A while back I had a thought; what if the Titan IP wasn't actually new? It would be "new" for players who hadn't seen it outside Blizzard, but what if the Titan IP or ideas were actually very old or acquired from another company?
It was something I was going to recommend to Mynsc one day: "Hey, you should investigate companies that Blizzard acquired to see if they bought any IP along with it!" I did a quick glance over acquired IPs at the time, though, and I couldn't find anything interesting so there was really no point and I just forgot about it.
Fast forward a couple months, and I had found a puzzle piece that actually connected Titan to earlier game concepts. This connection to SAS is what led me to create that post about Swingin' Ape Studios (henceforth referred to as SAS) and their other "secret" projects. If you haven't read it already, I recommend that you do.
Why Acquire A Company?
You see, the thing with gaming developers, publishers, or any business for that matter, is that they all go through the same patterns and they all end up the same. Every large and aging business eventually dies, or it's absorbed into another company or conglomerate. As businesses become successful in what they do, they become complacent and they stop evolving or changing with the times. One day, it's too late for them to adapt, and a younger start-up steps in and steals their market.
Blockbuster is a perfect example. They thought that physical media rentals (VHS, DVD, BluRay) would be around forever and jumped into digital delivery far too late (and they did it the wrong way). Every successful business right now will eventually be acquired by a younger company or go bankrupt.. they'll join the ranks of once-big-names like Acclaim, Atari, Hercules, 3DFX, Epyx, Commodore, Marvel, etc.
In order to stay alive, the trick is to change, evolve, or stay fresh. And the only way do that is either to replace the management team or acquire younger businesses that can bring in fresh ideas or new approaches. The smart businesses do this anyways.. sometimes these "old man companies" buy out younger businesses to purely eliminate competition or for short term goals.
The SAS/Blizzard Next-Gen Team
To kick things off, let's start out with the information that got me interested in SAS in the first place.
John Lafleur is a programmer on Blizzard's Next Gen MMO, and he previously worked on Metal Arms as well as other secret projects within SAS. To view his older resume entries, go here and here.
So, Swingin' Ape Studios was previously working on an "Unannounced Next Generation Console" game that started in April 2003, as well as an "Unannounced PS2 Title" that started in September 2003.
It appears that the "Unannounced PS2 Title" was in fact Starcraft: Ghost but they expanded development to the XBOX and GameCube as well. They were still working on another secret project, though, entitled the "Unannounced Next Generation Console" game.
After SAS was acquired by Blizzard Entertainment, they also acquired this Next Generation Console game and it was something that continued development. John was technical director for Starcraft Ghost and he was also made technical director for the other Unannounced Next Gen game. Eventually, when the team was broken up (due to continued SC Ghost problems), he was relocated to World of Warcraft for a short period of time, and then immediately to the Next Gen MMO as soon as the project started. :)
John still lists the "Unannounced Title" (where he was "Technical Director") in his resume, even though it's not in development anymore. And he's now the "Lead Engine Programmer" for the current Next Gen MMO.
Nathan Miller also worked for SAS on the SC Ghost project (which was console exclusive), and he was one of the first individuals to be moved into the Titan team as well (he was actually hired back from Blizzard after a 1 year absence to specifically work on the Next Gen MMO). :)
In 2005, Blizzard had several positions up for their "Next Gen Console team". But then in August 2006, the employees of the console division were redeployed onto other projects within the company (e.g. when Nathan moved to WOW before leaving Blizzard 3 months later) and SC Ghost was pretty much cancelled.
Now, you would assume that this Unannounced Next Gen Console game was probably just the Ghost project, but John makes a clear distinction between Ghost and the other "Unannounced Project". Ghost was already announced by then too. Plus, SAS started work on the Next Gen Console game in April 2003 which was long before Blizzard even talked to them about SC Ghost.
Whatever this project was, it didn't have anything to do with Blizzard, and Blizzard didn't know anything about the secret project until they started their Ghost relationship. After that, SAS was suddenly acquired, along with some of the employees, their IPs and game ideas.
If the project was eventually abandoned, or if it is still being worked on within Blizzard, there's at least evidence showing that there was/is another project being worked on. It might be Titan or it might not be. (It's not an Action RPG or RTS though. The SAS team focused on Next Gen/Console 3D games similar to WoW or Ghost.)
In March 2006, Blizzard decided to re-evaluate SC Ghost as a Next-Gen (PS3 / XBOX360) title instead. Previously, it was being designed for the PS2 and XBOX platforms. This was around the time that they had all of the new postings for the Next Gen Console game before Ghost ended in August 2006.
As you're aware, the first hints of Blizzard's Next Gen MMO were from mid 2007 job postings.
But in June 2006, a full year before it's existence was made known, Vivendi (the owner of Activision Blizzard) published a presentation for their investors which detailed future Blizzard franchises and plans for growth.
In this document, they state that Blizzard has three core franchises that were born on PC, but they are investing heavily into "new executions" across multiple franchises. They make note of their investment into SAS, as well as a curious investment into a "Next Gen PC" game.
Blizzard’s three core franchises were born on PC but are rich in character and naturally extendable"Product Development Investment Per Game":
* We are investing heavily right now in developing new executions across multiple franchises
* Purchased and integrated Swingin’ Ape as core of next gen console strategy
* Put investments in place for numerous future Blizzard products
"Over €50MM MMORPG" (Most likely WOW and Expansion Packs)
"Over €10-13MM Next Gen Console" (Early development costs for SC Ghost)
"Over €10MM Next Gen PC" (Early development costs of a Next Gen MMO)
Strange that at the same time they were investing into future franchises, they acquired SAS, set aside funding for a future Next Gen MMO title, and said that SAS was a part of this future strategy. They also indicated Subscription and Transaction-based business models for these games.