When you consider the sheer volume of games released every year, it should come as no massive shock to learn that a staggering number of projects get shelved or canned before making it to market, and each and every one of these games has a tale to tell.
The story behind an unnamed PlayStation RTS title from the late '90s is especially interesting, as it involved Nintendo indirectly funding the development of what could have been a groundbreaking release on a rival console.
Speaking to John Szczepaniak in this new book The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers Volume 2, Agatsuma's Yasuo Nakajima speaks of a game in development at Aquamarine, the company he joined after leaving Fuurai no Shiren / Shiren the Wanderer studio Chunsoft:
The title was never decided. The CEO kept everything in this head, so we didn't have an official title. Basically, it was going to be a science-fiction RTS for the PlayStation, the PS1. But the money situation was unusual. Development was being funded by a company called Marigul Management, which was a joint venture between Nintendo and Recruit Co.
Marigul's aim was to generate cash to support the production of original IP on Nintendo systems, and between its inception in 1996 and closure in 2003 it is reputed to have help fund games like Custom Robo, Doshin the Giant and Hey, You! Pikachu. The company wasn't directly involved with development, but rather passed on the cash to a group of affiliated development partners, including Param, Noise, Clever Trick, Ambrella and Saru Brunei.
Nakajima admits that he's not sure if Nintendo was actually aware that Marigul was using its capital to fund the development of PlayStation games, but business pressures meant that the company had to expand its remit:
I believe Nintendo's objective was expanding software support for the N64, which was their platform at the time. But Marigul Management was seeing an industry-wide decline in new consumer titles, so they were looking beyond platform boundaries and investing in PlayStation titles as well.
The RTS may not have had a name, but it was incredibly ambitious, with the aim of having 3,000 different units on-screen and moving in real-time. Nakajima states that achieving this technical feat is what enabled the team to secure funding from Marigul to continue with development, but the title was sadly never finished:
Our game would have been just like a modern RTS, with everything on a single map. Do you know the game Total Annihilation? It was similar to that, with a similar science-fiction setting. So we were working on a game like that prior to Total Annihilation, but unfortunately we weren't able to complete it.
As ever, we highly recommend you pick up Szczepaniak's book if you find this story interesting - it's packed with similar tales from the past few decades of Japanese game development.