Cognition Dissemination: What Will Happen to Deus Ex?

Following the announcement of Square Enix’s multigame deal with Marvel last week, one key question was asked among numerous others: What about Deus Ex?

Though Deus Ex: Human Revolution performed well critically and commercially when it released in 2011, reports suggested Mankind Divided didn’t do anywhere near as well in sales when it released last year. Those sales looked worse when juxtaposed with info from a Jimquisition video about its development, which detailed how the game went overbudget, and that the developers were forced to stuff microtransactions in as compensation. Despite that, some assumed Square Enix would have Eidos Montreal continue with a sequel anyway. The game’s ending confirmed that it was the second chapter in a trilogy, and surely they wouldn’t be mean enough to leave fans hanging with an ending that leaves so many plot threads unresolved.

As it turns out, they are that mean. The existence of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the third game in the rebooted Tomb Raider franchise, was leaked around three months ago, and minor development rumors came  alongside it. Instead of Crystal Dynamics handling another sequel, the franchise has been handed to the aforementioned Eidos Montreal. But that didn’t mean hope was lost for another Deus Ex title, as there’s no need for all the company’s 300+ staffers to work on one game.

But after combining that info with the Marvel announcement, it was clear Deus Ex might be screwed. With Crystal Dynamics working on one and Eidos Montreal working on at least one other title, there’s no way the company will have leftover staff and resources for Deus Ex. Considering Mankind Divided took nearly five years to develop, a sequel isn’t the kind of project that can be handled by a small team, especially when you consider this would have been the finale for the current saga.

Eurogamer mentioned in their report (one that Kotaku corroborated) that most of Eidos Montreal’s staff is working on Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which should arrive sometime next year. The Marvel works will also be fully unveiled in that year. Crystal Dynamics is working on an Avengers game with Montreal’s assistance, while Montreal has started development on a Guardians of the Galaxy game — despite an episodic adventure title based on the latter series also being in development at Telltale Games. With so many hands on deck for these projects at two studios, there’s no place for Deus Ex.

(It also evident that Marvel will be pushing GotG as one of their biggest brands, considering those two gaming projects, the upcoming comics, and Vol. 2 hitting theaters in May. Just think: Rocket Raccoon was considered a little-known character only four years ago.)

On one hand, I can’t blame them for putting the Deus Ex franchise on the backburner, given the current climate. You don’t need me to tell you game development is expensive, and costs continue to climb as more powerful hardware is released on the market. Here, Square Enix simply chose to put their teams on a project guaranteed to make money, given the license. That’s good when the alternative often tends to be a stream of layoffs and the studio being downsized, even though the company’s execs are partly at fault for Mankind Divided’s lackluster sales.

But another part of me thinks they should have green lit a third game anyway, regardless of whether it would live up to sales expectations. The series has dedicated fans who are figuratively dying for a conclusion to protagonist Adam Jensen’s story, and it’s Square Enix’s fault that MD’s release was hampered. Of course, it’s easy for someone like me on a blog to say this would have been a better decision, when I’m not the one responsible for the jobs of the development team or the company’s finances.

Square Enix told Eurogamer and Kotaku they intend to continue the Deus Ex Universe, which raises questions regarding how it could return in the future. They could eventually return to the series with the follow-up, though leaving a series dormant for around half a decade to eventually release a successor to title that sold below expectations would be a wild idea. Perhaps a soft reboot would be more prudent, one that takes place in the same universe as the previous games that also happens to resolve the tale established in the Adam Jensen-led titles. But they could also entirely reboot it if they want to attract a new audience that wouldn’t want to play two older games to catch up on its story, and resolve the outstanding plot through a series of short stories, or a comic mini-series.

There’s also the chance that Deus Ex is simply dead again. What a shame that would be, huh?

The Deus Ex series contains relevant plot points for our current tumultuous world, particularly when the series sometimes eerily predicts events, like Human Revolution foreseeing the crash of oil prices in 2015. The series is nice to have around, so here’s hoping Square Enix returns to it, regardless of whether they continue the current story or reboot it while keeping the same themes.

P.S. For those of you who played Mankind Divided and enjoyed it, keep in mind a new single-player quest, “A Criminal Past,” is coming on February 23rd. Savor it while it lasts.

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