Uncharted Golden Abyss Original Pitch Saw 13.5M Budget, Multiplayer Originally Conceptualized to Be Mafia Wars-Like

For those who played Uncharted Golden Abyss on the PlayStation Vita, you may remember that post-launch the game received a multiplayer update. Now it wasn’t exactly what many were expecting as it came in the form of a card game, rather than one similarly featured in Uncharted 2. Well, as it turns out, this may not have been the original vision of Bend Studios as it has been revealed that the studio originally pitched something more akin to the hit social game, “Mafia Wars” for Uncharted Golden Abyss multiplayer.

In a newly published (allegedly) greenlight presentation by Bend Studios, the studio details a private meeting that took place at Sony on October 13, 2009, two years before the PlayStation Vita, and Uncharted Golden Abyss were released. In the short five-minute presentation we got an early look at a prototype for a new Uncharted game that would later become Golden Abyss.

Codenamed Uncharted NGP (Next Generation Portable,) the project’s original pitch wasn’t all that much different from the final release of Golden Abyss. It was to be set in Central America with the story focused on finding the lost city of Quivira with Nathan Drake, Elena Fisher, and Victor Sullivan all returning.  Both Sully and Nate returned in the final release, however Fisher would be replaced with Marisa Chase, a new character introduced in Golden Abyss.

The video presentation went on to show off various gameplay features, and how Bend Studios was planning on utilizing all the PS Vita features. This included its camera, the touchscreen, back touchpad, gyro features, amongst others.

What’s more, the studio detailed that Uncharted NGP would have a total budget of $13.5 million dollars. For comparison, both Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves had a $20 million dollar budget. According to the slides, in order for the studio and publisher to break even with a $4.5 million in global marketing spending, they would need to sell a total of 647K units, with a 15% ROI (return on investment) set at 744K units, and 35% ROS (return on sale) at 1.08 million units. As reported by Gamingbolt in June of 2012, Golden Abyss had achieved a total of 500,000 units sold world-wide.

Take that info as you want, though it is important to realize this this was a pitch presentation to Sony, and not exact specifics of the actual budget gained for the project. Bend Studios could have gotten more, they could have gotten less. Furthermore, these estimated were based off an expected selling price point of $32, whereas the final release sold for $49.99. Even with inflation accounted for the two years it took to release, that still puts it a little under $17 more than originally expected. If my math is correct (647K units times 32 for break-even price, divide by 50 for new units sold till break even,) and going based off the previous budget info, Golden Abyss should have broken even sometimes in 2012 with some investments spent returning. However, retail cuts aren’t accounted for, which the original $32 could have taken so it’s hard to say if the title did indeed “break-even” or make the company a profit.

While that’s all cool new information to learn about, one of the more exciting parts of the presentation was the one pertaining to how the team had plans for full social integration where players would compete with one another for fame while collecting unique and rare sets of artifacts. That doesn’t sound very far off from the Uncharted Fight For Fortune card game that released soon after.

Upon further inspection of the content included with the presentation, there were additional cliff notes that expanded on what this mode was about, including some real-world augmented reality aspects.

Combine your skills with players around the world to discover, identify, and collect unique and rare sets of artifacts. Compete with players to become the wealthiest and most famous treasure hunter. Utilize NGP based augmented reality to interact with virtual artifacts in the real world!

All of these collectables play into the always-on game, which is all about competing with players world wide to become the wealthiest and most famous treasure hunter:

  • Think Mafia Wars but set in the Uncharted universe utilizing NGP specific features for actions the player must perform to advance in the game.
  • Work online with treasure hunters from around the world to gain funds and experience, while becoming a more adept treasure hunter
  • Operate either as a specialized contractor or as part of a cooperative group
  • Utilize the unique capabilities of the NGP to find and identify artifacts, using AR (Augmented Reality) technology to create a 3D scan of a virtual object, repair a broken vase, or decipher
    an ancient scroll
  • Build your own private collection as you rise through the ranks from treasure hunter to curator of your own private museum
  • Place found artifacts on display in online public museums or private collections to increase your fame or sell them on the black market to amass your fortune

A single screenshot was provided to show off one of the menus.

Uncharted Golden Abyss Multiplayer 2

Certainly much different than the card game we got, though it’s hard to say whether or not this would have had any success. If I gad to hazard a guess, I’m doubtful that it would have helped shift the PS Vita short-lived life.

While there’s no all-new Uncharted game announced for release, Sony did unveil Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection for the PS5 and PC, which houses Uncharted 4: Among Thieves, and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, and is due sometime in 2022.

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