In 2008, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron developer Factor 5 teamed with up-and-coming publisher Brash Entertainment to create an ambitious open-world game based on DC Comics’ Man of Steel. By May of 2009 Factor 5 was no more. Thanks, Superman.
In the latest video from the folks at DidYouKnowGaming, Unseen64 video game historian Liam Robertson explores development and subsequent derailment of Superman: Blue Steel, a valiant attempt by Factor 5 to pay homage to one of the world’s greatest comic book heroes.
Brash Entertainment was founded in 2007 as a studio dedicated to producing licensed games, and the biggest license it scored was Superman. The original plan was for Factor 5, fresh off the failed PlayStation 3 partnership that resulted in Lair, to create an open-world game that tied in in some way with the sequel to 2006's Superman Returns. It would star villains planned for that movie, Darkseid and Braniac, with additional villains like Killer Frost and Brimstone—any villain Factor 5 thought would make for a good fight.
A vast Metropolis was constructed. Test videos of gameplay mechanics were crafted. Superman would have the ability to grab opponents and smash them through solid buildings, which sounds like just about the coolest thing a Superman video game could do.
Problems began in mid 2008, when Warner Bros. decided they didn’t want Bryan Singer to follow up the 2006 Superman movie after all, instead putting the franchise on ice with plans to revisit years later. That plan seems to have worked out just fine.
Factor 5 shifted gears at this point, moving from movie tie-in to a more general homage to Superman’s vast and storied history. It would be a massive action-adventure game for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and (at Factor 5's insistence) Nintendo Wii, complete with online multiplayer.
But soon Brash Entertainment started running into financial issues due to a combination of bad business decisions and an overall lack of experience in the industry. The publisher laid off employees, sold off IP and eventually closed its doors completely in November of 2008.
If work on the Superman game was to continue, Factor 5 would need a new publisher. But the developers were far from a finished product, and with the economy in bad shape, publishers weren’t biting. Rather than let go a fraction of its employees, can the project and work on other games, Factor 5 decided to try and stick things out.
In December of 2008 news broke that Factor 5 was out of funding and couldn’t afford to pay its employees. After a month and change without pay, the majority of Factor 5 Inc. staff was gone by Christmas 2008. The official closure announcement came in May of 2009. The German branch of the studio, Factor 5 GmbH, remained in operation until 2011, 24 years after its 1987 founding.
Check out the video atop this post for a more in-depth look at the events leading up to and the aftermath of Factor 5's failed Superman game.
Factor 5 did some great things over its two decades, and fans from every end of the gaming culture spectrum remember it fondly to this day. I’ve no doubt that with a bit more money and time they would have triumphed over Superman.
Hopefully Batman fares better next week.