As Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle made abundantly clear prior to its official reveal, it's hard to keep a collaborative project between studios a secret. High Voltage Software, developers of The Conduit, learned this lesson in the toughest way possible seven years ago. Back then the studio was working with Nintendo on a new franchise meant for Wii U, but an early leak devastated the project. However, the whole debacle may have given Nintendo the inspiration for Splatoon.
Video game researcher Liam Robertson has just published another excellent Game History Secrets video. After a thorough investigation, Robertson has dug up numerous details from the canceled project, including recreated concept art from someone on the design team.
According to Robertson's research, Nintendo was aiming to have a wide variety of genres available on Wii U early in its life, and they wanted to include a family-friendly shooter in the mix. To scratch this itch, they turned to High Voltage Software. Nintendo planned to fund and oversee the project while High Voltage handled the actual development. Nintendo had just one guideline: It needs to feature water guns.
High Voltage took this concept and ran with it by making the game's playable characters robots who are susceptible to shorting out when drenched. The game's bots were said to resemble the style of characters seen in Mega Man, while the environments were something closer to Super Mario Sunshine. High Voltage was aiming for a "crossroads between nature and machine."
Unfortunately, High Voltage got on Nintendo's bad side just a month into pre-production. Someone at the studio leaked key details about the project to a Nintendo news website, including the fact that High Voltage and Nintendo were sharing water assets. The article was pulled at High Voltage's request, but not before Nintendo executives found out.
An internal investigation was launched, and when the companies were unable to identify the source of the leak, Nintendo pulled the plug on the project altogether. Robertson managed to track down a developer who has confessed to being the leak (their name has been withheld), and they reportedly did so with malicious intent due to dissatisfaction with working conditions.