Cancellation of Scalebound
Scalebound was going to be an action role-playing game developed by PlatinumGames and published by Microsoft Studios. The game centered around the concept of fighting mythical enemies with a dragon companion named Thuban. It was going to be released on Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.
Sadly though, the game was cancelled on January 9, 2017, to the dismay of many gamers. The cancellation did very little to improve PlatinumGames' waning reputation after a string of flops until NieR: Automata was released to critical and commercial success. The cancellation also did nothing to improve the Xbox One's recently lackluster library (outside of Halo, Gears and Forza) of exclusives and the console's slight drop in sales figures.
The idea of Scalebound was created ever since Platinum was established in 2006. It was originally going to have dinosaurs as opposed to the dragons that were seen since the game's reveal at E3 2014. The director, Hideki Kamiya considered Scalebound to be "a dream come true" as the idea of having dragons as the player's companion instead of as enemies is something he has always wanted to do, which is a pretty cool concept. Though conceptualized in 2006, development didn't start until 2013, as Kamiya and his team were in the midst of making Bayonetta (2009) and The Wonderful 101 (2013). The first gameplay footage was later shown at Gamescom 2015. Kayima decided that Platinum will collaborate with Microsoft Studios for the project. Platinum were also working on Nier: Automata, which was due for launch in March 2017 for the PS4 and Steam with an Xbox One port launching in 2018.
After nearly 3 years since its initial announcement, Microsoft came out on January 9th 2017 and announced that Scalebound had been cancelled. The publisher had released the following statement:
“After careful deliberation, Microsoft Studios has come to the decision to end production for Scalebound. We’re working hard to deliver an amazing line-up of games to our fans this year, including Halo Wars 2, Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2, Sea of Thieves and other great experiences.”
While details are not known about why the game was cancelled, many gamers suspect that Microsoft had been interfering with Platinum's vision of the game, such as the inclusion of four player co-op. Others suggest that the game was having major difficulties running on the engine that was provided. As the pre-alpha gameplay showed, the game was struggling to maintain a consistent performance. These are just a couple of fans theories for the game's cancellation, though they are plausible.
With Scalebound cancelled, PlatinumGames' reputation took another blow, especially after mediocre to poorly received games like The Legend of Korra, TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan and Star Fox Zero. The first former was a moderate success despite its reception, but the later two were both critical and commercial bombs. The only game from PlatinumGames to get rave reviews between these releases was Transformers: Devastation was simply not enough, especially when Scalebound was canceled and Transformers: Devastation not being a huge commercial hit. Scalebound could have had the potential to restore their reputation, along with the aforementioned Nier: Automata which was fortnightly a critical and commercial success.
The game's cancellation angered fans of the Xbox One, in which while it had positive reception, successful sales and still had a large fanbase, it had already been lacking in major exclusives recently (outside of Halo, Gears and Forza) compared to both the PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Switch. What's even more insulting is that only one of the other games mentioned above (Halo Wars 2) actually released in 2017, State of Decay 2 and Sea of Thieves came out in 2018 but both received mixed-to-negative reception and Crackdown 3 was further delayed to 2019 also getting mixed-to-negative reception doing nothing to undo the damage.
While 2017's Halo Wars 2 and 2018's Forza Horizon 4 both received positive reviews (with Forza Horizon 4 being the best reviewed Xbox One exclusive of 2018), they both didn't give the system that much boost in sales figures due to the console lacking in major and new exclusives unlike the PS4 which had many new and major exclusive titles over the course of 2017 and 2018 such as Gravity Rush 2, Horizon Zero Dawn, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, God of War and Marvel's Spider-Man, which left the Xbox One in third place on the first party console market due to only focusing on successful franchises like Halo, Gears and Forza without putting attention on new and major IPs. Not helping that fact was the then-incoming launch for the Nintendo Switch, which had The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as a launch title, and received many critically acclaimed exclusive games like Splatoon 2, ARMS, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Super Mario Odyssey among others throughout the year. Adding to this was the fact that a lot of the Xbox One exclusives got a version for Windows 10, giving an additional reason for the console's slight drop in sales numbers due to many of its exclusives being on PC, which defeats the entire purpose of exclusives in the first place.
On top of that, Microsoft's statement confirming the game's cancellation was met with criticism due to its vague wording and lack of reasoning behind it. The statement basically seems like a middle finger to those that were eagerly waiting for, reading as "we've decided to cancel this game, but we have other games coming out, so be excited for those!" Not helping was Phil Spencer's outlandish claims that Scalebound's cancellation was "better for Xbox gamers."
Fortunately for PlatinumGames however, Nier: Automata was released to critical acclaim and ended up selling over 1 million copies, and did an adequate job on its own restoring the company's reputation as a premier action game developer.
During later interviews in 2021, Kamiya apologized for the cancellation of Scalebound, stating that they weren't experienced with online co-op games. However, that statement would be ahead of its time, as Platinum would later on work on another co-op focused game, which did in fact share some similarities with Scalebound and likely was the replacement for said game, however it managed to fare out much worse than Platinum's failures prior to Scalebound due to it's always-online focus and weak release timings. In 2022, Kamiya told IGN Japan that he would like to revive the game as he wants to open discussions with Microsoft yet again.