games.
After Conduit 2 flopped, High Voltage Software's Wii games The Grinder and Animales de la Muerte are becoming this. While both were close to being finished when last seen in 2010, High Voltage has not been able to find a publisher willing to release them, and now that the Wii is about to be replaced, it'll likely remain that way.
Lufia: Ruins Chaser for the Sony PlayStation, cancelled due to the bankruptcy of its developer. (Ideas from that game were used in Lufia: The Legend Returns, which was developed by the same developer, Neverland, as the first two games in the series and the second's reimagining.)
Lufia: Beginning of a Legend for the Game Boy Color, originally in development alongside Ruins Chaser. (Unlike Ruins Chaser, the ideas used in this game were scrapped entirely rather than handed to Neverland.)
The equivalents of Duke Nukem Forever in the Doommodding community are Mordeth Episode 2 and Millennium. Mordeth in particular is so notorious for this that the Cacowards' "longest development time" award is named the "Mordeth Award" in its honor.
Many PC games that uses mods will always fall under this trope at some point. Usually, the modder or a team of modders will get a bit too ambitious in their work and give up trying to complete the mod or real life issues pop up that prevent them from finishing their work. It is not unheard of to see mods with great potential that won't ever see the light of day.
Not even Game Makers are safe! In the MegaZeux community, the general rule is that if someone publishes a demo of their game, that game will never be released. Period. This trend is popularly known as the demo curse; among its best-known victims are A Death Beyond Imagination, Honor Quest 2, and Weirdness (by the creator of MegaZeux himself, who released only the first chapter before leaving the community.)
It is a very common trope in independent game makers to plan out plots or characters and sometimes go as far as produce screenshots or artwork, only for the place updates of the game are posted on to go from frequent to quiet and for the game to eventually (and quietly) be dropped (a common red flag is when the latter updates over-emphasize how close it is to completion or something along the lines of "we're not dead, we're still workin' on it!", yet no real progress is shown otherwise). It is common because the core idea of the game was usually done out of a quick jolt of inspiration or impulse, and, among other reasons, die either because the creator's interest in the game waned, it turned out to be too much work (and if the engine in question isn't freeware or fully freeware, costly) than they expected, conflicting thoughts between the group (especially if the original creator was more dis-organized, inexperienced or holier than thou than the rest of the dev team they hired), personal reasons (school, work, personal life, we've all heard it before), or legal reasons (especially if said work was a fanfic embodied in a game, was a painfully obvious cut-and-paste of another source, or was meant as a fan-remake of another game). It has come to a point now that if there was someone out there that plotted out ideas for a game and was looking for a team, most would more than likely say "screenshots/demo/(privately-transferred-)prototype or it isn't serious." It is especially common in community boards dedicated to freeware game-making programs such as RPG Maker, Game Maker, DS Maker, Ren'py, Blade, Novelty, some ROM hack projects and tools, and so on.
The Nintendo 64's path through history was littered by the emaciated bodies of partially developed games. Some, like Robotech: Crystal Dreams, Fire Emblem 64, 64 Wars and the above Earthbound 64, simply collapsed under their own weight and died. Others, like efforts toward a 3D Kirby game and sequel to Mario 64, produced various side-projects in lieu of their originally intended design. In fact, the N64 was legendary for this sort of thing, with games supposed to be launch titles stuck in development for years afterwards (Body Harvest, Mission: Impossible) and swapping between multiple development teams, executive meddling, and ultimately numerous cancellations. None of this helped the flagging fortunes of the system as gamers frustrated by the long software droughts often abandoned Nintendo for the more reliable Playstation lineup.
Remember Freak Boy? No? Didn't think so.
The Panel de Pon remake/sequel is a really odd case. The Japanese release of the game was canned, but the game did make it into worldwide markets as a Dolled-Up Installment featuring Pokémon characters. Japan (and regrettably, only Japan) would get what the game was originally intended to be one generation later in Nintendo Puzzle Collection.
