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 June 18, 2001



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If, by some miracle, Half-Life was released for the Dreamcast, would you still buy it?

Not Given Half A Chance: The Cancellation of Half-Life

The weeks of rumors and suppositions were true, but one answer eludes us all: why?

June 18, 2001

The month of June 2001 was supposed to be a great month for the Dreamcast. Despite being abandoned by numerous third party developers like a disfigured step-child, the hardy SEGA system was supposed to enjoy a great June 2001 with the likes of Worms World Party and, of course, Sonic Adventure 2. But last Friday's announcement on Sierra's community boards, as well as a general press announcement, left us, not surprised, but shocked. For those that didnt catch it, it went something like this:

Sierra regrets the cancellation of Half-Life for the Dreamcast due to changing market conditions.

This wasn't surprising, of course; for several weeks, we've heard all the rumors, noticed the missing release date in several video game retailer websites, and read all the suppositions from various video game sites. What made the announcement so shocking was the concise delivery of the announcement - the explanation was very broad, the release originated from Sierra's community boards, and most of all, it hardly gave any of the several Dreamcast owners a satisfying answer as to why.

When Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 was canceled for the Dreamcast, we somewhat understood the decision; the Dreamcast version was still in its preliminary stages of development and with a release date looming in a couple of months, it was either delay the release of the DC version or cancel altogether. Obviously, Eidos decided to cancel the DC version while it was still pretty early. Such is not the case with Half-Life for Dreamcast; only weeks away from its release date, Sierra felt that canceling the game would be less costlier than putting it out on the market. There is some reason to the decision; other than first party titles, the sales of third party DC titles have been rapidly decreasing to the point where even the mighty Capcom is unsure of releasing Capcom Vs SNK 2 in the US. Cutting its "predicted losses in sales", after spending countless hours of development time, seems like a smart business decision, at least from Sierra's point of view.

However, from our extended coverage of the game and from my personal experience in working the industry, I personally think it would've been better for Sierra to release the game. As stated above, a lot of time has been spent on the development of Half-Life for the Dreamcast; our preview version, aside from a few bugs here and there, would've been the final version of the game. Do you spend this much time and manpower on a game to the point where it's nearly completed and suddenly drop the project, as phenomenal as the game was? Another thing about Half-Life is the game itself; it's not like this is Ducati World or Soul Fighter but a game that has a good combination of hype and video game excellence. From the thousands of emails I've received in the past three days,
- advertisement -
would've done quite well on the Dreamcast. Lastly, it's not good business in terms of customer satisfaction and as attention deficient as most of the video game consumers are, there is a percentage that will remember - that may impact their next video game purchase.

Of course, Im not in the business of making and/or selling video games, so perhaps there's a lot more that I'm missing... that plus after giving a full week to this awesome game, it's tough to just give up the fight to a one sentence cancellation announcement. Now, before we hammer down the final nail in the coffin, is there any remote possibility - outside of piracy, of course - that the game will release? Before you start making divine intervention jokes, there have been rumors swirling around that Half-Life may somehow rise from the grave and bless our Dreamcast. One rumor claims that perhaps Sierra will make some arrangement with some video game publication, magazine or online, and offer the game as a pack-in, thus enabling Sierra to make a huge tax-write off that may cover the production costs. Although possible, Sierra denies that any type of deal like that is in the works. That leaves us with the only other possibility - a new third party publisher picks up the title. Alas, with third party DC sales rapidly decreasing, there's little chance of any major third party picking up the title. In any case, we can hope all we want, but we can't hide from the ugly truth: the Dreamcast is slowing dying and due to "changing market conditions" Half-Life for Dreamcast is dead.

--Anthony Chau, IGNDC

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