Died before it could even be born.
Here’s some word association for you. Red? Blood. Clouds? Rain. Boy? God of War. Vaporware? Agent.
In June 2009, at Sony’s E3 conference, something new and exciting was announced. A fresh new IP from industry legends Rockstar. Agent- a game set during the Cold War in the late 70s, with a focus on political intrigue, tactical espionage, and assassinations. Announced as a PS3 exclusive, Agent was being billed as the next big thing from the masterminds behind Grand Theft Auto, as the the Housers brothers’ next big idea.
It goes without saying that people were excited to see what it was all about, and how it would bolster the PS3’s library. All of us waited for bated breath to not just get our hands on the game, but even to get our first real look at the game itself, because at that time, all we had was a name and a premise. So we waited- and waited. And we’re waiting still.
It’s been over a decade now, and by now, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Agent, sadly enough, is never going to be anything more than an idea. But how is it that this next big Rockstar property, announced as a rare third party exclusive to one system, that the entire industry was so excited for, turned into something that would go on to never see the light of day? This was a game that Rockstar seemed really excited about when they first announced it, and when we first heard about its premise, so were we- so why did we never get to see it become an actual game? What the hell happened to Agent?
When Rockstar and Sony first announced Agent as a new PS3-exclusive IP, not only did they describe it as “genre-defining”, but also as a game that would “set the bar” for the industry as a whole. The word around town was that Take-Two Interactive, Rockstar’s parent company, were grooming Agent to be the next big thing, as the next GTA, with Sam and Dan Houser personally overseeing the game’s development.
Back then, in fact, it very much looked like it was all hands on deck for Agent, with Rockstar stating quite confidently that the game might be out as early as 2010, which was just a year away when the game was first unveiled. Given that, it would stand to reason that development for the title had been progressing nicely.
Work on Agent first started all the way back in 2003 (or thereabouts), and though it was put on hold indefinitely at the time, considering the fact that Rockstar began teasing the project around 2007, it wouldn’t be a leap to assume that production resumed around that time. And with two or three years of development under their belt, that Rockstar were confident of a 2010 release date when the game was first announced doesn’t seem that far-fetched.
Obviously, something went wrong behind-the-scenes, because after two years of absolute radio silence from all parties concerned, at E3 2011, then-SCEA chief Jack Tretton cast doubt over any progress Rockstar may have made over Agent, or if it would be a PS3 exclusive anymore. Even then, though, at worst we assumed that the game had suffered a delay, and that it would still eventually come out.
But as time went on, updates on Agent grew rarer and rarer. Back when the PS4 was revealed in 2013 and there was still no sign of Agent releasing on the PS3, many assumed that the game had shifted to the next-gen console- but it was just that. An assumption. All we heard or saw of the game over the years were leaks of concept art from the profiles of artists who’d been working on the game, showing various environments both indoors and outdoors.
As far as official word from the developers and publishers themselves was concerned, there was nothing but cagey non-answers on that front. In 2013, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick gave the good old “we have nothing to share” quote, and that was really that last we hard anything about the game from all parties concerned.
Until not too long ago, there was still hope, however faint, that something might still come out of Rockstar that would resemble the game they had announced all the way back in 2009. The Agent trademark was renewed by Rockstar in 2013, then in 2014, and then once again in 2016. Given all those renewals, there were some who still held out hope that Rockstar would perhaps eventually get back to working on the game. But then last year in November, the Agent trademark was officially abandoned, driving the final nail in the game-that-never-was’ coffin.
So yes, as heart-breaking as it might be, I think we’ve all come to accept by now that Agent is never going to happen. It feels strange to feel sadness about the cancellation (such as it is) of a game that never even got off the ground, that we never even saw in action for even a single second. But the lure of a big, new IP by Rockstar, and the inherently fascinating nature of its premise combined to make it a truly mouth-watering experience.
In the absence of any official word from Rockstar or Take-Two (or even Sony), all we can do is speculate about why Agent never saw the light of day, but there are some speculations to be made for sure. Given the timeframe of Agent’s announcement (and as such, its development) and what was originally intended as its launch date for 2010, it might not be a stretch to assume that work on the game clashed with Red Dead Redemption, which also came out in 2010. And Red Dead Redemption had, after all, an infamously gruelling crunch period, especially in the final legs of its development, so it’s entirely possible that Rockstar pulled in people from other projects (i.e., Agent) to finish world on the game.
But what about after Red Dead Redemption’s launch? Well, not log after Red Dead came out, Grand Theft Auto 5 became the centre of attention at Rockstar. It launched just three years after RDR, and it was an even bigger production- significantly so. Connect the dots, and the assumption one would draw is that after Red Dead was shipped, it was all hands on deck for GTA 5.
Agent is little more than a concept now. We all but know that it’s never going to be released, and even though that foolish optimist in all of us keeps on hoping that Rockstar hasn’t given up on this title, we’ve all come to accept that that is indeed foolish optimism. Rockstar is dedicated to Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption almost entirely – hell, even a new Bully game looks unlikely – so perhaps it is time, finally, to let the Agent dream die.