A Brief History of Beyond Good & Evil 2’s Rocky Development

After recent reports of Beyond Good & Evil 2 still being in “early development” we’re taking a look back at the near 15 year development period…

This week, sources revealed that Ubisoft’s upcoming AAA blockbuster, Beyond Good and Evil 2, was in early development. As soon as this news came out, I gotta tell ya, I felt like I was taking crazy pills.

This game was initially teased (a trailer and everything) back in 2008, before going silent for nearly a decade. The BIG reveal wouldn’t come until E3 2017, where creator Michel Ancel  confided that the 2008 trailer was from a version of the game that no longer existed. So, even taking the 2008 portion out of the equation, how can a game announced in 2017 be in “early development?”

Let’s look into the timeline of what has happened since that epic reveal in 2017.

To put things a bit more in perspective, since Beyond Good and Evil 2 was re-announced in 2016, God of War, Resident Evil, and Horizon released two main games in their respective series. The Last of Us had a sequel, a remaster, remake, AND has a TV show releasing in a month. At least six Pokemon games have been released, while both The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy are projected to have two mainline games released before Beyond Good and Evil 2 even has a release date…Hell maybe even before it has another trailer!

Back in the Summer of 2017, two fresh-faced journalists were attending their first E3 for Cinelinx (yours truly and the “Fathergamer” Eric). While experiencing our first E3, we were invited to attend the Ubisoft 2017 showcase, where the main event was the announcement/re-reveal of Beyond Good and Evil 2. Naturally, everyone lost their minds.

Why wouldn’t they? This was a game literally every fan of the original has had on their wishlist for years. Now, Ubisoft was making it a reality. 2018 brought a slew of updates, with a new gameplay trailer in May ahead of E3. During E3 2018 itself, Ubisoft dropped another new trailer that threw fans for a loop, making us wonder what the game would actually be about. It featured new Space Pirates and the reveal of the original Beyond Good and Evil game’s protagonist Jade, seemingly as the antagonist in a sequel that was also, actually, a prequel.

But that’s not all we got during E3! Accompanying that E3 2018 trailer, Ubisoft brought in Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his company, HitRecord, to add in a community element to the game. Players were encouraged to upload their original art, music, and loads of other content to help make the game feel even more unique and inclusive.

That was followed up with yet another new—epic—cinematic trailer, introducing some memorable pirates on the run. To this day, it’s still considered one of the best reveals in E3 history. It was also the hook most players unfamiliar with the series needed to get excited. Pretty much everyone had it on their “Most Anticipated” lists from that point forward.

If all that wasn’t enough, a lengthy 14-minute demo of the game was shown, along with the announcement of the Space Monkey Program, where developers would take players behind the scenes and provide regular updates about the game’s progress. I was tasked with covering these developer diaries and found the first few absolutely fascinating.

The first Space Monkey Program update showed the ambitious plan Ubisoft had for Beyond Good and Evil 2. After giving players a tour of the India-inspired introductory city, the developers zoomed out further and further to reveal a whole galaxy of planets that players would be able to visit. Their plan at the time was to incorporate seamless planetary travel the likes of which no one had seen.

The next few updates focused on character models and the rich culture the game would feature. There were multitudes of different characters, races, backgrounds, and cultures, each more unique than the next. It was clear Ubisoft had put a lot of time and thought into the scope of Beyond Good and Evil 2.

The Space Monkey Program updates became few and far between, however, in 2019. Whenever they did have one, it only covered footage we’d already seen. As subsequent E3s approached, Ubisoft began to announce ahead of time that Beyond Good and Evil 2 would not be present in their showcases.

A once, very, transparent development process became marred in secrecy, which hinted at something more going on behind the scenes. If that wasn’t bad enough, in 2020, Beyond Good and Evil 2 Director Michel Ancel left the company following reports the longtime Ubisoft developer displayed toxic behavior while at the company.

Fast forward to now. After all that, we’re now hearing Beyond Good and Evil 2 is in “early development” and is in the “blocking phase”. They even went so far as to say the game is completely unrecognizable compared to early pre-Alpha footage shown in 2018 and that building and structures on each planet were extremely low-quality. It’s clear development of Beyond Good and Evil 2 has been completely rebooted, which makes this long journey all the more frustrating for fans/players.

A game revealed several years ago, with tons of updates and promise has been reduced to something else entirely. What’s even more worrisome is it’s not the only game this has happened to recently at the company. To be fair, game development being rebooted when something isn’t working is somewhat common in the game industry. Skull and Bones, a game announced in 2017 and even demoed by us at E3, went through a major makeover. And yet, despite being announced after BG&E2 and going through a full reboot, it’s still set to launch in the next few months.

Did they realize the scope and size of the game was too big? Was it Michel Ancel’s toxic leadership that set them back? Did Joseph Gordon-Levitt crash the game with HitRecord? It’s also concerning since Ubisoft was once so transparent about the game and its process. Being silent now, even among reports of this massive upheaval makes fans wonder what’s been going on. We may never know for sure, although I certainly hope a documentary is made about it  at some point (or at least a Jason Schreier exposé).

No matter how you slice it, this is a very bad look for Ubisoft and it’s safe to say Beyond Good and Evil 2 won’t be making anyone’s most anticipated lists for the foreseeable future…

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RPG Gamer by Day, FPS Gamer by Night. Matt has been covering games for nearly a decade. The quickest way to his heart is discussing anything The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Naughty Dog, Bungie, just any game really. Also into movies, TV, travel, and anime.