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"We've Come This Far With True Crime Hong Kong--Why Not See it Through?"

After several delays and an ever-expanding budget, why Activision finally pulled the plug.

There was a collective feeling of "er, why?" when Activision announced True Crime, a series no one held much nostalgia for since it disappeared, was getting a reboot. Perhaps, like Bethesda's decision to move forward with Prey 2, the company simply felt better with a brand, no matter its previous reputation.

Then, after years of development at United Front Games and several notable delays, Activision canceled True Crime Hong Kong in early February. Gamers weren't the only ones caught off guard; at the time, I was senior editor for EGMi and we'd just ran a digital cover story on the game, where we'd sent a writer to Canada to talk with the development team. The cover story was published and only weeks later, Activision decides to cancel the game. The official website for the game is still up, as though it still lives on.

I've run two stories so far based on two internal Activision memos that were passed to me. Both memos were released to employees not long after the announcement became public. I wasn't sure if enough people cared about True Crime Hong Kong to even run a third and final piece, but the surprisingly honest comments from one of the executives involved in the cancellation struck me as worthy of sharing.

 The latest True Crime would have taken the series from Los Angeles to Hong Kong.

== TEASER == "We are ceasing production on True Crime: Hong Kong," explained COO Thomas Tippl. "While we believe that True Crime would have been a good game, we do not believe that it would have ranked as a top title in the competitive open world genre. Unfortunately, despite significant investment, True Crime was not on track to compete at the highest levels. Given the market dynamics described above, where only the very best titles succeed, we decided to stop development and allow the organization to focus on the many opportunities which lie ahead of us and require our full attention in 2011."

There was a small Internet campaign to save the game and rumors other publishers were looking at picking it up but nothing materialized. And while the official website has not been updated to reflect the cancellation (one would hope GameStop is no longer accepting pre-orders!), the developers at United Front Games, also responsible for Sony's ModNation Racers, did try to explain what happened:

 "We are sorry we did not get a chance to complete this project with Activision, but we understand why.  We are both committed to doing quality games and nothing less.  Maybe we will have a chance to work together in the future, but in the meantime we are setting our creative sights on a different horizon.  You can keep up with the latest developments at UFG here on our site."

Tippl's not the reason I wanted to publish this. His comments are expected boilerplate regarding the cancelation of a high-profile game--significant investment, market dynamics, competitive genre. Yada.

Let's instead turn to Eric Hirshberg, the CEO of Activision Publishing. 

"On my second day at the company, I stood up and said that we want to focus this organization around creative excellence," said Hirshberg. "The decision to stop production on True Crime is based solely on that focus."

 True Crime was to a feature a dynamic combat system that would allowed extreme acrobatics.
Within the memos, Hirshberg's comments seem more human, less corporate number crunching. He was also the executive saying Activision deserved more credit for its work on innovation.

"As many of you on the team know, I have a lot of heart for this game," he added. "And there are many great things about it. Stopping now is a hard pill to swallow, because a lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into getting the game this far. However, after two pushed deadlines and a huge increase in the original production budget, we needed to take a clear-eyed look at the reality of this game’s potential."

The current evidence suggests that development was still going until the moment of cancellation. Perhaps Activision was faced with the decision of more delays and a continually expanding budget or cutting their losses and moving on. No doubt, Activision skeptics will take issue with the phrasing of "our most optimistic internal projects" (read: sales numbers), but since no one's played the game, who's to say?

"Even our most optimistic internal projections showed that True Crime Hong Kong was not going to be at or near the top of the competitive open world genre," concluded Hirshberg. "In an industry where only the best games in each category are flourishing, and for a game with a budget of this size, to be blunt, it just wasn’t going to be good enough."

Until next time, True Crime. Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by patrickklepek

There was a collective feeling of "er, why?" when Activision announced True Crime, a series no one held much nostalgia for since it disappeared, was getting a reboot. Perhaps, like Bethesda's decision to move forward with Prey 2, the company simply felt better with a brand, no matter its previous reputation.

Then, after years of development at United Front Games and several notable delays, Activision canceled True Crime Hong Kong in early February. Gamers weren't the only ones caught off guard; at the time, I was senior editor for EGMi and we'd just ran a digital cover story on the game, where we'd sent a writer to Canada to talk with the development team. The cover story was published and only weeks later, Activision decides to cancel the game. The official website for the game is still up, as though it still lives on.

I've run two stories so far based on two internal Activision memos that were passed to me. Both memos were released to employees not long after the announcement became public. I wasn't sure if enough people cared about True Crime Hong Kong to even run a third and final piece, but the surprisingly honest comments from one of the executives involved in the cancellation struck me as worthy of sharing.

 The latest True Crime would have taken the series from Los Angeles to Hong Kong.

