After 22 Years in Development, the Most Delayed Game in History Has Finally Arrived for the Game Boy Advance

  • The game is called Kien, and it should have been released 22 years ago for the Game Boy Advance.

  • It has finally found a publisher. You can buy it in its original format.

After 22 years in development, the most delayed game in history has finally arrived for the Game Boy Advance
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How long does it take to make a video game? That depends on who you ask. Rockstar has been developing GTA VI for almost 10 years. CD Projekt Red took about seven years to make Cyberpunk 2077. And if you ask video game designer Eric Barone, he'll say it took about four years to create Stardew Valley. Now, if you ask the Italians at AgeOfGames, an independent developer studio, they’ll tell you that Kien took 22 years.

As if that weren't mind-boggling enough, the game arrived for a console that’s no longer supported or officially released. It's a legendary and vintage console that's popular among collectors: the Game Boy Advance.

The story. It was 2002 when five Italians in their 20s embarked on creating the first Italian video game for the most popular console at that time: the Game Boy Advance. Fabio Belsanti, Luciano Lurino, Cristiano Convertino, Giuseppe Campanella, and Giuseppe Grassi met by chance. They received the first Game Boy Advance Development Kit in Italy and wanted to develop their own game, Kien. They even announced it to the press.

The thing is that none of them were programmers.

Everything went wrong. The partnership the Italians created had an investment of almost $550. They used their personal computers to develop the game, as Belsanti says in his “memoirs.” The group of friends got some money after doing a project for the Abruzzo National Park. They finished the game’s design, and that’s when they looked for a programmer. In Belsanti words:

“You have to remember that we're talking about an era when the internet was only at the beginning, where remote working was almost impossible, and where the possibility of attracting a professional international developer to Bari [a city in Italy] was a chimera.”

After meeting with several candidates that bordered on the “surreal” and would make for “several stories about aspiring ‘illusionists,’” they found the right developer, one who, as Belsanti explains,  said, “I don’t know if I can do it, but I’m ready to fight to the death to complete this project.” Today, only Belsanti is still working on the project. The others have moved on.

Kien game Screenshot of Kien. Image | Incube8 Games

The fall. After some time of developing, the game was ready. Between the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2004, the studio signed several contracts with publishers to launch the game. “In all contracts, the overall product reviews and sales estimates were initially very good, but unfortunately, the  high printing costs of GBA cartridges ($15 per unit) made these projections unreliable,” Belsanti says.

As the developer explains, publishers told him, “We have to wait for publication, we might have to wait years. Kien is a great game, but for now on GBA, only Nintendo games or strong IPs are good bets. A new IP is too risky for now.” Eventually, the team disbanded, and the project remained unpublished for over 20 years.

Kien game Screenshot of Kien. Image | Incube8 Games

Until now. Kien has finally found a publisher: Incube8 Games, a company that produces games for classic consoles. You can buy the cartridge for Game Boy Advance for $60 on the distributor’s official website. “On a romantic level, the thought of releasing the game on its original console is simply magical,” Belsanti told The Guardian. In this interview, he confirmed that AgeOfGames is working on a spiritual successor.

Images | Incube8 Games

Related | 26 Years Ago, Nintendo Released a Game Boy Cartridge With a Camera. Today, Someone Has Managed to Turn It Into a Webcam

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