Games offer the chance to experience a true power trip, as you become a superpowered being capable of anything and everything. There have been many games over the years that have focused on providing that kind of liberating experience, but there’s only been one game that allows you to disguise yourself as an old woman then sneak into a military base and roundhouse kick a soldier 50 ft across New York. I’m talking, of course, about Prototype.
Prototype might not have been the lengthiest series in the world, but in its short time, it managed to cultivate enough of a following to still be well remembered nearly a decade later, along with earning a HD remaster on PS4, Xbox One and PC. Today, we’re posing the question that probably has an obvious answer: will we ever see a new Prototype game?
The History Of Prototype
Prototype was the work of Radical Entertainment, a now defunct Canadian development team that formed back in 1991. For the most part, Radical were the team to go to when it came to licensed releases. In their first active year, they managed to secure the license to develop a Terminator game for the NES, which goes to show how dedicated they were to creating licensed games.
If you’re still unsure of who Radical Entertainment even were, you’ll probably be aware of a small game called The Simpsons: Hit & Run. Radical Entertainment were responsible for the development of that game, and of predecessor Road Rage, which is arguably where Radical left their biggest cultural impact. You might not know of Jackie Chan Stuntmaster on the PS1, but you will know Hit & Run.
After the runaway success of Hit & Run in 2003, Radical would ultimately be acquired by Vivendi Universal, where they’d work on a variety of games like Scarface: The World Is Yours, Crash Tag Team Racing and Crash of the Titans. They also worked on Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, which is about as close as you can get in Radical’s back catalogue to a Prototype… well, prototype.
Hulk: Ultimate Destruction was an open world sandbox game that saw players control the un-Jolly Green Giant as he rampaged across New York City, and sometimes some random desert area. Ultimate Destruction’s open world served a great foundation for what Prototype would become, though Prototype would ultimately look a lot more like a Venom/Carnage game than something about a green dude smashing things.
In 2008, Vivendi were absorbed into Activision to form Activision Blizzard, with Radical at the time working on three projects: Crash: Mind Over Mutant, an at the time unannounced game and Prototype. That unannounced game was Scarface 2, as Vivendi President Phil O’Neil viewed the Scarface series as a key franchise for the company that could spawn “a Scarface 2, a Scarface 3, a Scarface 4, and consecutive iterations of that product as being a really important component of what we’re trying to do here.”
Due to the corporate restructuring, Scarface 2 was cancelled while the development of Prototype and Crash remained unaffected. However, Activision gutting Radical arbitrarily would come back to haunt Radical later on, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. After launching Mind Over Mutant in 2008, Radical sunk their resources into the release of Prototype in 2009.
Playing as noted edgelord and general sourpuss Alex Mercer, you try to stop an outbreak of something known as Blacklight, which mutates people into hideous monstrosities. It also happened to give you wicked awesome superpowers, as you can transform into whatever form is useful to you at that time. Need to disguise yourself as a soldier or civilian? Done. Want to turn your arm into a massive blade weapon that’d put most anime protagonists to shame? You can do that too.
Prototype would prove to be a commercial success, selling over two million copies in over a year before being released digitally on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Critically, Prototype did okay, with reviews mostly being positive about the game’s storyline and gameplay abilities. Prototype was a bit ropey though, and drew criticism for its controls and also for the drab and dreary visuals.
An interesting point of contention surrounded the game’s launch date, as Prototype would launch on June 9th, 2009 on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 (June 12th in Europe). This launch date was two weeks after the release of Sucker Punch’s Infamous, another open-world game where you play as a superpowered being, with Infamous differing from Prototype by focusing on electricity powers and a full morality system.
After the cancellation of Scarface 2 and the release of Prototype, Radical would attempt to get multiple projects off the ground. Andrew Hume spoke to Ars Technica in 2011 to confirm that the Scarface sequel was cancelled by Activision, and that he spent a year working on an unannounced game that would ultimately be cancelled too. These issues would lead to Hume leaving the company to form MinMax Games.
Another project that Radical were set to work on was Spider-Man 4, which would have been a tie-in video game to the planned sequel movie starring Tobey Maguire. Essentially, Radical would’ve been taking over development of the series from Treyarch. The game was cancelled after plans for the movie also fell through, but 3D Environment and Prop Artist Wayne Dalton posted images of the game back in 2019. Resources from the game would ultimately find their way into Prototype 2.
