Back during the 2000s, Rockstar were considered one of the most prolific developers out there. While the runaway of success of the GTA series was clear, Rockstar had their fingers in a lot more pies back then. Between the likes of Red Dead Revolver, Midnight Club and movie tie-in The Warriors, Rockstar had a much bigger portfolio, though arguably their biggest gem was Bully.
Referred to at the time as basically “GTA but with teenagers”, Bully left a massive impact when it first launched on the PS2 and original Xbox, but despite being one of Rockstar’s most fondly remembered games, a sequel just never materialised. Let’s take a look and see how likely it’ll be for us to go back to school for a second year.
The History of Bully
Bully was originally announced back in May 2005, with a projected release date for October of that year, but it’d take until October 2006 for Bully to see the light of day. When Bully was first revealed, it looked like you’d be playing the titular Bully, with screenshots depicting classic high school pranks like dunking a kid’s head in a toilet. The reality was much less controversial, but that initial impression saw Bully become the centre of a lot of controversy.
Despite all the controversy, Bully managed to release in October of 2006 on the PS2, though it did go through a rebrand to Canis Canem Edit (Latin for Dog Eat Dog) in the UK. Upon release, most of the controversy surrounding the game dissipated, as it was clear that Rockstar weren’t endorsing a game that encouraged players to pick on all of the smaller kids, stuffing them into bins and lockers whenever you like.
Don’t get me wrong, you can still do those things, but the wider context is a lot less mean-spirited.
Bully puts you in the shoes of Jimmy Hopkins, a 15-year old problem child dumped at the private school Bullworth Academy so his mother can have a year long honeymoon with her new husband. Immediately, Jimmy is caught in the crosshairs of Gary, a sociopathic teen with plans to rule the entire school, while the various cliques and inept faculty try to belittle his existence. Ultimately, Jimmy tries to unite the entire school instead of bullying them, with mixed results along the way.
While the game itself is very broad strokes stereotypical, with the various cliques like the nerds, jocks, preps and greasers, this allowed Rockstar to create a narrative and world that’s more engaging and lighthearted than the likes of GTA. Aside from a weird final chapter with power plants and mental health institute stealth sections, the school yard and surrounding town setting allowed Rockstar to create a freeroam game that focused more on childish pranks and scrapes than running drugs and murder. It’s a formula that’s ensured Bully is still so warmly remembered to this day.
It was reported by Take-Two that Bully had managed to sell 1.5 million copies for the PS2 by March 2008, making it a fairly large success for Rockstar. However, in the same report from Take-Two, it’s also revealed that GTA: San Andreas had managed to sell 21.5 million copies, making it one of the most successful games ever made. Bully’s reception was good, sure, but GTA’s blows it out of the water.
Where’s The Bully Series Now?
After a successful release on PS2, a port to the Xbox 360 and Wii was announced, called Bully: Scholarship Edition, arriving in 2008. The port was also brought to the PC by the end of the year. Scholarship Edition added some extra content like new school classes and some bonus missions, but the port brought with it a tonne of issues and glitches that made the game feel more ropey than it did with its initial release. The last official Bully release was an updated port of Scholarship Edition, the Anniversary Edition, which came to iOS and Android in 2016, while the original game was brought to PS4 as part of the PS2 Classics store category.
Reports have emerged over the years to suggest that Rockstar were repeatedly interested in developing a sequel to Bully, with the last official word from Dan Houser, former vice president at Rockstar Games and lead writer for Bully, in 2013. Back then, he said that he has multiple ideas for a Bully sequel, but it’s been 8 years and none of them have come to fruition. Dan Houser has since retired from Rockstar Games in 2020, meaning it’d be on someone else to spearhead a new game in the series.
As for the reports, two prominent reports emerged in 2019 to suggest that a Bully sequel was in development before being cancelled. The first report from June 2019 saw the YouTuber SWEGTA speak to a former Rockstar Games employee who stated that the company worked on a Bully sequel that would have seen Hopkins move in with his mom, step-father and step-siblings in a grand mansion. Allegedly, this project was shut down in 2009.
The other report from VGC in October 2019 cites multiple inside sources claiming that Rockstar were working on Bully 2 from 2010, with the game receiving around 18 months of development in total. However, the project was cancelled sometime before the end of 2013, as it didn’t gain much traction in the studio. One source did confirm SWEGTA’s report that the story concerned Jimmy’s stay with family, so it’s possible there’s a five year period where Rockstar attempted to get Bully 2 off the ground, with no success.
How Likely Is Bully 2 To Happen?
It’s probably too much of a simple answer to say “if we were going to get a Bully sequel, we’d have seen it by now”, but that’s likely the truth. The Rockstar of 2021 just isn’t the same Rockstar of the mid-2000s. Their games are still excellent, sure, but their release schedule is just so sporadic these days that each game feels like a transcendental mainstream event.
At this point, Rockstar isn’t getting out of bed if they can’t match the incredible level of success that GTA 5 has managed to achieve, and the only game that’ll do that is Rockstar’s Table Tennis 2. Okay, I’m kidding, it’s GTA 6, but could you imagine? Since the release of GTA V in 2013 on PS3 and Xbox 360, Rockstar’s main releases have consisted of 1) GTA V again on Xbox One, PS4 and PC, 2) Red Dead Redemption 2, and 3) an impending GTA V release once again for PS5 and Xbox Series X | S.
A Bully 2 release, as much as it would appease the nostalgic child in me, just wouldn’t be on the same scale as what Rockstar have put out in recent years. Dropping a sequel to Bully feels like it’d require a smaller scale approach that just currently isn’t in Rockstar’s wheelhouse. I love RDR 2, don’t get me wrong, but playing a Bully game with cold and hunger gauges on, and all the other commitments to “realism” that RDR 2 offered, sounds like a chore.
Rockstar also have other commitments right now, with the ever-present GTA Online still consistently earning Rockstar, and subsequently parent company Take-Two, millions of dollars every single month. Why divert development resources from the well-established golden goose to work on a game that you’ve tried and failed to bring out already? Heck, there’s still people out here waiting to hear more about Agent.
To be honest, the implementation of GTA Online always got me thinking about how an online world would look in Bully, with the ability to create your own cliques, attend classes for optional stat boosts and more. Perhaps it wouldn’t look great once the news stories start dropping about kids skipping real life school to attend a virtual one, but it’s an idea that’s always intrigued me.
I like to end these articles with a bit of hope that we’ll see a new game, but for Bully, I just don’t see it happening, at all. Bully 2 will simply be the “white whale”, the game that could’ve been. At the very least, it’s still playable quite easily on both the Xbox and PlayStation, which puts it in a better position than the likes of Ape Escape and F-Zero. Still being able to get a hold of Bully digitally is a godsend.
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