Games get canceled all the time, and while we occasionally hear about them via official announcements or reporting, more often they are canceled before they ever reach the news. We got a rare glimpse into the process during Take-Two's earnings today, which revealed that an unannounced game cancellation cost the company $53 million.
The company cites the cancellation in its earnings as part of an "impairment charge," which in releases like these means that the company had assets that it now finds are unexpectedly worth a whole lot less than they previously valued them at. For example, say GameStop buys a lot of amiibo, expecting to sell them for a certain amount of money. Then, sudddenly, Nintendo cancels amiibo support for its games and no one wants to buy those amiibo anymore. GameStop might report an impairment charge on its amiibo for the amount of money it expects to lose by putting them on heavy discount just to get them out of its warehouse.
In Take-Two's case, this effectively means that it spent about $53 million on a game it was making, but no longer expects to be able to do anything sellable with the things it spent that money on.
When reached for comment, Take-Two declined to give further detail as to what the canceled game was. Though the earnings indicated the title was unannounced, one possibility is that it could have been the long-hoped-for Bully 2, though there's no evidence to confirm this. Another possibility is Agent, a Cold War espionage thriller that did get originally announced at E3 2009. Its website was shut down just last month without any explanation. It also appears to have been deleted from Rockstar's games section on its website, and its trademark was abandoned in 2018.
Whatever the case, $53 million is a hefty amount to lose on a game, even if it is just a fraction of what the company makes in a quarter (in this case, $985 million in net bookings). It's also a not-insignificant chunk of what it takes to make some of Take-Two's biggest titles. Borderlands 3, for instance, is said to have cost around $95 million to make, plus $140 million for its DLC — though it was reportedly massively over budget.
Whatever it was, Take-Two still has plenty more games on deck for the next few years, and has repeatedly given guidance that it's ramping up game production, including on "immersive core" releases similar to 2K sports titles and GTA 5. So even if we've lost one game we never knew we had, there are many, many more games queued up to take its place.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.