The Prototype sequel was first revealed at the Spike VGAs in 2010, with Radical working on the game heavily up until its release in April of 2012. Prototype 2 follows new protagonist James Heller, who would be infected with the Blacklight virus by Alex Mercer and become another super-powered badass. The story would bring the two into conflict with each other, with the majority of the game’s promotion focused on the fact you’ll be fighting against the guy you once played as.
Radical and Activision went heavy on the promotion for Prototype 2 before the game’s launch, with a Facebook app called Blacknet designed to offer behind the scenes footage of the game’s development. There was even an official iOS game called Protoslice that was designed to promote the full game, but whether or not that led to Prototype 2 becoming a success or a failure is still undecided.
Despite being one of the more successful games of the entirety of 2012, Activision would deem Prototype 2 to be a failure. Yes, even though it was the most successful game in the month it launched, Activision stated the following in a press comment to IGN: “Although we made a substantial investment in the Prototype IP, it did not find a broad commercial audience.”
That same statement came as Activision announced they were shuttering Radical for good. This was nearly a decade ago, and yet, Activision’s strategies regarding their own studios seemingly hasn’t changed. A few weeks ago at the time of writing, it was revealed that Toys For Bob, developers of Spyro Reignited and Crash 4, would become yet another Call of Duty support studio.
In that same IGN article, the statement from Activision would go on to say: “Radical is a very talented team of developers, however, we have explored various options for the studio, including a potential sale of the business, and have made a difficult conclusion through the consultation process that the only remaining option is a significant reduction in staff. As such, some employees will remain working for Radical Entertainment supporting other existing Activision Publishing projects, but the studio will cease development of its own games going forward.”
The reason why Prototype 2 “failed” in April 2012 is because pretty much all games failed at that time. NPD published statistics for game sales and industry finances in that month, finding that game sales had fallen 42% year-over-year. NPD’s analyst Anita Frazier theorised that the reason for drop could have been due to a lighter release schedule: “Last April, the top seven titles outsold the top-selling title this year, and, simply stated, there were notably fewer new market introductions. I think it’s as simple as that because when we see compelling content come into the market, the games are still selling as well as ever – we just saw a lot less this April as compared to last.”
Activision blaming the perceived lack of success for Prototype 2 and shutting down Radical as a result seems like a blindly made decision that doesn’t take into account the context of when the game launched. If Prototype 2 was the most successful game in a period where the entire industry underperformed, is it fair to blame Prototype 2? It just seems like Activision were looking for some kind of excuse to kill off Radical and be done with it, a common theme for Activision’s handling of their studios.
Will We Ever See A New Prototype Game?
I’d like to see one. Despite aging like milk that’s been sat in your living room window for six years, the original Prototype has a soft spot in my heart purely due to the level of chaos you could conjure. Assuming the identity of random civilians to smack the crap out of monsters, or using the “patsy” move to declare soldiers as monsters so that others turn on them, was always entertaining to teenage Ash.
As for whether or not we’ll ever see a sequel, I wouldn’t bet on it. We did see Prototype 1 & 2 remastered for the PS4 and Xbox One, but reception to that release was somewhat frosty, largely because they’re warts and all ports of the original games with very little in the way of improvements. If you were expecting lovely new textures and massive framerate improvements, you’d be mistaken.
Activision Blizzard have proved that they’re willing to raid their back catalogues in search of the next big hits, with remasters and remakes for the likes of Crash, Spyro, Call of Duty and the upcoming Diablo 2, but the fact remains that Activision never really held much stock or faith in the Prototype brand. They killed it and its developers off once before in sacrifice to the Call of Duty gods, so they’re not going to go back again. Not for Prototype.
Then again, no one says that Activision have to be the ones to publish a new game. They currently own the rights to the IP now, but what’s to stop some enterprising publishers from making Activision an offer for the new game? If anyone was to do it, it’d probably be THQ Nordic, who have made a habit of hoovering up all the game franchises in the world and creating ports, remasters and even full blown remakes. They did it for Destroy All Humans, they’re doing it for TimeSplitters, they could theoretically do it for Prototype.
Still, that’s just some speculation on what could happen, and the only way it’d ever become a reality is if people ask for it. Personally, a third Prototype leveraging the power of modern PCs, the PS5 and Xbox Series X | S could be a world beater, but the demand has to be there for it to happen.
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