In the world of video games, it’s fairly common for a team to put years of hard work into a project, only for it to be unceremoniously shut down. More often than you’d think, games that got cancelled after years of work weren’t even announced before they met their tragic ends.
Luckily for us, there are intrepid internet detectives out there working tirelessly to uncover and document these games that never were. For 15 years, they’ve congregated at Unseen64, a website devoted to preserving the memories of unreleased games, as well as unfinished versions of games that eventually did come out.
Unseen64 just released a book called “Video Games You Will Never Play,” which contains a treasure trove of information about more than 200 unreleased games. 45 contributors worked together to put together the tome, which you can find out how to purchase on Unseen64.
In an email interview with Business Insider, Unseen64 founder and editor-in-chief Luca (also known as monokama on the site) shed some light on their investigative process.
For games that were announced before their demise, Google is Unseen64’s best friend. When the game was canned before anyone knew about it, they have to rely on developers who want to preserve their work to contact them directly.
“They give us info, images or videos to add a new missing piece to the long history of video games,” Luca said. “An important part of this process is the trust that Unseen64 collected during all these years of archiving beta and cancelled games; we respect the privacy of developers and they can remain anonymous, just in case there are still some copyright issues by sharing memories or documents from those lost games.”
One such game was “Animal Wars,” a PS3 exclusive game by Factor 5, the company behind the popular “Star Wars: Rogue Squadron” series. The strategic role-playing game would have been set in an alternate version of World War I, where a worldwide conflict between nations of animals was triggered by the assassination of “Archduke Birdinand.”
“Video Games You Will Never Play” was the end result of nearly two years of work. Luca and the other site members who started the project planned out the book on a broad level, but volunteers from the site helped put together its contents, from conducting interviews to writing articles.
“This is a great community and many people answered our call,” Luca said. “Some people were able to write dozens of articles for the book, others only one or two articles, but by collaborating all together we were able to reach the 480 pages the final book is composed of.”
The book exists as a sort of celebration of Unseen64’s 15th anniversary. It’s a physical monument to the work Luca and other site members have put in over the years, something that can’t be taken away by the fickle nature of the internet.
“We don’t know if our website will still be online in 5, 10 or 30 years, but at least a physical book sold on Amazon could still be easily available in the future, or at least exist in a physical form in people’s homes, in libraries and in a few gaming museums that we got in contact with,” Luca said.
You might be wondering why people work so hard to document games that nobody will ever play. Luca said it’s all about cultural preservation.
“We would like to remember and save some memories from lost video games for historic and artistic preservation, and also to satisfy our curiosity,” Luca said. “On a collective scale, video games are one kind of human art and it’s important to preserve it as a memento of what human imagination and talent could have created.”
As for the future of Unseen64, Luca said one of the group’s current objectives is to find out more about a cancelled Nintendo Entertainment System game based on the David Lynch TV series “Twin Peaks.” Of course, there will always be more unreleased games to talk about that we don’t even know exist yet.
Luca spent thousands of hours writing and editing to put this book together, as did dozens of volunteers. As an act of goodwill, each volunteer received a free copy of the book.
“This is another labor of love and passion,” Luca said. “I will never repay all the time I spent on this project, but I’m just happy to finally see it published.”
Luca’s comments to Business Insider have been lightly edited for grammar and clarity. To find out more about “Video Games You Will Never Play,” click here.