It turns out that reports about Pioneer‘s death—a game only hinted at in a Watch Dogs 2 side-mission and never officially announced or recognized by Ubisoft—were greatly exaggerated, or at least a bit premature.
In fact, according to sources close to the project, Pioneer is still very much in development, only as something entirely different than what it set out to be.
Rumors of Pioneer‘s cancellation kicked off when former Ubisoft creative director Alex Hutchinson tweeted “RIP Pioneer,” with a clip of the video that players can find in Watch Dogs 2. As it turns out, Hutchinson was referring to the original version of Pioneer and not the version that’s currently still in development at Ubisoft.
Kotaku reports that the original Pioneer started development at Ubisoft Montreal in 2013 as a more peaceful space exploration game, seemingly in the vein of a No Man’s Sky or an Astroneers. However, development hit some snags, including tensions between Hutchinson and other members of the staff, and in 2016 (right before Watch Dogs 2 launched), Ubisoft took Hutchinson off the project and rebooted it.
In its current form, the new Pioneer (which is probably not what it’s called anymore) might have more in common with Rainbow Six Siege than Beyond Good and Evil 2, Ubisoft’s other space game that’s currently in development. That’s because the new iteration of Pioneer is reportedly using Rainbow Six’s Anvil game engine to build a cooperative multiplayer shooter with a sci-fi theme that still retains some of Pioneer‘s leftover features.
Rainbow Six Siege‘s limited-time cooperative mode, Outbreak, which featured enemies halfway between zombies and aliens, was actually pretty fun, so I’m willing to follow Pioneer down this road if that’s where Ubisoft wants to go with it. Besides, we’ve already got No Man’s Sky, Astroneer, Elite: Dangerous, and even Ubisoft’s own Beyond Good and Evil 2 coming out. How many more space exploration games do we really need?
Of course, Ubisoft refused to comment on any of these reports, so it’s impossible to say whether or not Pioneer will ever see the light of day, but I think a co-op alien shooter with Siege‘s weapon mechanics wouldn’t be the worst game for the publisher to release.