What Happened To The Beloved IGI Franchise?

IGI Once Ruled The Hearts Of FPS Lovers.

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Project IGI

The IGI franchise revolutionized tactical first-person shooters in the early 2000s, captivating gamers with its strategic gameplay and immersive missions. Its early success solidified its status as a classic, earning a devoted following and shaping the genre’s future.

Today, the franchise’s nostalgic appeal endures, evoking fond memories of navigating treacherous terrain and outsmarting adversaries. For gamers, IGI represents a cherished relic of gaming’s golden age, celebrated for its innovative gameplay and pioneering spirit.

A Fresh Narrative

In Project IGI, players assumed the role of David Jones, a former SAS operative, tasked with stopping a nuclear warhead theft in Estonia. Tracking it to a KGB camp, Jones must prevent its activation to avert World War III. Moving on to the mechanics IGI diverged from conventional shooter games by prioritizing stealth, strategic planning, and precise shooting over mindless action.

Players were compelled to approach missions with cunning and caution, leveraging their wits and marksmanship skills to outmaneuver adversaries and accomplish objectives effectively.

IGI Gameplay
IGI Gameplay

Why, despite its prior success, was the third installment in the franchise canceled, and no other game has been added to the franchise till now?

The Chinese Antagonist

The sequel, Covert Strike, released in 2003, underwent significant improvements, including enhanced save features and gameplay mechanics. However, it introduced a controversial new antagonist, General Wu Xing, a rogue Chinese military leader.

Wu Xing’s nefarious plan involved attaching an electromagnetic device to a rocket, aiming to trigger World War 3, which stirred considerable controversy among Chinese players. As a result, the depiction of the Chinese military led to a backlash, prompting the removal of the final six missions of the game in China.

Subsequently, six months later, the game faced a complete ban in China due to its portrayal of the Chinese army as an evil force.

Chinese Character
Chinese Antagonist

Funding Problems

The primary factor leading to the closure of the franchise was the insufficient revenue generated by the games. The financial underperformance was so severe that only three months after the release of the sequel, the development studios (Innerloop) shut down due to financial constraints. 

One major contributing factor was the heavy reliance on Asian and Middle Eastern markets for the game’s popularity, where a significant portion of players opted for piracy rather than purchasing legitimate copies. 

Additionally, the rising prominence of franchises like GTA and Counter-Strike had a substantial impact on the sales of IGI 2, diverting attention and consumer spending away from the series.

Fluctuating Ownership

In 2009, Square Enix acquired Eidos Interactive, the publisher of IGI, consequently getting the rights to the game. Later, in 2017, ARTPLANT, a studio founded by former Innerloop employees, made a surprising announcement by purchasing the IP of IGI from Square Enix. However, no announcements regarding the future of IGI were made at that time.

Just a year later, in 2018, TODMAN Studios acquired ARTPLANT along with the rights to IGI, integrating it into a parent company named ENAD GLOBAL. Finally, after 16 years, in 2019, ENAD announced plans to develop a new IGI game. 

The responsibility for this project was given to ANTIMATER GAMES, another company within ENAD’s holdings.

logo of Enad Global
ENAD Global 7

But Why Wasn’t It released?

ANTIMATER GAMES conceived a brilliant idea of creating a prequel to the IGI story, set in the 1980s Cold War era, as a reimagining of the original games. This approach aimed to satisfy both newer and older fans of the franchise.

Trailers showcasing the game’s visuals on Unreal Engine 5 were released, impressing audiences with its spy action aesthetics reminiscent of IGI. Initially scheduled for an early 2023 release, anticipation was high.

IGI Origins first look
IGI Origins’ first Look

However, disappointing news followed as ENAD GLOBAL announced the closure of the development studios, ANTIMATER GAMES. Despite efforts to find third-party developers for IGI, none were successful. 

ENAD’s decision stemmed from financial challenges, with the development of IGI costing a substantial $4.6 million annually. Additionally, the projected sales for IGI were not promising, further contributing to ENAD’s financial concerns.

Future Prospects

The last glimmer of hope was extinguished during ENAD’s shareholder presentation in September, where they announced their intent to prioritize stability by discontinuing high-risk projects, including IGI. This announcement effectively sealed the fate of the IGI series, signaling that there will be no future installments.

In my opinion, the likelihood of another IGI game emerging in the future is slim to none. The only plausible scenario would involve a major publisher acquiring the game’s rights, but given the fierce competition in the first-person shooter genre, such an outcome seems highly improbable.

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