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Pearl: Did you hear? Ancho-V just delayed their new game until next year...
Marina: Wasn't it supposed to come out, like, four years ago?

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 a 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).

Compare Development Hell and What Could Have Been. 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. See also the Canceled Video Games index for pages about games that have been officially canceled by their creators.

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, Vaporwave, or so on. Also, perhaps ironically, no relation to Steam.


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    Other Computing 
  • The Trope Namer was Microsoft's Unix-based operating system (OS), Xenix. Although this OS actually existed and came to market, the term was coined by a Microsoft engineer in 1982 because AT&Tnote  started selling its own version of the OS called System V and Microsoft lost interest in Xenix, transferring its team to a new joint project with IBM, OS/2note . Although Microsoft wound up selling its rights to the Santa Cruz Operation, at first they didn't make it clear what their plans for Xenix were.
  • 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 seemed to have abandoned it for a time before announcing that it had been Saved from Development Hell and was now finished (primarily by him lowering his extremely high expectations so he could say it was finished in his lifetime).
  • The most notorious vaporware project of all time was Ovation, an office suitenote  that was to compete against the industry leader of the day, Lotus 1-2-3. The parent company, Ovation Technologies, was founded in 1983, and got as far as raising several million dollars in capital, securing a distribution deal with Tandy Corporation which included co-marketing with their Tandy 2000 line of computers, and building several demonstrations (including a high-profile press conference at Manhattan's Windows on the World restaurant) that impressed both the industry and the public. There just was one problem: the company never released an actual product and went bankrupt exactly one year after it was founded. Ovation was the Trope Codifier of "software which is hyped to the public but never actually gets to be launched", and with implications of intentional fraud.
  • A Filipino tech company named BiTMICRO Networks announced a processor named in honour of Jose Rizal. Despite some rather optimistic press coverage brimming of national pride and an official statement from the government, not much has been announced about it except it would be developed in the Philippines, and there wasn't any word about the architecture to be used either. A few years later and yet little if any news has surfaced since, and it didn't help that BiTMICRO apparently didn't have any previous experience with processor development, at best being a cloud solutions provider.
  • The GNU Hurd operating system kernel. Once meant to replace the kernel of UNIX, it long ago lost that honor to Linux, which it is now championed to replace... someday. 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 official "home" system if the thing ever sees release. For some perspective, development on the 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. Comparatively, Linux started out in 1991 and had been marked as stable since 1994.
  • ReactOS, an attempt to create a drop-in replacement for Windows, has been in development since 1998- although the project still does put out nightly builds, the nightly builds are more than often badly broken. The project started as FreeWin95 in 1996 and aimed to create an open-source OS capable of running Windows 95 programs, but then went silent and came back in its current form in 1998, with the aim changed to create an open-source OS capable of running Windows NT 4 programs. As of March 2016, the project has only hit 0.4, which the team still considers late-alpha - the team will only change the software state to beta when 0.5 hits. And it took them a whole decade to get from 0.3 to 0.4. Granted, the project was plagued by multiple issues including lack of manpower, several allegations that the project had used stolen Microsoft code which stalled the project for almost a year as the codes were audited, and perpetually-moving goalposts (as of current, the program has mostly Windows 2000 level compatibility. The team at one point aimed for XP level compatibility by first final release, only to be forced to change it to Windows 7 level by their sponsors and supporters in 2018).
  • 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.
  • The macOS 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.
  • Microsoft had several of these in Windows' lifespan, these include:
    • 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.
    • Not an operating system, but a subsystem to revolutionize data storage, search and retrieval (in other words greatly speed them up): Object File System (OFS). It was started in 1990 or 91 as part of a next-generation operating system, Cairo. While Cairo itself was never released, most of its components were gradually released as part of other MS products: Windows NT, Windows 95, MS SQL Server... except OFS. The project was shelved, but eventually revisited, now as an extension to MS SQL Server. Then as a part of MS Exchange. Then for Windows Longhorn (as WinFS). According to The Other Wiki between 1994-2007 it was cancelled and resurrected no less than 6 times, but hasn't been heard from since 2009. All its incarnations have contributed to other MS products, but the desired goal was never met. Since people still would like their computers to instantly find their photos, videos, music, books, text documents and whatever else they edit and store there, by only a vague description, the project is bound to come back yet again.
    • In the early 1990s there was what was codenamed Omega, Microsoft's first attempt at a desktop database. Developers worked on it for a year and a half during which snafus accumulated atop delays, and were further beset by complications, with everybody increasingly getting on each others' nerves. Until finally one meeting with the company's CEO led to this exchange:
    Bill Gates: Get fucking recruiting in here, I want fucking recruiting in here right now!
    Tod Neilson: OK, Bill, why do you want recruiting?
    Gates: Because I want to find out what fucking colleges we recruited you guys from and tell them not to fucking recruit there any more because they clearly produce fucking idiots!
    • The project was canceled shortly thereafter, with instructions to throw out all the code and start from scratch. From the ashes rose the phoenix that is today Access.
  • Holographic Versatile Discs, developed from 2004-2008 with the intent of being used for archival storage. With an impressive 100GB (which is Blu-Ray's maximum storage space) to up to 6TB of storage, it sounded really good. But there's still nothing on the market and with a $15,000 drive and $180 per disk cost along with its original developer going up in smoke, it doesn't look like it's coming out soon.
  • PowerPlay was an initiative lead by Valve and Cisco, intent on decreasing latency while playing online. They claimed that it was supposed to make playing on dial-up just as good as playing on a LAN, Gabe Newell once boasting that they had someone playing Team Fortress Classic with 1,000 ping and not being at any noticeable disadvantage over someone on a LAN connection. Several other developers jumped on board, including Epic Games, BioWare, and Volition; nevertheless, nothing came of the idea, with id Software being among the notable developers who didn't jump aboard the initiative because, as John Carmack stated, no one at Valve was able to adequately explain how it actually worked. He ended up having a point, as when Valve eventually did give some idea of what PowerPlay actually entailed, it required PowerPlay-approved hardware and infrastructure that prioritized PowerPlay gaming connections over all other Internet traffic, the brunt of the expense for which internet service providers would have to pay for. Valve announced the initiative in January 2000, claimed exactly one year later that the standard had been finalized, and then never did anything with it.

