At E3 2014, Microsoft thrilled hardcore gamers by announcing a reboot of the Japanese cult classic Phantom Dust. E3 2015 was somewhat less thrilling: the new Phantom Dust has vanished, and it’s unlikely we’ll see it again.
In February, we reported that Microsoft had cut ties with Darkside Games, the studio they’d hired to develop Phantom Dust. In March, we showed you leaked footage of what could have been. In April, we went a little more in-depth, reporting on just how the project fell apart and pointing out how unlikely it was that Microsoft has found another developer for Phantom Dust, which was originally released for Xbox back in 2004.
Now, speaking to Gamer Tag Radio during an E3 interview, Xbox marketing boss Aaron Greenberg confirmed that, yep, there’s no new developer. They’re not currently working on this game.
“It’s been a passion project for [Xbox boss] Phil [Spencer] and a lot of the folks on the team,” he said. “We’re currently exploring what we’re gonna do longer term with Phantom Dust. The project is not cancelled but we don’t have an active developer on it right now. It’s a project that, like many things, will take a little more time. But at this point we’re not giving any more updates on it.”
Now of course, “The project is not cancelled but we don’t have an active developer on it right now” is some serious marketing gobbledygook. Technically, Starcraft: Ghost isn’t cancelled either, but if a game isn’t being made, it only exists in people’s minds. And given that any new developer would likely start from scratch on the Unreal 4 engine rather than using Darkside’s current Unreal 3 build, rebooting Phantom Dust once again would cost a lot of time and money—money that Microsoft wasn’t willing to spend in the first place.
What’s more likely is that this project will just quietly go away. It pretty much has already. As I wrote back in April:
So will the Phantom Dust reboot still happen? Publicly, Microsoft is saying yes, but some people who worked on the game say they don’t believe it—after all, if Microsoft was willing to allocate more money to make the game they want, why wouldn’t they have just done it with Darkside? People who worked with Microsoft say the publisher’s creative team worked very hard to try to salvage the project, and one source said they’d be “shocked” if the publisher had alternate plans in the works.
One day, maybe at E3 2017, some journalist will ask Phil Spencer about that Phantom Dust game they once announced. “Oh,” he’ll say, “that one didn’t work out.”