The Great Train Robbery (lost work on action-adventure video game; existence unconfirmed; 1999)

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Greattrainrobbery1.jpg

Ronnie Biggs and Bruce Reynolds in 1999

Status: Existence Unconfirmed

The Great Train Robbery occurred on 8th August, 1963, when a gang of 15 hijacked and robbed £2.6 million from a Royal Mail train that was heading from Glasgow to London.[1] Masterminded by Bruce Reynolds, it is considered one of the most famous crimes in British history, not only for being then-Britain's largest known robbery, with the stolen money equivalent to more than £55 million today, but also for the escapes and recaptures of some of its members, including Reynolds and Ronnie Biggs.[2] In 1999, SCi Entertainment signed a deal with Biggs and Reynolds to create a game based on The Great Train Robbery, but this ultimately never materialised.

Background[edit | edit source]

On 1st November, 1999, London-based SCi Entertainment announced it had been in talks with and signed an undisclosed exclusive deal with Great Train Robbers Ronnie Biggs and Bruce Reynolds, where the pair would be design consultants for a computer game based on the crime.[3] This was considered controversial for a few reasons; firstly, some believed that the game would glorify the crime, prompting a response from an SCi spokesman who claimed that the company was no different from book publishers and film companies that have released material on worse events.[4]

Additionally, Biggs was still a fugitive by the time development on the game was announced. Following him being imprisoned in 1964 for the crime, Biggs escaped from Wandsworth Prison on 8th July, 1965, and fled the country, first settling in Australia, before living in Brazil due to the country lacking an extradition treaty with the UK at the time. It would not be until 2001 where he decided to return to the UK, where he was immediately re-arrested on 7th May upon arriving back to serve the remainder of his sentence, although he was released on 6th August, 2009 on compassionate grounds.[5]

Concept[edit | edit source]

The game's development history is unknown, but an article from the BBC stated that it would enable the player to either assume the role of Biggs or as Jack Slipper, a detective superintendent who originally arrested Biggs and was tasked with bringing him back to the UK following his escape. Aside from enabling players to experience The Great Train Robbery itself, the game would also be based on Biggs' life post-robbery, with SCi Entertainment having secured the film rights to his 1994 autobiography Odd Man Out.[6][7] The company also released a statement claiming that Biggs' life following the robbery "represents the ultimate action adventure".

The game was expected to being developed within 18 months, and be released in the run-up to the 40th anniversary of the crime. Hence, the game would likely have been released sometime in 2003. It is unknown what platforms it would have been released for, though with the SCi Entertainment press release stating both "computer and video games", it can be assumed that a PC and console release was likely. Development was estimated to cost around £1.5 million, similar to other game licences developed at the time.[8]

Cancellation[edit | edit source]

Despite the hype made by SCi Entertainment's announcement, no news of a game release based on The Great Train Robbery was forthcoming, and the 40th anniversary of the crime came and went with no record of any game being developed or released by 2009.[9] During E3 2000, SCi Entertainment announced a variety of titles, including Mille Miglia, a game that was was developed with the collaboration of Stirling Moss, whose deal occurred after Biggs' and Reynolds' on 17th January, 2000.[10] Yet, no game based on The Great Train Robbery was planned nor announced by the company during its presentations.[11]

While the reason for the cancellation is unknown, it could have been partially influenced by Biggs' declining health. On September 19th, 1999, it was reported by the BBC that Biggs had suffered a second stroke, having already suffered from one a year prior.[12] Additionally, his return to and subsequent arrest and imprisonment in the UK in early 2001 could have also affected the game's development, with Biggs unable to provide further design consultation.

Status[edit | edit source]

Hence, while the concept of a video game based on The Great Train Robbery has been verified by reliable sources, it is unknown at what stage the game was cancelled at.[13] Currently, it cannot be verified whether development work was made on the game, due to a lack of sources confirming this beyond the initial game announcement, and with no work, including a build, being released online. Thus, whether the game was cancelled at the conceptual or development stage remains unconfirmed.

Image[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. In-depth Postal Museum article concerning The Great Train Robbery. Retrieved 18 Aug '21
  2. BBC News article discussing each of the Great Train Robbers. Retrieved 18 Aug '21
  3. Archived SCi Entertainment press release concerning the company signing Ronnie Biggs and Bruce Reynolds to be design consultants for a game based on The Great Train Robbery. Retrieved 18 Aug '21
  4. BBC News article reporting on the game's announcement and SCi Entertainment's spokesman defending the game's premise. Retrieved 18 Aug '21
  5. BBC News article discussing the life of Ronnie Biggs. Retrieved 18 Aug '21
  6. Wall Street Journal reporting on the game's announcement. Retrieved 18 Aug '21
  7. Amazon listing of Odd Man Out. Retrieved 18 Aug '21
  8. This is Money article discussing SCi Entertainment acquiring various game licences, with development of each costing around £1.5 million. Retrieved 18 Aug '21
  9. NBC News reporting on Biggs' release in 2009, and the game that never materialised. Retrieved 18 Aug '21
  10. Archived SCi Entertainment press release concerning the company signing on Stirling Moss to help with the development of Mille Miglia, the announcement coming after the Biggs and Reynolds deal. Retrieved 18 Aug '21
  11. Archived SCi Entertainment press release concerning the company's E3 2000 presence, with no game based on The Great Train Robbery announced. Retrieved 18 Aug '21
  12. BBC News article reporting on Ronnie Biggs suffering from a minor strike in September 1999. Retrieved 18 Aug '21
  13. The Guardian article discussing the game but not elaborating beyond "it never came to fruition". Retrieved 18 Aug '21