It takes a lot of time and money to develop an intellectual property, Hell, it takes a lot of time and money just to acquire the rights for an already-existing property. So it’s always sad when an IP goes dormant.
Sometimes, but very rarely, fans get to see a very unlikely dream come true (Shenmue). More often, though, they don’t, and an IP enters purgatory — or worse.
The Xbox brand has been no stranger to vanishing IP. I spent a good bit of time reading and searching through US trademarks, and I’ve come up with 11 abandoned franchises we’re probably not going to see again. And guess what: none of them are the recently canned Scalebound!
Let’s have a look.
Amped was a launch-window snowboarding title for the original Xbox that actually found enough success to spawn two sequels: Amped 2 in 2003 (which became part of the infamous XSN line of sports titles) and Amped 3 for the Xbox 360, released in 2005. It was a technically impressive title for its time, and come on — the word “amped” just screams extreme sports.
Why are we unlikely to see an Amped revival anytime soon? The developers behind the title, Indie Built, left the Microsoft umbrella and were acquired by Take Two in 2005. Take Two promptly closed the studio in 2006. Interestingly enough, though, Take Two still owns the Amped trademark, and even renewed it back in 2012. Hmm…
Here’s one I can almost guarantee you’ll never see again. The Blinx series started with Blinx: The Time Sweeper in fall 2002 and continued with a 2004 sequel, Blinx 2: Masters of Time and Space. Before we go on — did you know that Blinx was originally pitched to be Microsoft’s answer to Mario or, say, Sonic? That was probably before both games in the series brought home mediocre reviews.
So we’ve covered that Blinx 2 is the last we’ve seen of Blinx. But how can I be so sure that we’ll never see him again? Two reasons. The first: the studio that developed both Blinx titles, Artoon, was assimilated into its parent company, AQ Interactive. AQ Interactive filed for bankruptcy in 2010. They’re gonezo. But there’s an even bigger reason: Microsoft opted not to renew the Blinx trademark at all in 2014. The last I heard, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer had verbally gifted the Blinx IP to Ryan McCaffery and Marty Sliva of IGN, but since it’s no longer Phil’s to give away, the Blinx IP remains orphaned. 🙁
Brute Force was a spring 2003 release for Microsoft’s first Xbox console, and it had a journey much like Halo’s. Originally bound for PC (just as Halo was meant for the Mac), Brute Force became an Xbox-exclusive title after Microsoft acquired Digital Anvil and decided to enter the console business. The game received slightly above average reviews but saw no sequel. The IP, to this day, remains untouched.
Why’s that? Microsoft declined to renew the trademark for Brute Force in January 2010. Much like Blinx, it’s out there for the taking.
Fuzion Frenzy: the Mario Party of the Xbox. The original Fuzion Frenzy was an original Xbox launch title, and a sequel followed much later for the Xbox 360 in 2007. Both games received middling to poor reviews, but I do have a fun fact for you: they were developed by Hudson Soft, the studio behind Mario Party and Bomberman.
Hudson Soft merged into Konami back in 2012, and despite renewing the Fuzion Frenzy trademark in March 2012, Microsoft has shown no interest in bringing the franchise back. Who needs interesting, unique IP when you can add more bro shooters?
Here’s the long and short of it: Rare used to make really awesome games. Remember those great Donkey Kong Country games on the SNES? Rare. Remember GoldenEye on the N64? Rare. Banjo-Kazooie? Rare.
Rare even made some cool games after Microsoft acquired it from Nintendo back in the early 2000s. We got Grabbed by the Ghoulies in fall 2003 (which is playable via Rare Replay on Xbox One, by the way). We also got Kameo — a game once destined for the Nintendo 64, the GameCube, and the original Xbox before finally landing on the Xbox 360 in fall 2005 (this is also playable on Xbox One via both Rare Replay and backward compatibility).
But something happened. Microsoft decided the Kinect was important, and Rare was imprisoned in the Kinect Development Dungeon for many, many years. It put out Kinect Sports for the Xbox 360 and ver. 1 Kinect in 2010. A sequel followed in 2011, and an “Ultimate Collection” of Kinect Sports came in 2012.
Microsoft grew more hungry with every Kinect Sports release. It needed more. The once-proud Rare was ordered to commence work on Kinect Sports Rivals, a game that got bad reviews and lost a boatload of money.
There is a redemption story here. Rare is now free to make cool games again, and Sea of Thieves (due who knows when) looks to be a unique experience — the kind you’d expect from Rare. But Sea of Thieves also looks like a “game as a platform,” much like Destiny or The Division. With Rare’s resources focused there, it’s highly doubtful you’ll ever see another Grabbed by the Ghoulies or Kameo again. And with Microsoft all but killing off the Kinect, you can stick a fork in Kinect Sports, too.
The XSN series
Do you remember when Sega created 2K because EA wouldn’t put sports games on the Dreamcast? Microsoft had a similar experience with its original Xbox launch in 2001. The console wasn’t getting that sweet, sweet EA love that is essential for a holiday launch, so Microsoft (which had recently started to do PC sports games) brought an entire line to the Xbox by itself.
You might recall NFL Fever. Fever was a PC transplant like most Microsoft sports titles, becoming Xbox exclusive from 2001-2003. When it made the jump to Xbox, it wisely traded in cover star Mark Brunell for Peyton Manning, but even The Sheriff couldn’t save the series from being axed after the 2003-2004 season. There was also NHL Rivals, which got a whole one-year run before EA decided to make Xbox games and Microsoft abandoned its sports line. And who could forget NBA Inside Drive? Fun story about this one: it’s the one XSN title that wasn’t developed by Microsoft Game Studios. Instead, those duties went to High Voltage, a studio that’s still around today and has contributed to franchises like The Conduit, Saints Row, Injustice, and Mortal Kombat.
Project Gotham Racing
Project Gotham Racing was the spiritual successor to the Dreamcast’s Metropolis Street Racer, and it was a pretty fantastic series. The original debuted as an original Xbox launch title in fall 2001, and over the next six years, the franchise received three new entries. I personally have fond memories of Project Gotham Racing 2, a game in which I spent hours and hours playing “cat and mouse.” But before the release of Project Gotham Racing 4 in 2007, Bizarre Creations (the developer behind MSR and all the PGR games) was purchased by Activision. That would be the last PGR game we’d get from Bizarre Creations, and in an appropriately “bizarre” twist, Activision closed the studio without explanation in 2011.