As they entered 2017, the people behind Mafia III split into two main groups. Some people moved on to the game’s downloadable content, while others started conceiving ideas for what their next project might look like.
At first, the plan was to make Mafia IV, set in Vegas during the 1970s. It was an enthralling vision—a video game take on Martin Scorsese’s Casino, set in the glitz and glamor of mob-controlled Sin City. It’s easy to imagine what that might have looked like: fighting enemies on the strip, managing your own casino, putting your character’s name in lights.
Plans for a fourth Mafia didn’t last long. At one point, as two sources recalled, Blackman flew to New York City to meet with Take-Two and 2K higher-ups. He then told the staff of Hangar 13 that he’d been given a choice: They could either develop Mafia IV or start something completely unique, a new intellectual property. He said he’d picked the latter. “The way it was pitched in the big all-hands meeting was: Mafia IV was a great thing, it’s exciting,” said one person who was there. “But we’ve always wanted to do our own IP.”
This new IP would become Rhapsody, a game about subterfuge in 1980s Berlin. You’d play as a Russian Jew whose parents had been murdered in a Soviet labor camp. He’d be rescued by Americans, then recruited to join a spy organization called Rhapsody. “It was hitting a lot of the beats we were good at,” said one person on the project. Like Mafia III, this game would put you in the shoes of someone who was treated as subhuman by the people around him and thought largely in terms of vengeance. “He’s doing missions, trying to save the world and get revenge on whoever killed his parents, trying to decide between the personal good and the public good.”