== TEASER == "We are ceasing production on True Crime: Hong Kong," explained COO Thomas Tippl. "While we believe that True Crime would have been a good game, we do not believe that it would have ranked as a top title in the competitive open world genre. Unfortunately, despite significant investment, True Crime was not on track to compete at the highest levels. Given the market dynamics described above, where only the very best titles succeed, we decided to stop development and allow the organization to focus on the many opportunities which lie ahead of us and require our full attention in 2011."

There was a small Internet campaign to save the game and rumors other publishers were looking at picking it up but nothing materialized. And while the official website has not been updated to reflect the cancellation (one would hope GameStop is no longer accepting pre-orders!), the developers at United Front Games, also responsible for Sony's ModNation Racers, did try to explain what happened:

 "We are sorry we did not get a chance to complete this project with Activision, but we understand why.  We are both committed to doing quality games and nothing less.  Maybe we will have a chance to work together in the future, but in the meantime we are setting our creative sights on a different horizon.  You can keep up with the latest developments at UFG here on our site."

Tippl's not the reason I wanted to publish this. His comments are expected boilerplate regarding the cancelation of a high-profile game--significant investment, market dynamics, competitive genre. Yada.

Let's instead turn to Eric Hirshberg, the CEO of Activision Publishing. 

"On my second day at the company, I stood up and said that we want to focus this organization around creative excellence," said Hirshberg. "The decision to stop production on True Crime is based solely on that focus."

 True Crime was to a feature a dynamic combat system that would allowed extreme acrobatics.
Within the memos, Hirshberg's comments seem more human, less corporate number crunching. He was also the executive saying Activision deserved more credit for its work on innovation.

"As many of you on the team know, I have a lot of heart for this game," he added. "And there are many great things about it. Stopping now is a hard pill to swallow, because a lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into getting the game this far. However, after two pushed deadlines and a huge increase in the original production budget, we needed to take a clear-eyed look at the reality of this game’s potential."

The current evidence suggests that development was still going until the moment of cancellation. Perhaps Activision was faced with the decision of more delays and a continually expanding budget or cutting their losses and moving on. No doubt, Activision skeptics will take issue with the phrasing of "our most optimistic internal projects" (read: sales numbers), but since no one's played the game, who's to say?

"Even our most optimistic internal projections showed that True Crime Hong Kong was not going to be at or near the top of the competitive open world genre," concluded Hirshberg. "In an industry where only the best games in each category are flourishing, and for a game with a budget of this size, to be blunt, it just wasn’t going to be good enough."

Until next time, True Crime.
Edited by unreal999

Cool

Omg it got it!

I never liked this game so not really bothered by any of this

Posted by nikopeters

Dang it! This game sounds rad though.

Posted by ThePhantomnaut

Looks like the guy who is getting kicked either crapped or urined his pants.

Posted by Demon_Sandwich

Its crazy to see thats how games are being developed now and that people were still working on the game until the moment of cancellation is even more shocking

Posted by Gav47

Activision have always been a very profit driven company, they made the same call with Bizarre Creations, UFG are just lucky they weren't own by them.

Posted by l3illyl3ob

It's kind of sad how Activision only sees things in black and white.  Either you're a massive success, or you're a terrible failure.  It goes hand in hand with the awful metacritic-worshipping culture in the higher echelons of the industry.  Companies like Activision act as if there's no room for modestly budgeted, merely "good" games anymore, and tries to push each game beyond their limits to make them blockbusters, and as a result projects are canceled, jobs are lost, and franchises are destroyed.  It strikes me as promoting a very unnatural development process where everyone's too focused on creating the genre's next best game instead of just following your vision and making what you want.  Maybe this is why indie games are so big nowadays.

Posted by ImmortalSaiyan

They can't all be winners. I still would of liked for it to have a chance.
Posted by SSully

Although it sucks the game was cancelled, especially for the developers who busted their ass on the game, I cannot say I disagree with the reasons it is canceled. Look at the games coming out this year and next year. I think this game would have had a hell of a time when open world games like La Noire and Infamous 2 are coming out. It would have been DOA. 

Posted by JohnDudebro

Activision does badly need more original properties. Blur and Singularity both fizzled, and Prototype is the only one that seems to be taking off as a real series.


True Crime didn't look very good, though, so killing it is probably the best choice.
Posted by Chubbaluphigous

He is probably right that it wouldn't have been able to compete with the top games, but doesn't mean it wouldn't have been profitable. 

Edited by karobit

It's unfortunate that, unlike film, there is no "home video" market where games can be expected to earn back their budget, make a profit or even be developed specifically for. No one would argue to infamous production companies like The Asylum are responsible for unsung gems (well okay, MST3K fans might) but at least they are afforded an outlet for their (appropriately budgeted) products that works for them.