  • 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 rolled by before the WX-8 prototype turned up at the LA motorshow. As of 2018, the WX-8 itself remains vaporware, though they claim it's still in development.
  • NASA have tons of them, and in particular the variety of "shuttle derived vehicles" and other projects meant to replace the Space Shuttle. The Shuttle-C of the late 1980s, the National Launch System of the 1990s, and the Constellation program of the early 2000s were all attempts to replace the Shuttle that spent years in development and never flew. Other non-shuttle systems were also considered, like the X-33. Constellation eventually morphed into the less-ambitious Space Launch System, but development was extremely slow. After starting in 2011, SLS finally flew in the form of Artemis I, launched in November of 2022.
  • 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."
  • 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." (This time is also known as a "fusion 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 vaporware 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  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. It could also be because these stories are a dime a dozen on Writing.Com.
  • Remember all that noise about the "All American Basketball Alliance", an all-white basketball league that was supposed to start in 2010? Remember Don "Moose" Lewis' comments about fundamental basketball and wanting to take the street out of it, plus a few other rather inflammatory remarks? Suffice to say that this interview did not make him very many friends, and the proposal went nowhere.
  • 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 4th edition never received a promised Virtual Tabletop app. With a new edition now replacing the 4th, don't expect to ever see it.
  •, 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.
    • Another attempt at re-coding the site was announced in early 2014, an open-source project called Phoenix. There is essentially one person working on the project, and it's all on GitHub so you can follow along with the long periods of nothing happening.
    • Around the same time, they announced new plans to overhaul the existing site's UI, which led some to believe even the site's owner doesn't have faith in the "Phoenix" recode ever going anywhere.
  • 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 web video Let's Play Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Special Edition is about a completely fictional vaporware game: an Updated Re-release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 which never saw the light of day because its console (the Sega CD 32X) reached the end of its lifespan. Docfuture, the creator of the video, claims he received his copy of the mysterious game from an uncle, who bought the disc from Chinese bootleggers.
  • There is a joke in construction that could easily apply to any field: any building project will take longer than you expect even if you take this principle into account.
  • The final episode of the Julius Saves the Mushroom Kingdom series of Flash cartoons ("When Julius Comes Marching Home").
  • The New United States Football League, AKA "USFL 2.0". Announced in 2008, with an array of notable football names attached to it as potential coaches and team and league execs. It was slated to launch fully in Spring 2012. That date was then pushed back to 2015 (and that date was later stated as being "overly ambitious"), with still no cities in place as team hosts as of Summer 2017; and a rival league (A-11 Football — formed in the wake of NUSFL's first failure to launch) looking to launch first and steal their thunder, even going so far as to swipe several original USFL team names for their league.note 
  • The whole point of the Keit-Ai meme is to be a joke vaporware concept for an anime that doesn't exist yet it has somehow spawned a webcomic, fan fiction, fan art, music videos, a mock anime preview, the first anime episode, and a host of other memetic content.
  • The tabletop game Far West was supposed to be an epic transmedia project, with an intended release date in late 2011. Mid-2018 saw an announcement that it was being revised with a different system, the first Kickstarter update in something like a year. Those few backers who still think they'll ever see it have stopped expecting a transmedia project and would be satisfied with any media project.
  • Given all of the technological innovation by Apple in the last decade, it seems odd that the one product that stumped them is AirPower, an advanced Qi charger that could charge three devices at once.note  Apple announced the device in September 2017 and stated it would be released within a few months, but by the end of 2018 Apple had given no updates and removed all mentions of it from their website, though iPhone manuals still mentioned it. Some reports claimed overheating issues caused the delay, and Apple officially cancelled the device in March 2019.
  • Animusic 3 was announced as a Kickstarter campaign in 2012. The project reached its goal, and a timeline was laid out for the release of the album in October 2013, which came and went. It was revealed that due to Wayne Lytle's increasing health issues and his partner, Dave Crognale, leaving the team, progress on the album seemed to stop. The last word on the status of Animusic 3 was in 2015. Since then, many Fan Sequels have spawned.
  • Sex Robots and Vegan Meat: The book contains several products and services which are clearly much further from market than their promoters would like to admit, but the only one to be called Vapour Ware by the author is the Roxxxy Sex Bot. A crude prototype was shown at a porn industry trade fair, and since then all that we have is a website, and a developer who was always somehow too busy to speak to the author.

Alternative Title(s): Vapourware