With the turn of the new millennium, Universal Interactive Studios (producers of Crash Bandicoot at the time) wanted the series to make the transition from the PlayStation to the 6th generation consoles. Universal was considering Mark Cerny as the designer for the new game, as he had played a key role in every Crash game thus far, and also happened to be their former president. The game was going to be distributed by Sony as a PlayStation 2 exclusive. Details about the game's progress and development are scarce, but Mark Cerny has revealed that the game was to feature open, free-roaming environments, as opposed to the linear structure Crash was known for at the time.
Traveller's Tales was chosen as the game's development studio, but Universal was worried about handing the franchise over to a new studio after Naughty Dog's contract expired. This made Universal particularly wary of any drastic changes done to the gameplay, which led them to bet on a safer approach similar to the previous games. Though contrary to Mark Cerny's vision, his position as the game's designer wasn't firmly established at the time, and since he had already resigned his position as president, he didn't really have the final say on the matter.
Eventually, Universal fell out with both Mark Cerny and Sony, but they still wanted a new Crash game to be released as soon as possible, so they tasked Traveller's Tales with creating one in only 12 months. Since Mark hadn't created any design documents, Traveller's Tales had to come up with their own concepts. The deadline wasn't exactly generous, and the team had to wait for the results from Universal's deal with Mark and Sony before they could start working, but against all odds, the game was successfully released in 2001 as The Wrath of Cortex. It was no longer exclusive to the PlayStation 2, and the free-roaming aspect had been thrown out the window.
After some negative reactions to the lack of innovation, Universal finally gave in and tasked Traveller's Tales to develop a free-roaming Crash Bandicoot game, which led to the creation of the studio's new branch at Oxford. The new game was released in 2004 as Crash Twinsanity.