Rare picked up quite a few of these in the hey day of the N64 and Gamecube era, each of which deserves its own entry:
One of the first platformers announced for the Nintendo 64 was a game called Conker's Quest. The cute platformer starring a child-friendly squirrel was intended to be a counterpart to the more complicated platformers of the time. This incarnation of Conker even made a cameo (along with future Rare star Banjo) in Diddy Kong Racing later the same year, intended to pave the way for his future franchise. Though initially shown at E3 in 1997, Conker's Quest disappeared for awhile before resurfacing in 1998 as Conker's Twelve Tales. Footage of this incarnation can found floating the net. Another game based on this version of the character came out in 1999 for the Game Boy Color, Conker's Pocket Tales, but there was still no sign of the N64 version. In 2000, in what many at first assumed to be an April Fool's prank, Rare unveiled that they'd completely tossed out all work on the child-friendly Conker's Quest, retooling it into Conker's Bad Fur Day, a violent, sexually charged platforming parody of gaming culture, its genre, and pop culture in general. When everyone realized that Rare was serious, pandemonium broke out. This essentially consigned the original Conker game to the mists of vaporware history, though fans of the game that finally came out don't seem too broken up about it.
Conker would once again have trouble with this as a sequel for the Gamecube was announced, but cancelled. Then an Xbox remake was announced then vanished for some time. Eventually, it became Conker: Live and Reloaded, altered from Conker: Live and Uncut due to the game actually getting more censorship from Microsoft than it had from Nintendo.
Throughout the Nintendo 64's lifespan, Rare had worked on a title called Dinosaur Planet. Nintendo eventually repurposed the title from an original IP into a Star Fox-based game, though still slated for release on the N64. This got delayed further and further until it finally dropped on the Gamecube as Star Fox Adventures instead, becoming Rare's final console game for Nintendo as they had been already been sold to Microsoft before the game's release.
Banjo-Kazooie was originally scheduled to be released in November 1997, as Nintendo's big game for the Christmas season; ultimately, it had to be pushed back to Summer 1998 and Nintendo replaced it with Diddy Kong Racing, which thus became the first released game to have a playable Banjo or Conker.
Banjo-Kazooie was actually re-tooled from yet another game that never saw the light of day. This game, which bore the working title Dream, was to have been an RPG on the SNES to start, starring a human hero named Edison, and a bear named Banjo. It was gradually turned into a 3D platformer on the Nintendo 64 with an animal star shortly after the dev team previewed Conker's Quest and considered it vastly superior to their idea. All that has surfaced of Dream are a couple of screenshots drifting around on the Internet and 10 pieces of music, plus a brief history of the game, found on the composer's website. And Blackeye the Pirate, who was to be the Big Bad in Dream, got a cameo in Banjo-Tooie and a statue in Viva Pińata.
Banjo-Tooie launched several years late in 2000, without the "Stop n' Swop" feature that would interact with Banjo-Kazooie, which Banjo-Kazooie itself had promoted, even showing images of these sequences being activated. For years, people speculated as to the loss of the feature, leading people to eventually uncover a patent that appeared to mirror the process by using a feature of the N64 that involved storing data for roughly 60 seconds after shutdown. Speculation led to many fans concluding that, because later models of the system could not hold data this long, the feature had to be dropped due to it no longer being technically feasible. "Stop n' Swop" eventually returned - on the Xbox 360 Live Arcade releases almost a decade later.
Banjo-Threeie was planned for a Gamecube release, but soon got the axe. It was reincarnated for the Xbox 360 in 2008 as Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts.
Donkey Kong Racing, a racing game slated for the Gamecube that would focus around the entire Kong family, and would have you riding on animals instead of vehicles. It was canned once Rareware was bought out by MS.
Rareware made an HD port of Killer Instinct that they were going to release for Xbox Live Arcade, and the port was already complete, but they got into a lawsuit from FOX, who had a TV show with the same title. The lawsuit was cleared up, but it seems that the Killer Instinct port was dropped in favor of a reboot game by a different developer.
A similar case happened to a Xbox Live Arcade port of GoldenEye (1997)-the port was finished but never saw the light of day thanks to the financial spats between Nintendo and Microsoft (and presumably Activision as well, who owns the license to the 007 series).
Freeware developer tapeworm has been working on Velella for nearly five years, and Avaus for three. On his site, he mentioned he wants to have Avaus done by the end of 2007, then struck it through and appended 2008. Well, it's 2012 now...
Valve has a habit of this. What makes them notorious for their extremely long delays is their demand for perfection in their games, as they stated in the commentary for Team Fortress 2. Basically, unless they are happy with how the game is coming out, they will not release it:
Half-Life Gold (Half-Life with the High-Definition Pack and Blue Shift expansion) was set to come out on the Dreamcast. It was even featured on the cover of GamePro and had a strategy guide to Blue Shift. But due to an announcement by Sega that they would be ending production and support of the Dreamcast, the game was never commercially released. The game was eventually leaked onto the Internet. Those who've played the leak can vouch that while Valve used the leak as an excuse for demoralization and how they felt they needed to redo things, the truth was that the game was anything but finished at that stage. The demo levels they were demonstrating were around the only levels they had that were remotely finished. All the other content was still in alpha stage.
