After 19 months since its initial announcement, the Nintendo Switch version of Steep has been canceled in the most anticlimactic way possible—a tweet. I’m not quite sure what Ubisoft was thinking here, but one thing is clear: It’s never a good idea to announce a game early.
The situation surrounding the Switch version of the game has been mysterious pretty much since day one. It was one of the very first games announced for the system; it was actually announced before the console even launched. It made a very quick appearance in the sizzle reel from Nintendo’s special Switch January 2017 presentation, and that’s about the only time we’ve ever seen any media related to the Switch version of the game.
There have never been any trailers, gameplay clips, or even screenshots since that announcement. This very likely indicates that the footage that was used wasn’t from the Switch version at all. Worry surrounding Steep on Switch was first raised back in July 2017 when a rumor came out stating that the dev team was having a hard time porting the game over to the system, so much so that Nintendo allegedly had to step in to offer assistance. Despite this rumor, members of the team came forward in both August and October 2017 to mention that progress was being made, but they did so in an arguably vague manner. The vague responses continued, with the last mention of the Switch version from the team occurring just this July, reconfirming that it was “still planned.”
Now, this has all culminated in the aforementioned anticlimactic tweet, where the official Steep Twitter account responded to a fan asking about the status of the Switch version. Their response was that development has been canceled in favor of supporting the game further on the other platforms (PC, PS4, and Xbox One). Many folks were understandably upset by the response, not only because of the cancellation but also because of the incredibly amateur way the team decided to break the news. Many called Ubisoft out on Twitter asking the same general question: “If nobody had asked about the Switch version, when did you intend to say that you had decided to cancel it?”
The extensive silence from the dev team since the initial announcement makes you wonder if any real progress was ever made.
At the time of writing, Ubisoft has yet to release a formal statement on the matter, or even give a proper explanation as to what happened with the development of the Switch version of Steep. Despite the lack of an official word, I think I have a pretty good idea of what happened here. In its simplest form, the problem is that somebody in the company jumped the gun big time. And this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen something like this happen to a high-profile game on a Nintendo system. This situation reminds me a lot of what happened just a few years ago with Slightly Mad Studios’ Project CARS back on the Wii U. In fact, the similarities between these cases are interestingly close.
To briefly recap, Slightly Mad announced Project CARS would be coming to the Wii U about a year before the system was even launched. It was also announced to be coming to PS3, 360, and PC. The PS3 and 360 versions were later on swapped out for the PS4 and Xbox One, but Wii U was still kept on board. Slightly Mad used this as an opportunity to talk about how powerful the Wii U was on several occasions, adding more hype to the release. However, no screenshots or gameplay clips were ever shared. The game kept running into delays, but the team kept insisting it was coming, Wii U version included. Eventually, shortly before launch, the Wii U version was flat-out canceled, with the reason being that the team ran into “development issues” and that performance wasn’t up to the level that they were happy with. Wow, doesn’t this sound awfully familiar?
Project CARS U and Steep fundamentally seemed to have the same story. What it all boils down to is that both games were announced far too early. It seems that both Slightly Mad and Ubisoft were initially excited to bring their games over to Nintendo’s systems, but eventually realized they bit off more than they could chew. The Project CARS situation was technically more egregious since the team actually kept hyping up the Wii U hardware, on top of the game being crowdfunded. At least Ubisoft decided to be incredibly sheepish and not say much, but that’s still a problem since, again, nothing was ever truly shown. That leads me to believe that when Steep was announced to be coming to Switch back in 2017, the decision had probably been made just prior to that. That isn’t how a game announcement should be handled.
Project CARS on Wii U had a very similar situation to Steep–announced very early, and then canceled after no real details were released aside from hype fodder.
The old saying “Promises are meant to be broken,” is probably one of the most contradictory adages I’ve ever come across. Simply, if you’re going to make a promise to anyone about anything, you should only do so knowing (not just thinking) that there’s a 99.9% chance you’ll be able to fulfill whatever you’re promising to do. The remaining 0.1% is left out in the event that some incredibly drastic unforeseen obstacle comes in the way of fulfilling that promise at the last minute.
In like manner, a game announcement is essentially a promise from the developers that a project will be delivered. It’s not as if this were a case of a random Steep dev saying something casually like, “Oh, we may bring the game over if we can.” No, a formal announcement was made. The game’s logo had a spot on Nintendo-made infographics, as well as its own webpage on the official website (which has been speedily taken down after news of the cancellation made the rounds). No matter which way you slice or dice it, this situation was handled quite poorly and should be a lesson to all other AAA companies and indie devs.
It really shouldn’t be that hard to announce a game only after extensive development progress has been made. Even if a definite release date can’t be given (although you really should be to a point where you do have one), the game should be far enough along that there should be little-to-no room for any “Oops, it looks like we can’t do it after all,” moments.
I really have to wonder what happened here, though. Ubisoft has been a big supporter of the Switch for a long time. Its CEO even repeatedly commended the system prior to launch. And we know some of its studios have in-depth knowledge of the system’s hardware, specifically the team behind Mario + Rabbids. So, again, I’m dumbfounded as to how Steep managed to fall completely flat. Regardless of what happened here though, I just hope this doesn’t become a trend. We saw this same situation happen a lot with the Wii U already, so there’s no good reason to revisit those dark times.
“Surprises” like this can be easily avoided: Announce games only when development has progressed well enough.
Having been introduced to video games at the age of 3 via a Nintendo 64, A.K has grown up in the culture. A fan of simulators and racers, with a soft spot for Nintendo! But, he has a great respect for the entire video game world and enjoys watching it all expand as a whole.