Perhaps if True Crime: Hong Kong had been able to launch at a discounted price a la Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts or Deadly Premonition, it may have been able shine, but it's likely the amount of money sunk into production was too great for any marketing or sales plan to correct it.
Posted by Mr_Spinnington

impenetrable logic.  why aren't more studios this ambitoius

Posted by WilliamHenry
@Chubbaluphigous said:
" He is probably right that it wouldn't have been able to compete with the top games, but doesn't mean it wouldn't have been profitable.  "
Seems to me that they didn't think it would be profitable at all. Why else cancel a game? No company is going to cancel a game because its only going to make a few million instead of hundreds of millions. Any profit is still a profit.
Posted by Jeffk38uk

The True Crime series was never really that high in the excellence factor, but it's still one of the few GTA  like games where you play as a cop and actually do random cop activities that made it fun regardless. Even if you have to put up with the shoddy PC ports I still liked it so still saddened that the third one was cancelled. Least we have L.A. Noire but that's a different type of cop game really.

Posted by Metal_Mills

 I didn't care about this game at all, then heard it was canceled. After being surprised at how many people were disappointing I looked up the gameplay footage of it an god damn it looks awesome. The city looked fantastic. I wish I hadn't!

Edited by Stealthmaster86

When I first heard of it's cancellation I was a bit dissapointed. It was the only True Crime game that actually looked good. But now I guess none of that matters.

Posted by QKT

so instead of making new hit games, activision is driving existing ones into the ground. good to hear.


Posted by Soap

It seems weird to make such a call on a game before it's released unless you know while making it that it's truly a bad game. It didn't look like anything to amazing to me but I was still interested in this game and would of probably picked it up on launch. Shame it wont ever see the light of day now. 

Edited by megalowho

I can't fault a company for ceasing production on a title they don't feel lives up to an internal quality standard they're trying to establish, even if the company is big bad Activision. 


That being said I'm sure that number crunching had just as much to do with the decision to cancel True Crime Hong Kong as did any creativity initiative. They knew the game was not great and wasn't going to sell well no matter when it came out without a huge, undeserved marketing push. I really don't think this cancellation is too controversial, but it's nice to read some unguarded insight from the people involved.
Posted by Goldanas

I'd say I was scared for the industry, if I didn't understand that ultimately this is a business and people need to make money and if the tremendous presence of independent developers wasn't a defining feature of today's video game culture.


With tools like Unity and UDK out there, it's fantastically simple for people with an idea, good or bad, to put something fresh out there, and maybe even sell it for a reasonable price.
Posted by vinster345
@l3illyl3ob: On the budgets that Activision's games work on though, I don't its possible to have a mid tier hit. Sadly
Posted by tourgen

Too bad.  I like open world games and would have given it a shot.  Not at $60 tho so they probably made the right choice.

Posted by ItBeStefYo

Activision are motherf******, That is all.

Posted by Lightningproof

You know I had some fun times with Streets of LA. At least, I seem to remember shooting a man in the kneecaps, which was apparently the humane and moral option in whatever bizarre scenario the game had thrust upon me.

Posted by kollay

" Given the market dynamics described above, where only the very best titles succeed, we decided to stop development and allow the organization to focus on the many opportunities which lie ahead of us and require our full attention in 2011."


many
Posted by Brendan
@l3illyl3ob said:
" It's kind of sad how Activision only sees things in black and white.  Either you're a massive success, or you're a terrible failure.  It goes hand in hand with the awful metacritic-worshipping culture in the higher echelons of the industry.  Companies like Activision act as if there's no room for modestly budgeted, merely "good" games anymore, and tries to push each game beyond their limits to make them blockbusters, and as a result projects are canceled, jobs are lost, and franchises are destroyed.  It strikes me as promoting a very unnatural development process where everyone's too focused on creating the genre's next best game instead of just following your vision and making what you want.  Maybe this is why indie games are so big nowadays. "
The article said repeatedly that the game had run over budget several times, and that it was going to cost the studio more than mid-budget.  This post is rather presumptuous for an article that doesn't really give you a sense of the hard facts of the situation, but just the general idea.
Posted by animateria

" we decided to stop development and allow the organization to focus on the many opportunities which lie ahead of us".
   
So it got cancelled because it's not COD.

I kid. I kid.
Posted by Vexxan

I actually enjoyed playing True Crime: Streets of L.A, sad to the series hittin' the grave. There is of course some truth to what the reasons are, a lot of competition out there.