Half-Life 2: Episode Three: The Source developers wiki currently lists Episode Three'' with an announced release date of Christmas 2007, and an actual release date of "coincident with the Rapture".
Fans are beginning to fear that Half-Life 3 has begun to turn into this, with a continuation to Episode 2 promised, but not happening since the game's release in 2004. It doesn't help that Valve absolutely refuses to talk about the subject.
With almost a decade of nothing from Valve, fans starting getting quite excited when a leaked projects list mentioned, among many other things, Half-Life 3. This only continued when Valve released an update for Half-Life 2, inciting speculation that Valve was starting an ARG to promote Half-Life 3.
Valve somehow promised that Left 4 Dead would receive frequent updates like Team Fortress 2. After seeing all the problems in the gameplay that Left 4 Dead had and what needed to be fixed, Valve most likely would have to change and patch so many things that they believed it would be better to release a sequel that addresses all the issues. Fans naturally reminded Valve daily about the promise that was broken.
X-COM games Genesis and Alliance were eagerly expected after years of development, but given the various studio shifts that Microprose suffered at the time, they were permanently delayed/cancelled.
This is Older Than the NES: the numerous never-released games for the Colecovision are pretty close. Some games, like Chess Challenger and Mr. Turtle, were advertised on the system's box, but never saw release, most likely due to the end of the system's production run in 1984.
The developer Zoonami is infamous for this. The studio was founded in 2000, and hyped up to be a major third-party publisher for Nintendo, but its two major projects (A FPS for the Gamecube called Game Zero and the rhythm game Funkydilla) were announced but never released.
The Zoo Tycoon 2 user-made extension pack "Cretaceous Calamity" was announced years ago and still has no release date. Both that particular UXP and the others by the same group (Mysterious Map Marvels) have a history of trouble and delays.
There have been hundreds of UX Ps announced for Zoo Tycoon 2, but only roughly five or six UX Ps ever released.
Video Game Systems and Peripherals
The Phantom game console has earned numerous vaporware awards and frequent comments on its auspicious name (as if the entire thing was a practical joke on a massive scale). First announced in 2002 (when its download-only sales model seemed downright insane), it was repeatedly delayed and pushed back until being put on infinite hold in 2006. The design company has since been accused of fraud by the SEC, changed names, and decided to focus on releasing the console's couch-keyboard-and-mouse accessory for other platforms. Unlike the Phantom, this one actually was released, and the reviews for it were quite favorable. The only recurring complaint would be the terrible mouse that had to come along with it. That said, the company is still in dire straits regarding its financial and legal troubles. The other problem with the Phantom was that the CEO was a well-known con artist who specialized in vaporware.
Nintendo's SNES was to get a CD-Rom attachment — also known as the PlayStation X — which not only never materialized, but resulted in the Sony PlayStation and the worst slump in the company's history.
Many of the designs invented by Active Enterprises were doomed to fail from the start, but the most ambitious of these was their planned portable gaming console, the Action Gamemaster: Conceived as a massive, foot-and-a-half wide beast with a 3.2 inch screen, this system would not only be compatible with proprietary game discs (including "killer app" Cheetahmen 3), but it would also house an expansion port that would accommodate cartridges for the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis, and it could also be used as a portable television set, with a projected price point of 500 dollars. It seems as though Active were truly ahead of their time with their idea for a multisystem portable - many of the Gamemaster's features now seem to have manifested in Sony's Playstation Portable instead. Or in Nvidia's case, the Project Shield, which had a similar controller-with-screen form factor, sans the 18-inch device footprint.
The Panasonic M2 console was to have been the 64-bit successor to the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, but was canceled very close to its announced 1997 release. Konami did release a few arcade games based on the M2 architecture (namely Battle Tryst, Polystars, Evil Night, Heat of Eleven '98 and Total Vice).
As buyers were shifting from consoles to computers during The Great Video Game Crash of 1983, Colecovision promised an expansion module that would essentially turn their console into an Adam computer in an attempt to draw in customers. It never went past the prototype stage.
