Blizzard has officially canceled development on its mysterious next-generation massively multiplayer game Titan. The company confirmed the news to Polygon in a recent interview.
This revelation comes after at least seven years in development and word last year that the developer was going back to the drawing board to reevaluate the project.
Speaking to Polygon, Blizzard co-founder and CEO Mike Morhaime reiterated that the company has technically never officially announced Titan, though it hasn't been shy to talk about the game over the past seven years. "We had created World of Warcraft, and we felt really confident that we knew how to make MMOs," Morhaime said. "So we set out to make the most ambitious thing that you could possibly imagine. And it didn't come together.
"We didn't find the fun," Morhaime continued. "We didn't find the passion. We talked about how we put it through a reevaluation period, and actually, what we reevaluated is whether that's the game we really wanted to be making. The answer is no."
Chris Metzen, Blizzard's senior vice president of story and franchise development, called the decision to cancel Titan "excruciating." Morhaime agreed: "It's always really, really hard to make those kind of decisions. It was hard when we canceled Warcraft Adventures. It was hard when we canceled StarCraft Ghost. But it has always resulted in better-quality work."
"The discipline of knowing when to quit is important," Metzen said. "We were losing perspective and getting lost in the weeds a little. We had to allow ourselves to take that step back and reassess why the hell we were doing that thing in the first place."
As Metzen and Morhaime have looked back on the past decade at Blizzard, a major factor in their decision to pursue Titan was the immense success of World of Warcraft, the company's first MMO and still the most financially successful game ever released in the genre.
"Is this really who we are? Is this really what we want?"
"We were trying to do the right thing and build the right, smart product, and keep it all moving," Metzen said. "The opportunity to get that perspective and dust off a little bit, scraped knees and all, stand back up and reevaluate as a team, as leaders, as a culture — it was a big blessing."
Metzen spoke of a "sense of inertia and obligation and identity that we hold in ourselves and the community may also hold toward us" that pushed Blizzard to focus development resources on a second MMO. "Is this really who we are?" he asked. "Is this really what we want? Is this really what we want to burn our passion and our work lives, our careers on, for years on end?"
"Are we the MMORPG company?" he added later, in conclusion to that line of questioning.
Morhaime answered that last rhetorical question quite simply: "We don't want to identify ourselves with a particular genre. We just want to make great games every time."
Metzen compared Blizzard's creative struggles with Titan to that of a band: "I'm not saying we're an old rock band. But you watch documentaries about The Rolling Stones or U2 or these bands that have lasted for a while. And there's times where they just drive each other batshit crazy. For as good as they are and the experience they have, sometimes you just don't find it, and you've got to get out of the damn studio and go have a beer and regroup."
"In many ways, Titan was that for us," Metzen said. "We took a step back and realized that it had some cool hooks. It definitely had some merit as a big, broad idea, but it didn't come together. It did not distill. The music did not flow. For all our good intentions and our experience and the pure craftsmanship that we brought together, we had to make that call."
The approach seems obvious if you look at Blizzard's history of canceling projects it doesn't have complete confidence in, but Morhaime made the company's philosophy clear: "That's for sure, that we'd rather cut out a game we put a lot of time and resources into than put out something that might..."
Metzen finished Morhaime's sentence: "Damage the relationship. Smash the trust."
"I wouldn't say no to ever doing an MMO again," Morhaime said. "But I can say that right now, that's not where we want to be spending our time."
Metzen clarified that Blizzard will continue supporting World of Warcraft. "My hope personally is that we'll support it forever," he said.
Throughout the interview, Metzen and Morhaime suggested that the recent trend of smaller-scale Blizzard releases like Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm has played a part in the company moving away from Titan.
"I think the lesson that comes around again is just making damn sure that the things we commit to do and the things we burn calories on and the things we commit to our community that we will do are coming from a place of focus and inspiration," Metzen said.
He explained that Hearthstone had helped the studio realize that they don't need to fit themselves into the box of only making products of a certain scale.
"Maybe we can be what we want to be and inspire groups around the company to experiment, get creative, think outside the box and take chances on things that just might thrill people," Metzen said. "Maybe they don't have to be these colossal, summer blockbuster-type products."
Stay tuned to Polygon for more Blizzard news throughout the coming week, including an in-depth look at how the developer's culture has shifted and survived throughout the company's 23-year history.