Posted by TechnoHermit

It's too bad. I enjoyed the last True Crime. Maybe another publisher will pick it up.
Posted by DHunter329

All Activision is doing now a days is pumping out sequels for their games. No fresh IPs, no innovation, not even taking a shot on something crazy. It is utterly maddening that a company that back in the day came out with some of the most beloved titles is no longer putting forth any real effort. Just coasting on Spider-man and Call of Duty.

By canceling True Crime HK, an opportunity to take on games like GTA and Saints' Row has been squandered & we are worse off because of it. The atmosphere of Activision is that of making sequels and nothing else. EA was able to pull out of their downward spiral, right themselves and fix some of the most idiotic decisions they have ever made. What will it take for Activision to do the same?

Online
Posted by Capum15

I don't think I ever finished Streets of L.A, but it was pretty fun from what I can remember. I would've given this one a shot.

Posted by DHunter329
@animateria said:
"

" we decided to stop development and allow the organization to focus on the many opportunities which lie ahead of us".
   
So it got cancelled because it's not COD.

I kid. I kid.
"
Some days its more truth than sarcasm.
Online
Posted by Atomasist

The real reason Activision cancelled the game is because they couldn't get Snoop Dogg in it.

Posted by President_Barackbar

Activision seems to have unrealistic expectations for their games. Even though this particular project may have had some problems, I guarantee that the project had only run up enough costs to make COD sales numbers impossible, which seems to be their goal. I don't think they understand that not every game can be the bestselling game of all time, COD has really spoiled them in that regard.

Posted by JohnPaulVann

Streets of LA was shit, but it's also a classic. It was the first game to accurately and fully map the street plan of a real city. I learned LA from playing that game, damn it. This new game would have been rubbish, so I don't give a fuck if it's canceled. But for the love of god give respect to Streets of LA. 

Edited by ProfessorEss

It's... it's my future... I see... I see no sleep lost over this.


I thought the original stunk - good concept but little more.
Posted by finchbandit75

i appreciate the respectful words regarding the decision to cancel, however i'm still super bummed. this was looking  awesome. i very much hope someone either picks this back up or tries something very similar.

Posted by chickdigger802

hmmm I kinda liked NY. The martial arts system was kinda fun.

Got stuck at that one turret level and could never get passed it. Aw well.

What 2011 open world games are there? Rage? Is LA noire? Elderscroll 5 kinda counts.

Posted by cikame

I was going to get it.

Online
Posted by Gregomasta

Think they learned from Mafia 2's poor sales?

Posted by TehFlan
@chickdigger802 said:
" hmmm I kinda liked NY. The martial arts system was kinda fun. Got stuck at that one turret level and could never get passed it. Aw well. What 2011 open world games are there? Rage? Is LA noire? Elderscroll 5 kinda counts. "
There's inFamous 2.
Posted by iam3green

the game wasn't that great. it was was but other people weren't into it. i got the first, pretty good game. you played as a cop after other  people. there were sometimes other side missions of getting criminals.

Posted by HydraHam

I don't care what people think about the game, i think it looked incredibly fun.

Goddamn shame they didn't just see it through, from what i understand it was close to being done so why not just sell it to another company? one of the many reason this industry pisses me off, if you are gonna start something and set release dates and show off the game fucking finish it.

Posted by Daemon

It's a shame and although I understand their decision to cover their butts financially, I very much enjoyed the True Crime series despite its inherent faults. Besides the fun kung fu, randomly patting down civilians only to score a sudden bust ended up being as strangely addicting as running around and shooting people in GTA.

Posted by Brackynews

If they put this out as "Stranglehold 2" I probably would have bought it.

Posted by Enigma777

Shame. I was really looking forward to this game...

Posted by Example1013

The people who are getting mad at Activision over this one have to realize that open-world games are crazy expensive to produce, and so for an open-world game to even be considered successful, it basically has to be what would be considered a "home-run" by the standards used for other games.


Bethesda Studios spends years and years on their Elder Scrolls games, while Treyarch spends a year and a half on a CoD game. CoD selling a few million copies would still make it extremely profitable, because the development cycle is so short, and the proportionate amount of work in a linear game is much smaller. Building (and more importantly, actually rendering) an entire world takes a much bigger budget, and so selling only a million copies might not actually end up producing much of a profit.

Gearbox sold 4 million copies of Borderlands in 2009, and they still weren't sure if they were going to be making a sequel. That tells you something right there.
Posted by csl316
@Brackynews said:
" If they put this out as "Stranglehold 2" I probably would have bought it. "
Posted by niamahai

i think they wanted it to have a white protagonist so that they can market it easier it to a larger audience. with Fast 5 out, maybe they will green light a True Crime-esque game set in Rio instead of Hong Kong. 


btw what happend to Luxoflox. I recall they were the hottest new act after TC1 came out and it went all to shit after TC2. They did the Transformer2 tie-in and haven't been heard ever since...
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