After keeping Prey fans in suspense for the past two months, publisher Bethesda has finally confirmed Prey 2 remains in development. It has, however, been delayed out of 2012 according to a surprisingly straightforward statement released earlier today.
“Development of Prey 2 has not been canceled but the game will not be released in 2012 as planned,” the statement read in part. “The delay is due to the fact that game development has not progressed satisfactorily this past year, and the game does not currently meet our quality standards.” That’s a far cry from the industry standard way of handling a situation like this, where we’d normally hear about nothing but an intense desire to ensure the game in question turns out as good as possible. That is what’s hinted at here, but it’s a far more pessimistic assessment of the progress that has been made than we’re used to seeing publicly.
It is good news to hear the game hasn’t been canceled, especially considering the consensus was that the game was looking good. Back in February, talks on Prey 2 scheduled for this year’s Game Developers Conference were scratched at the behest of Bethesda. It was unclear why this had been done, whether it be because the talks conflicted with the PR roadmap or because the status of the game had changed. The latter was assumed by many to be the case when Bethesda declined to comment on rumors the game had been canceled. While it’s not always true, outright declining to offer a comment is in many cases the step taken before an official announcement is made — just look at the way THQ dealt with talk of a Darksiders II delay shortly before making news of one official.
Bethesda’s statement was refreshingly honest, and something I’d love to see a lot more in the otherwise always-optimistic PR statements publishers issue. But take a look at the remainder of today’s statement and see if you notice what’s missing: “Prey 2 has shown great promise and we regret disappointing our fans. We have made a substantial investment in game development to deliver the experience fans want. We are determined only to release the AAA game that fans rightfully expect, and are unwilling to compromise our quality standards to meet a release schedule.”
There is not a single mention of developer Human Head Studios or Bethesda’s intention of moving forward with it on the project. When asked to address the matter, Bethesda refused to provide any further comment beyond what it had to say this morning. You might look at that and assume Human Head is still attached, just like the game wasn’t canceled when it declined to address cancelation rumors earlier this year. And you might be right. An alternative theory is that in both situations a decision had yet to be made, and right now even Bethesda is unsure if Human Head is being ditched in favor of a different developer — perhaps a company that is also owned by parent company ZeniMax Media (id Software?).
Prey games seem to be unable to avoid development troubles of one sort or another. It took more than a decade for the first game to make it out, and that didn’t happen until development was moved from 3D Realms, which started work on it in 1995 (yes, before Duke Nukem Forever), to Human Head. The publishing rights to the game were acquired by Bethesda several years ago after 2K Games published the original in 2006; it’s perhaps only appropriate that both the publisher and developer would shift for the sequel.