Long known as NBA Live, EA’s basketball franchise underwent a name change
in 2010, in an effort to “leave the past behind” and “usher in the future of basketball video games.” The first (and only) NBA Elite was scheduled to be released on October 5, 2010.
Just a week before launch, with copies already in the hands of press and retailers, it was delayed. A little over a month later, EA announced NBA Elite 11 was canceled. Speaking to IGN, EA’s Andrew Wilson offered a candid explanation for the cancellation: “Ultimately, it was just going to be a bad game.”
A limited number of copies made it out into the wild and have become highly sought-after collector’s items — a PS3 copy is currently listed on eBay for $10,000 USD.
A decade later, EA has yet to regain its footing with the series. A revival attempt in 2012 ultimately failed. Its return in 2013 was a critical disaster, earning a 43 on Metacritic. Four more NBA Live games were released between 2014 and 2018, though none measured up, critically or commercially, to 2K’s rival NBA series.
The franchise’s latest planned entry, NBA Live 20, was also canceled. EA said it’s reworking the series for next-gen consoles, but the company has yet to announce concrete plans for its return on Xbox Series X and PS5.
Army of Two
22 days before November 13, 2007, Army of Two’s initial release date, EA delayed the co-op shooter to March 6 of the following year.
The company said it needed a bit more time for polish, according to the delay announcement (via Reuters), with then head of EA Games Frank Gibeau adding, “Army of Two has potential to become a lasting EA franchise — so getting the first title right is essential.”
It’s all pretty standard as far as delay announcements go, except for one thing: review copies of Army of Two had already been distributed, indicating the game had gone gold before the delay, as recounted by IGN’s Ryan McCaffrey, who reviewed one of those original copies in 2007.
Army of Two went on to hit that March 6, 2008, release date. It received a 7.9 in IGN’s review.
The cancellation of Propeller Arena wasn’t due to quality issues or developmental woes, but rather a case of extraordinary and tragic circumstance.
Propeller Arena was an aerial combat game developed by Sega for the Dreamcast. The game had gone gold ahead of its scheduled September 19, 2001, release date, as evidenced by this tweet from Sega producer Makoto Osaki, which shows a printed copy of Propeller Arena’s final build.
However, a week before it was to be released, the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred, and Sega delayed Propeller Arena indefinitely.
“Although the game content does not deal with terrorism in any way, it is possible for a determined individual to deliberately play the game in a manner that generates images similar to those we have seen on the news,” read Sega’s statement at the time. “We want to avoid causing any additional grief to those involved in this week’s tragedy and feel this is an appropriate action.”
Propeller Arena would never be released, and years later, details about the gameplay shed more light on Sega’s decision. Propeller Arena featured a Manhattan-inspired level called Tower City lined with skyscrapers that players could crash into, causing their planes to explode.
Half-Life for Dreamcast
In early 2000, Valve announced it was bringing the original Half-Life to Sega’s Dreamcast, following the success of its PC debut in 1998. The console version was to be released that summer and feature visual upgrades, as well as an all-new mission “custom created for Dreamcast,” according to the announcement.
Half-Life would miss that initial release window, though it was still expected to be released by the end of 2000, according to publisher Sierra Entertainment (via GameSpot). Multiple delays later, Sierra landed on a new release window of June 2001.
As June approached, rumors of a potential cancellation began circulating. Those fears were temporarily assuaged in May, when IGN received a copy of Half-Life for Dreamcast. This presumably meant the game had gone gold, and it was only a matter of time before it’d be released.
But on June 15, with only a couple weeks remaining in that June window, Half-Life for Dreamcast was officially canceled. A detailed explanation was never given; Sierra only offered this one-sentence statement: “Sierra regrets the cancellation of Half-Life for the Dreamcast due to changing market conditions.”
Every IGN Valve Game Review
Thrill Kill, the controversial, adult-only fighting game for PS1, was scheduled to be released in October 1998. Developer Paradox (later known as Midway Los Angeles) had the full support of initial publisher Virgin Interactive, and the four-player fighter was on track to hit its target date — that is until August 1998, when EA acquired a number of Virgin’s studios and assets, including Thrill Kill.
At the time, Thrill Kill was “99% finished,” according to programmer David Ollman (via VG247), but EA couldn’t get past its violence. “Our whole executive team was involved in the decision to cancel the game, and we certainly evaluated it to see if there was something that we could do to make ourselves more comfortable with the content,” said EA’s then director of corporate communications Patricia Becker (via ZDNet). “The tone and the tenor of the game are just too violent.”
There was still hope for Thrill Kill after the cancellation, as those at Paradox thought EA may sell the rights to another publisher. Several companies, including Eidos Interactive, according to Variety, were interested in acquiring the property, but EA refused to sell.
“We don’t feel that the game’s content is appropriate regardless of who publishes it,” Becker told IGN. “Game companies have to accept responsibility for any game they publish… It was the tone and tenor of Thrill Kill. When you look at Mortal Kombat, you look at a fighting game, as opposed to a sadistic killing game. Thrill Kill is a killing game. The product did not meet our standards for appropriate content.”
Paradox would use the foundation of Thrill Kill to build another fighter, Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, which is “roughly 70% identical [to Thrill Kill] on a technical level,” according to Ollman.
Jordan is a freelance writer for IGN.