The oldest iteration of this, as applied to gaming hardware and peripherals, was the Keyboard Component for Mattel's Intellivision. Starting in 1980, the company had given over a third of the space on the back of the console's box to promoting how the KC would enable you to make the console into a fully-functioning home computer. It really was in development, but had reliability and cost problems the engineers just couldn't solve. By 1982 enough complaints had poured into the Federal Trade Commission that it told Mattel it would be fined $10,000 every day past its most recent promised ship date. A few thousand were released in test markets, so it wasn't pure vaporware, but the results and sales weren't encouraging and Mattel decided instead to release a scaled-down version of the KC it called the Entertainment Computer System, which while it technically was a computer since you could write programs and store them on external media (cassette tapes, in those days), was far behind the curve of what actual computers could do at the time. At the end of the year Mattel officially cancelled the KC and the FTC agreed to drop the fines in exchange for full refund offers to anyone who had purchased a KC; there are only a few extant.
The Wii Vitality Sensor was shown at E3 2009, but was barely discussed since then. Some video game journalists started doubting that the project was ever real and the sensor itself was just a mock up shown because Nintendo didn't have anything new or interesting to reveal at E3 that year. In 2013, the Vitality Sensor was finally brought up by Nintendo... to reveal it was cancelled. It was a real, planned product, but was scrapped because there was too large a portion of test users that the sensor could not read.
The Konix Multisystem was a British console developed in the late 80s. Originally created as an advanced peripheral, Konix decided to go further with the project to create a 16-bit computer to compete with the Amiga. The system was then pushed back several times, up to Fall of 1990 due to a very troubled production and employees not receiving their wages. When Konix bankrupted without a finished computer, the project was scrapped.
The Atari Jaguar planned to have a model combining the CD attachment with the console. This may never have gone further than mock-ups, with the Jaguar's CD add-on selling poorly and Atari Corp. approaching bankruptcy at the time.
In an ancient example, back to the 1960s, one of IBM's very first operating systems, OS/360 for their System/360 mainframes (released in 1965), was released in 1966 after budget over-runs, excessive hardware requirements and several mismanagements of time. Despite its numerous development problems, however, derivatives of the OS/360 operating system are still in use today.
The book The Mythical Man-Month was written based on the experience of developing OS/360 and goes over the errors that led to the project taking longer than expected. Despite being widely read by programmers, similar errors keep being made.
Because OS/360 was not ready when the System/360 hardware was, IBM patched together a quick and dirty operating system, DOS/360. A year later, when OS/360 was ready, users who had bought DOS/360 insisted that IBM continue to support it. It's still around, z/VSE being its descendent.
There are projects in application and system software that are older still. The most notorious example is Project Xanadu, the first computer hypertext system and intended to catalog all human knowledge: begun in 1960, still arguably in development, although its creator seems to have abandoned it of late.
GNU HURD operating system kernel. Once meant to replace commercial UNIX, it long ago lost that honor to Linux, which it is now championed to replace Any Day Now. Meanwhile, the constellation of open source software meant to be built around it has been Linux-based for decades now and will have to be ported back to its officially "home" system if the thing ever sees release.
For some perspective, development on HURD began in 1984 and the first actual, installable OS based on it came out in 2003; there is yet to be a release of even beta quality.
The fact that the GNU toolchain is most widely associated with Linux (and, to a lesser extent, Mac OS X and Solaris) led to GNU creator Richard Stallman attempting to get people to refer to the system as a whole as "GNU/Linux", which some have seen as justified acknowledgement of Stallman's work and many others as a sour-grapes attempt by Stallman to latch onto Linux's success. The issue remains a very polarizing one.
It also doesn't help that the HURD is based on a type of architectural design so complex (a microkernel with multiple user-space servers for OS functions) that no one has ever really succeeded in pulling it off. In fact, microkernels in general have fallen out of favor due to unresolvable problems with speed and operational overhead; the only really successful design on the market is Mac OS X, and it doesn't work even remotely like a microkernel was "supposed" to.
The SCEE display was vastly superior in both energy efficiency and color reproduction compared to CRTs, LCDs, and Plasma, and was supposed to enter mass-production "real soon now" - since 1989. Besides production problems, a lawsuit slowed things down in the mid-2000s, followed by the crash of 2008, and Canon finally threw in the towel in 2010 when LED-LCD screens obsoleted the technology.
e-Ink and OLED have been in and out of the tech hype cycle since the '90s, and only reached production use in the late '00s, with both still limited to fairly niche markets.
