By all reports, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided didn’t sell as well as predecessor Human Revolution, and sold below Square Enix’s expectations. While this came as a disappointment due to the game’s quality, despite its world being considerably smaller than the previous game’s, it was a larger heartbreaker for those who played it because of the inconclusive story. A reliable rumor said that Square Enix felt it was the best decision to split its story into at least two parts thanks to either its prolonged development time (there was a five-year gap between both titles) or the high budget.
Its sales raised the question as to whether Square Enix would continue the series, but it was initially assumed that they would thanks to the newest game’s lack of a conclusion. Many plot threads were left unresolved that couldn’t be answered through DLC, which is why those particular quests deal with answering other more minor story developments.
However, the worst fears of anyone who was awaiting the conclusion seemed to be realized after seeing what developer Eidos Montreal is working on. Though it surprisingly still hasn’t been announced, rumors from reliable sources suggested that Shadow of the Tomb Raider is being handled by them instead of Crystal Dynamics. The latter developer is currently busy with an Avengers game, in a special partnership with Marvel. But in addition to the new Tomb Raider title, Eidos Montreal is also working on a Guardians of the Galaxy game, which doesn’t leave them many resources for a new Deus Ex game. A subsequent report seemingly confirmed the inevitable: The Deus Ex franchise is on hold.
Or is it!? During an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Square Enix CEO Yosuke Matsuda disconfirmed part of those previous reports. He said the company has never said anything about stopping the series, and expressed confusion as to why this rumor was so widespread. But he did confirm that they don’t have limitless resources, and that a new Deus Ex game is currently not in development. It also appears they have no intention of developing a future installment outside Eidos Montreal. He affirmed that Deus Ex is still an important franchise for them, and they’re exploring what to do with the next installment.
This means at least part of that rumor is right, since Shadow of the Tomb Raider still hasn’t been announced. But those who thought Deus Ex could only be taking a respite only to reemerge in the future could be right.
In saying the team at Eidos Montreal is exploring what to do with the next installment, it sounds like this won’t be a straight sequel to Mankind Divided. Don’t be surprised if they take an alternative approach with a new protagonist, but still find a way to address Adam Jensen’s story. One of the most stated reasons why the newest game didn’t sell as well was because it was too similar to its predecessor, despite coming five years later. A game featuring a story from a new perspective would give it a fresher feel.
But there’s no saying how long that will take to develop, or if a new Deus Ex game would take a form similar to previous titles in terms of its genre. If the new Tomb Raider title and the GotG game have better sales performance than Mankind Divided (and there’s a high chance of the latter achieving that, at least), Square Enix could leave Eidos Montreal on those two franchises for the foreseeable future. Given that we’re discussing what will be a modern AAA game, don’t be surprised if Square Enix wants to take an entirely different approach to Deus Ex, to the point that it won’t be a single-player adventure game.
Here’s hoping Deus Ex makes a return in the fashion its fanbase is familiar with, but whose result could reattract those who purchased Human Revolution but skipped the sequel and expand the audience for the franchise. The Deus Ex games captured the future in a more realistic fashion compared to other games, and suffused its themes with grounded cyberpunk elements. Some of them have in-game world developments that could realistically and frighteningly happen, like a universal AI program taking over the role of the press (planet-run media), persecution of others with augments (despite sometimes not being handled subtly enough), and western countries having the level of violent insurgency usually seen in Middle Eastern and African ones.
By the time Deus Ex returns, hopefully the market will have recrafted a place for B-tier games to make it easier to fund this title. There’s a chance Square Enix could observe the underwhelming sales of other recent big-budget first-person single-player adventure games like Dishonored 2 and Prey and feel a “traditional” Deus Ex isn’t worth bothering with. Changes in the video game market can occur quickly, and hopefully that happens in a way that allows for games smaller than AAA titles (but larger than indie titles) to thrive again.