Arcen Games released the #roguelike #Starward Rogue last week. There are 99% positive user reviews on Steam. Studio founder and CEO Chris Park said in a blog post, barely a week after the #game was released, that this positive response has not translated into sales. Even though Starward Rogue is “possibly our best [game] yet,” Arcen is still going to lay off almost their entire staff.
“We’re lost in a sea of other titles,” Park wrote. “About 9,000 people on Steam have wishlisted the title, which is awesome—next time this goes on discount, hopefully they’ll pick it up (but I mean, it’s only $11.99 USD and it’s 10% off already!). By contrast, about 2,100 people have bought the game across Steam and Humble.”
Arcen was actually “relatively cash-rich” when it started work on Stars Beyond Reach, the 4X game it announced in mid-2014. But that evolved into a bigger and more demanding project than anticipated, eating up extensive R&D time and beta testing, and the extra time spent in development more than doubled the cost of making it. At the same time, revenue streams from Arcen’s previous games began to dry up, thanks in large part to changes in the Steam store that drastically reduced their promotional income—“our main source of income,” Park said.
Starward Rogue, “we have mostly hung out in the 200’s instead of in the teens, and mostly in the 250’s at that, top-seller-chart-wise. We peaked, briefly, at #98. That lasted under 3 hours.” So instead of a relatively high monthly earnings that could cover previous losses and build up a cash buffer for their next project, Arcen is expecting to take another loss in January. Forcing the studio to lay off its entire staff, almost, come Monday. Only Park, Lead Programmer Keith LaMothe, and Art Director Daniette “Blue” Mann will remain, and Mann will be laid off as well if things do not improve in the next few months.
Park is accepting responsibility for decisions that led to this point, although he holds out hoping that Starward Rogue will find its audience, which is still a fresh release. Regardless of everything, we hope it will work out well in the end, which shows how fragile indie game development can be. Two years ago, Arcen was doing relatively well and now, “would be a new chance to live life properly and not run around with my hair on fire all the time.”
The full blog post is worth the effort to read for anyone interested, explaining in detail what goes on behind the scenes at an indie game studio. Read the whole story at arcengames.com.