Sometimes games get revealed, trailers and gameplay are shown, but for whatever reason, those games never see the light of day. Absent Without Leave takes a look at some of those titles, trawling back through their history and piecing together the key moments in order to attempt to work out why exactly these games might have gone AWOL.
This first instalment of AWOL will be trying to understand what may have happened to Rockstar’s Agent and whether there is any chance it could reappear in the future. The first time we heard about Agent – although we didn’t know it was called Agent at the time – was during E3 2007. In a special E3 episode of Spike TV’s Game Head, Jack Tretton – the then President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America – revealed when interviewed that Sony had secured exclusive rights to Rockstar’s next big franchise and that it wasn’t the upcoming LA Noire. We didn’t know it at the time, but the title Jack was talking about was Agent. Jack’s comments were made into an official statement by Michael Shorrock (SCEA’s Director of Third-Party Relations) on the PlayStation Blog. He stated that “As part of our long-standing relationship with Rockstar, and the incredible success for both companies with the cultural icon that is Grand Theft Auto, we’ve agreed to the PlayStation exclusive rights of the next great franchise from the Rockstar studios.” This got the PlayStation community buzzing with speculation, but after this post, two years went by with no new information…
It wasn’t until 2009 at Sony’s E3 press conference, the year that the PlayStation Move was announced, gameplay for both Uncharted 2 and God of War III was shown as well as the infamous (original) Last Guardian teaser, that we heard anything more. Jack Tretton got up on stage and in front of a brand new logo officially announced that the new exclusive franchise he had spoken about 2 years prior was called Agent.
This is still, unfortunately, one of the only instances, where Agent has publicly been spoken about by Sony and all we learned, was that it was set to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive and that it would “take the player across the glove amidst the shadowy world of espionage and assassins in the darkest hours of the late 1970s.” On September 7th 2009 Rockstar posted a Q&A on their blog which stated that Agent could be released as soon as 2010. Considering the lack of information available about the game in 2009, this timeframe seemed more than optimistic. With no gameplay or even an announcement trailer, it was always unlikely that Agent was going to be released within 12 – 18 months.
Over the next few months and up until June 9th 2010 Take-Two Interactive continued to confirm that the game was still in development and that it was a PlayStation 3 exclusive. Although behind in their 2010 target, things still looked good for Agent, but then in 2011 something seemed to change. On May 24th 2011 Take-Two Interactive did confirm that the game was still in development during a financial earnings conference call, but only a few months later at E3 2011 it seemed the exclusivity had now been brought into question. Jack Tretton, when asked about Agent’s PlayStation 3 exclusivity in an interview with GTTV said: “I’m not sure exactly where we’ll land on that, that’s more something for Rockstar to decide, but I’m sure we’ll have a great offering on Agent for PS3.” This was the first big warning sign for the life of Agent. Logic would suggest that if Sony were previously able to speak with such certainty that Agent would be a PlayStation exclusive, then something must have happened for them to 180 on this agreement, although this is speculative of course.
Not long after this in August, tangible evidence of Agent’s development leaked through an environmental artist’s online resume. Leigh Donoghue had been working on both Agent and Grand Theft Auto V and the images included in the resume show a character as well as some indoor environments. The images were very clearly dated as 2009 so only confirm that the game was in active development during the time it was originally announced. In the following years with the PS4 launch on the horizon, it became almost a certainty that we wouldn’t be seeing Agent on the PlayStation 3.
In February 2013 the PS4 launched and Shuhei Yoshida (President of SIE Worldwide Studios) was asked during a media roundtable about Agent and responded by saying “You are asking the wrong person. I have some knowledge, but I’m not in a position to talk about it.” A vague answer, but a promising one. In the same year on July 18th, Take-Two Interactive filed new trademarks for the Agent name and logo. These were exactly the same as were filed in 2009 but as there is a limit on the number of extensions allowed they were required to abandon the previous trademark and file a new one. Agent, at least in Take-Two’s eyes, was definitely not dead.
Things had been relatively quiet on the Agent front for quite some time, the Agent trademark was once again abandoned (due to running out of extensions) and refiled in December 2016. The only real new information came from a Twitter leak from user Bully2Info. The leaked images are of supposed concept art for the game, showing off 3 snowy locations, one featuring a possible character from the game. The user – who had been using the account to leak Bully 2 information – had supposedly managed to get hold of the images because someone was unhappy about Rockstar’s move to crack down on modding. These images have not been verified but do fit with the original Soviet-era setting for the game.
Since then Agent has gone back into its long slumber. The trademark was given its 2nd extension on April 12th this year, but considering this trademark has been kept alive for almost a decade, it doesn’t necessarily point towards an imminent announcement. Red Dead Redemption 2 is mere months away from release and it’s almost certain that Rockstar won’t want to detract away from that with a new game announcement. It would have been hard to believe that in 2009 when Jack Tretton first announced Agent that we would potentially be debating whether it may be a PlayStation 5 title, but that is the case. We know that Sony is working on the next generation of PlayStation and – although speculative – it’s likely we will get an official announcement next year. Could Agent be being lined up as a launch title? It’s unlikely but possible. If true, it’s more than likely that it’s no longer a PlayStation exclusive. It’s been 7 years since Jack Tretton was unable to confirm it was still exclusively coming to PlayStation and with the success of GTA V on multiple platforms and Red Dead Redemption 2’s imminent arrival, Agent (if it still exists) may now be multi-platform. Rockstar have always been good at keeping a secret and are not exactly known for turning around games quickly. If there are still active plans for Agent, the chances are we probably won’t hear about them until Rockstar wants us to.