SEGA’s recent cancellation of the online multiplayer shooter “Hyenas,” developed by Creative Assembly, has shocked many, not just because of the anticipation around the game, but also due to the immense resources invested in its development. Recent reports suggest that this game had the largest budget in SEGA’s history, even surpassing that of the notable game Shenmue, which had a budget of around $70 million.
Behind the Scenes
Sources, including a detailed report from VGC and insights from the YouTube channel Volound, have shed light on what transpired during the development process:
- Engine Swap: A significant engine change midway through development caused numerous complications. Developers stated this transition added to the game’s challenges.
- Lack of Direction: Developers have pointed out a significant lack of direction during the production of the game. This issue seems to have been persistent, with several members of the leadership “asleep at the wheel.”
- Market Saturation: The game was perceived to be entering an already crowded multiplayer shooter market. Doubts grew internally about its potential to stand out.
Changes, Revisions, and External Insights
Numerous shifts in direction further muddled the game’s identity:
- Game Model Transition: Initially envisioned as a premium title, the game had switched to a free-to-play model with microtransactions by its cancellation.
- Character Development: There were several iterations of the game’s characters. Initial plans aimed for “lovable rogues,” but this eventually shifted towards characters with more “gleeful audacity.” This change made the characters feel “unmemorable” to some developers.
- External Collaboration: Film director Neill Blomkamp collaborated with the team, infusing the game with new lore and direction. He suggested a universe where traditional media became valuable after digital platforms like Netflix and Steam disappeared. Blomkamp’s input provided some semblance of direction to a project that often felt “rudderless.”
The Scale of Investment
Understanding the magnitude of SEGA’s investment in “Hyenas” can’t be overstated: SEGA had representatives from Japan stationed more or less permanently at Creative Assembly’s UK office towards the end of the game’s development. This was unprecedented and highlighted the significant stakes associated with the game. Insiders have reiterated that “Hyenas” was indeed SEGA’s most expensive game project ever, even exceeding the budget of historical titles like Shenmue.
SEGA’s Path Forward
While “Hyenas” may represent a setback for SEGA, it’s crucial to view this in the broader context of the company’s history and potential future direction:
- Learning from the Past: SEGA has weathered storms before, from the decline of their console business to previous game development challenges. They have a track record of learning from their experiences, which can serve them well in the aftermath of the “Hyenas” cancellation.
- Future Endeavors: SEGA possesses a diverse portfolio of IPs and a dedicated fanbase. While “Hyenas” was a significant investment, the company has other projects in the pipeline that could recapture audience interest.
- Industry Collaboration: The involvement of external personalities like Neill Blomkamp suggests SEGA is open to collaborative efforts. This approach might become a more prominent strategy moving forward, leveraging external insights to bring fresh perspectives to their projects.
Conclusion and Aftermath
Despite the vast resources poured into the game, SEGA decided to pull the plug on “Hyenas,” deeming it a potentially bigger financial risk to release it. This decision, while understandable from a business perspective, has left many developers frustrated and facing redundancy. Astonishingly, this ripple effect of layoffs is impacting even those who were not involved with the game’s production, spanning departments like IT, marketing, HR, and others.
It’s a poignant reminder of the complexities and uncertainties of the gaming industry, where even the mightiest projects, backed by significant investments, can face unforeseen challenges and outcomes, leading to crucial decisions that can affect hundreds of employees and alter the trajectory of a company.