The games world is essentially always filled with soon-to-be-released titles, leaving fans’ calendars packed with launch dates, beta period start points, and DLC drop times. But what simmers below the surface are games that never actually came to fruition, ones that, if they had released, would have caused quite a stir. Game historian and independent researcher Liam Robertson discovered one such game, reporting that Sony San Diego had been developing a shooter game called Gnomageddon up until last year.
In a new Unseen64 video, Roberston reveals the inside scoop. Gnomageddon was initially rumored to be a new IP from Sucker Punch; however, it was actually in development with Sony San Diego (SSD), the company known for sports titles such as MLB 15: The Show and for its work on porting NBA games to handheld systems. When the expenses involved with crafting a licensed sports game kept increasing, SSD turned to other projects. Thus, a division of SSD held a PlayStation Game Jam, pitting what would become Gnomageddon against a game known as Kill Strain. Gnomageddon won, and the studio got started on early development.
The title began as a small demo, but was gradually expanded upon and soon became a serious in-development title set for exclusive release on the PlayStation 4. A class-based MOBA, which was at one time the fastest-growing market for PC systems, Gnomageddon was intended to be a free-to-play title with optional micro-transactions included. In terms of gameplay, Gnomageddon centered around garden gnomes living in the lush yards of 1950s suburban homes, who engaged in fierce battles to to see which gnome would reign supreme.
Gnomageddon also had a completely realized backstory for the gnomes, explaining how the backyard creatures came into existence. The game’s narrative history blended together elements from traditional gnome-lore and a few modern-day additions from the SSD team, the most prominent of which was the overall premise: European-born, sentient gnomes were sent to America and tasked with guarding homes from “evil gnome” invasions. One such villain was named Conquest who was bent on revenge. The game featured three game modes, the standard being a deathmatch mode that pit good gnomes against the aforementioned evil ones, and six unique gnome classes.
By the sounds of it, Gnomageddon was similar in tone to the PopCap Games-developed title Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, just with a slightly different concept. And despite how silly the gnome-fighting premise may be, the title pulled enough traction to be worth SSD trademarking Gnomageddon and slating it for a full release.
Sadly, we know that never actually happened. So what went wrong? SSD ultimately canceled Gnomageddon due to internal competition. Ironically enough, the game in question was the MOBA Kill Strain, a fellow free-to-play game that had a more straightforward concept and which Gnomageddon had reportedly gone against in the game jam that started it all.
Kill Strain was in development from 2013 to 2016, and though the title suffered from a multitude of setbacks, enthusiasm for it was quite high and it was launched in the summer of 2016. However, the game quickly burnt out. According to Robertson, SSD believed commitment to and marketing for Kill Strain was insufficient, and developers working on Gnomageddon were pulled away to contribute to maintaining Kill Strain post launch. The title’s lengthy development and subsequent financial crash caused SSD to let go of people working on both Kill Strain and Gnomageddon.
Simply put, the studio wasn’t pulling in enough revenue, Kill Strain was given precedence, and Gnomageddon was doomed by the shooter’s subsequent failure. Kill Strain‘s servers shut down on July 1, 2017, but thankfully, Sony San Diego still survived. However, it seem the studio will likely only be the house for Sony’s baseball games, at least for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps now that a large audience is aware of Gnomageddon and its unfortunate downfall, SSD will be able to pool its resources and boot up development on the game once more. It might be wishful thinking, but stranger and more miraculous things have happened.