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Following the conclusion of The Wonderful 101's development, PlatinumGames began working on its first action RPG in more than 10 years of company history. Described by creator Hideki Kamiya as an "ambitious game" that would push the envelope for what the studio was known for, the title would become the catalyst for a first ever partnership between the makers of Bayonetta and Microsoft.
Although both companies were excited about the deal, Microsoft had more to gain from the exchange. Equipped with few new IPs and even a smaller amount of RPGs, the Xbox brand was strengthened the moment the deal was made.
Scalebound would be formally announced using a CGI trailer a year later. It would show a protagonist equipped with a large blade and blonde bleached hair engaging in a violent exchange with a dragon. Running at just over a minute in length, the video's release was an exciting moment for the Xbox brand.
It wasn't until a few more months had passed that game footage was shown for the first time. Of course, the five minute demo didn't mirror what was shown in its debut trailer, but at the very least included the same protagonist and dragons. It also successfully demonstrated the game's emphasis on beautiful graphics, a focal point that Kamiya had invested a large portion of the game's developer energy into.
But beyond graphics, the gameplay debut was received divisively. Some gamers were happy just to see an RPG running on the Xbox One, while most others were too concerned about the gameplay and character design to show any positive emotion. It didn't win over the gaming community in the same way Sea of Thieves, Cuphead, and Forza Horizon 6 did just months prior.
Things have only gotten worse since that time. Its next showcase at E3 2016 was predicated on showing a climactic battle with multiple showpieces. Although once again visually stunning, it appeared scripted and on-rails. More importantly, it didn't appear particularly enjoyable to play.
Following a wealth of discussion in gaming circles, Scalebound would be delayed into 2017.
[ Editor's Note: Microsoft has confirmed cancelation of Scalebound since the writing of this article. ]
"We'll have more to share on Scalebound soon", is the last thing Microsoft has said about what is supposed to be one of its biggest games of the year, a quote in response to Kotaku reaching out regarding reports that the project may be canceled.
As with other rumors, there are plenty of gamers who are already skeptical about reports, a perfectly reasonable response. But there have been hints about Scalebound's struggle in recent months, most notably with its absence from last week's Xbox Wire post. Its outright removal from the Xbox website is just the cherry on top.
The world will soon find out if the rumor is true, but no matter the case Scalebound is in a tough position. If it's canceled, it would become the most significant loss of the current generation totaling at several million dollars in investment. As if that wouldn't be enough, the Xbox One would lose an RPG exclusive during a year where PlayStation already has a huge software lead.
But if the game really is experiencing tumultuous development, cancelation would be the best thing for both Microsoft and PlatinumGames. Gamers aren't a very forgiving bunch, and associating both companies with an underperforming product of this magnitude would be a worst case scenario. PlatinumGames in particular would have a lot to lose given its reputation for inconsistency despite being capable of making something as well-received as Bayonetta.
In the event that Scalebound is still alive and well, PlatinumGames will need to make certain that its next showcase is successful. At this point consumer confidence isn't on its side, and that is a recipe for sales disaster. Even if it would turn out to be a great game, positive reception only goes so far. Much of the sales battle is won or lost during the months leading up to release.
Microsoft has a big year ahead, especially with the scheduled release of Project Scorpio. A PlatinumGames RPG could make it a lot better, but isn't completely necessary. Soon we'll find out if Scalebound will ever see the light of day.