Things are not looking too well for Microsoft at the beginning of 2017, On January 9th, news quickly spread that the company was cancelling one of their potential big releases, Scalebound, developed by Platinum Games. When asked about the cancellation of the game, a representative of Microsoft released this statement:
“After careful deliberation, Microsoft Studios has come to the decision to end production for Scalebound. We’re working hard to deliver an amazing lineup of games to our fans this year, including Halo Wars 2, Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2, Sea of Thieves and other great experiences.”
Of those titles, only one is not made by a first party developer and that is State of Decay 2 which is being developed by Undead Labs. State of Decay is a zombie survival game that treads in the same water as other games in the genre such as Dead Island, Dead Rising, Left For Dead, among other titles. What is unique about this series is the resource management, and scouting for resources, similar to Assassin’s Creed’s viewpoints.
The first State of Decay was released in the late Spring of 2013 for Xbox 360, which was met with positive reviews, and even broke records on the Xbox 360. A remastered version for the Xbox One was released in 2015, that was met with mixed reviews. The drop in review scores could have been because reviewers were not as forgiving with the games bugs and issues, as the development team started to become more well known since they release the first State Of Decay, and more was being expected by them.
State of Decay 2 was announced at E3 2016 during Xbox’s conference. However, not much has been mentioned from Undead Labs about development on the title as well. We can be sure that Microsoft will push for the first party titles, such as Halo Wars, Crackdown, and the Rare developed Sea of Thieves. However, with Scalebound being third party developed and cancelled early in the year, a lot of pressure may have been applied to Undead Labs for State Of Decay 2. One of the issues to be concerned with is Undead Labs experience in general, as they are not an AAA developer, but will be expected to release State of Decay 2 as an AAA title. This could go bad for Undead Labs as they have only released one title before which was the original State of Decay.
The head of Undead Labs, Jeff Strain announced that they signed a multi year, multi title agreement with Microsoft Studios in 2013, possibly attempting to make it Microsoft’s next big franchise. The studio also announced that they would refine the gameplay froom their first game and use it for an MMO title,codenamed Class4 ,which would become State of Decay 2. The issue with this however is that other games that have tried to deliver promises similarly and failed. Most recently and notably, No Mans Sky from Hello Games, another unknown developer, who attempted to deliver a massive exclusive to the PS4 but the game was critically panned upon release.
Will Microsoft rush the team for an early release, just a year after the title was announced? Will it be a stable release worth acclaim, or will it be delayed to give it a proper release? Whatever the case may be, Microsoft is running dry on exclusive titles and titles in general for the foreseeable future. We can only hope E3 2017 can bring in some very great and exciting news for Xbox gamers.