The Mac OS was infamous for its replacement projects that either got stuck in Development Hell (Taligent and Copland) or never even started (Gershwin). In 1996, while on the verge of bankruptcy, Apple finally gave up and bought NeXTSTEP to get Steve Jobs back, which eventually became Mac OS X and helped save the company.
Trillian Astra - an improved version of the multi-client IM app, Trillian, has been promised since 2006. The Windows and iPhone versions finally came out of beta three years later. The MacOS version is still in alpha as of May 2010.
Microsoft had several of these in Windows' lifespan, these include:
Windows Nashville - Would've been Windows 96, which included internet integration and several features from the ActiveX technology. A lot of the features were instead shuffled into Windows 98.
Windows Neptune - The consumer version of Windows 2000 with a few features that were instead shifted to XP. Windows Neptune would've required more resources than most consumers had at the time.
Windows Longhorn - The successor to Windows XP and arguably Microsoft's most famous vaporware. Longhorn had several pioneering technologies, but the project had blown up way out of proportion, and Microsoft shoved Windows Vista out the door as an interim solution. Vista was not a great success, being exceedingly buggy even by the standards of newly-released Microsoft products and a serious resource-hog to boot. Longhorn, or at least something very like it, would eventually see the light of day as Windows 7.
IPv6, the replacement Internet protocol for IPv4. No clue when it's going to see widespread deployment, let alone when it will fully replace IPv4... and now that the last IPv4 block has been given away, the problem is growing more acute by the day. IPv6 will require a wholesale updating of hardware, firmware, and software, along with major networking changes, that most companies are loathe to pay for in a recession, despite the writing being on the wall for a decade. (Though it's worth noting that I Pv 6 isn't itself vaporware; the protocols are all there, it's just a question of adoption. Until lots of eyeballs use I Pv 6, there's no point putting content onto I Pv 6, and until lots of content uses I Pv 6... you get the idea.)
The Vector must be the ultimate in automotive vaporware. Ten years from concept Vector W2, in 1978, to a production run of seventeen W8s. Then fourteen M12s made in 1996. Then another ten years roll by before the WX-8 prototype turns up at the LA motorshow.
NASA's X-33/Venture Star, which was supposed to replace the space shuttle.
The Moller Skycar. In the words of the SEC when they brought a suit against the company for exaggerating the likelihood of it ever working, "As of late 2002, MI's approximately 40 years of development has resulted in a prototype Skycar capable of hovering about fifteen feet above the ground."
Rumors of a new American Girl doll, Rebecca, began to surface in the adult collector community as far back as 1998, when Mattel trademarked the name of the character. Eventually details leaked that she'd be the first Jewish historical, and after that, she seemed abandoned, with dolls such as Native American Kaya and '70s girl Julie (and the entire Best Friends line) appearing instead. Rumors of prototypes of Rebecca being seen by company insiders floated the entire time, with various descriptions given of her appearance, but most of the collecting world have given her up as an idea dumped on the drawing room floor. Following the retirement of Samantha in 2008, American Girl finally confirmed they were producing Rebecca, who was released in May of '09.
Fusion reactors. With a fusion reactor and a glass of water, you could power a city like New York for 3 years. Research has been conducted since the 1950s, at which time they promised the first commercial fusion reactors by the year 2000. For a time, this was a joke on soc.history.what-if: "Kolker's Law: The estimated time until commercial fusion reactors will arrive remains constant." In other words, if an expert believed that fusion was 20 years away 20 years ago, he probably still believes it's 20 years away today. Not to say that progress hasn't been made. The advances in superconducting materials and lasers that modern experimental fusion reactors are built around hadn't been made when fusion research started in the '50s and what is now known as the field of plasma physics hadn't even been recognized fully as a discipline unto itself. Partly the reason why development has been so slow is also because fusion is always deemed of being too far away and too difficult to get any near-term returns from an accelerated effort. Presently several countries are involved in national and international scale projects in fusion and plasma control, and interest has grown, but given the timeframes of experimental research in the field, several decades of Vapor Ware are still to be expected.
In the same vein, advanced nuclear fission reactors (such as Gen IV reactors) may fall in this. Their benefits are great: they produce more energy with less fuel and produce less dangerous waste. Some designs eat the waste of the widely deployed Gen II reactors and some are essentially meltdown proof. But with events like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, it seems the prospects of nuclear energy have gone down the tubes in several countries.
In the case of one Gen IV candidate, the Molten Salt Reactor, this is especially frustrating because a working prototype of a MSR was built and run for 5 years in the mid '60s (from 1964 until '69) called the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment. It didn't generate any electricity with its heat but managed to prove that the concept was sound and orders of magnitude more fuel-efficient than the reactors still in use today that use solid fuel pellets (<1% efficient to the MSR's >90% fuel efficiency). The planned follow up Molten Salt Breeder Reactor (the more recently proposed Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, or LFTR (pronounced "lifter") for short, is essentially the MSBR brought into the 21st century.) was never built.
Chyoo, an adult create-a-storynote Think Choose Your Own Adventure erotic fiction, collectively written. website run by the same folks who run Literotica, has been advertising "Chyoo 3.0" for several years. In fact, their front page has a notice claiming Chyoo 3.0 will be released in a few months... that dates back to 2006. In actuality, the Literotica owners have apparently lost all interest in maintaining Chyoo. Lack of quality content probably has much to do with it.
Remember all that noise about the "All American Basketball Alliance", that supposed all-white baksetball league that supposedly was supposed to start in 2010, supposedly? Remember Don "Moose" Lewis' inflammatory comments about fundamental basketball and wanting to take the street out of it? No? Well, that's hardly surprising, since that's as far as this stupid idea ever got.
Immortal's Handbook, a third-party splatbook for Dungeons & Dragons. For awhile, the front page, at a glance, seemed to be 60% "look at all the cool stuff that I'm making!" and 39%, apologizing for not updating or releasing anything for years. Then, the website was changed. The new one seems a bit better in that regard, but not by that much.
Castle Greyhawk. Dungeons & Dragons fans have been waiting since the mid-'70s for an official release of Gary Gygax's home dungeon. Gary was looking at releasing the complex as early as 1978, but got sucked into the monumental task of writing The Temple of Elemental Evil and released only a few levels. In 1986, just as he had promised the castle again, he was unceremoniously fired as head of TSR. Any hint that Gygax would be releasing new Greyhawk or AD&D material would have sparked a lawsuit. In 2007, however, Gygax announced that he was creating a non-Greyhawk version of his iconic castle. One box set was released, detailing the castle fortress and the first level of the dungeons. Then Gary Gygax died on March 4, 2008.. Co-writer, Jeffrey Talanian was set to complete the project using Gygax's copious notes, but he was fired within six months and the Gygax Games site seems to be all but abandoned. Gygax's original co-writer Rob Kuntz was releasing material from his notebooks, but he has also dropped the project. Finally, a dedicated fan who knew both Gary and Rob and had played in Castle Greyhawk released his own version of the dungeons starting on level 2, which is probably the closest we will ever get to the actual Castle Greyhawk.
Speaking of D&D, the newest (so far) 4th edition never received a promised Virtual Tabletop app.
Furaffinity.net, an art gallery that caters to the Furry Fandom, is notorious for promising new features and updates that never materialize. Shortly after the site launched in 2006, a rewrite of the entire site was announced (dubbed Ferrox) and that it would be in closed beta "soon". A year later, another announcement was made that a new version of Ferrox was in development. That project was eventually shelved two years later. Another project which would overhaul the UI has seen similar delays, first announced in 2007, having mock-up previews released in 2009, and finally setting a deadline of Summer 2011 for completion, which didn't happen. Dozens of other planned features have gone through similar treatment.
The Guitar Hero and Rock Band fansite ScoreHero announced a giant (and much needed) update in November 2008. Almost immediately it was shoved on to the back burner for seven months when Harmonix turned up to talk about their idea for the nascent Rock Band Network; several mods and developers signed up to help with the rewrite and were promptly stonewalled when looking for information (RBN had the main admin tied up in NDAs). Said developers were subsequently somewhat disgruntled when the RBN announcement was made, and it's tied up JC's time so much now that the big update hasn't gotten off the back burner since (and, with Rhythm Games on their way out, doesn't look likely to).
The Chinese Confucius Peace Prize was set up by a Chinese group in 2010 with possible government backing in response to a Chinese dissident winning a Nobel Peace Prize. Obviously intended to exist as an alternative, it was awarded to the former vice-president of Taiwan Lien Channote who only learned of it by reporters asking about it in 2010 and Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2011. Since then it hasn't been awarded to anyone.