Can’t Catch ‘Em All: Undead Labs Dropping Moonrise

I’m almost done catching up on news I missed over the long holiday weekend and, aw, this last bit’s bad news. State of Decay creators Undead Labs are planning to close their pocket monster battling game Moonrise [official site] without ever officially launching it. Moonrise launched on Steam Early Access in May, selling $15 and $20 bundles of creatures and virtuacash and whatnot. It was supposed to turn free-to-play when it launched but, well, it won’t launch and they’ve pulled it from sale.

Undead Labs founder Jeff Strain explains in a blog post:

“What we’ve found is that while some people really love Moonrise, there were unfortunately many more people who played the game and then moved on after a few days. For a standalone, offline game that might be fine; but for an online game with significant server hosting costs and an expectation for ongoing development and new content, it can mean a game that not only doesn’t pay for it’s development costs, but might even cost money to operate. As you can imagine, that’s not something that makes sense for an independent studio like Undead Labs, nor for that matter would it be a good business decision even for a large publisher.”

As such, they plan to close the servers at midnight on December 31st. Until then, though, they’re making it more fun for existing players. A patch on Friday boosted levelling and drops, and gave players a load of resources to play with. Does that make up for closing the game? Don’t look at me.

Remember: Early Access is a gamble, so be sure you’re happy with the odds.

Anyway, Strain concludes:

“I want to personally thank every one of you who played Moonrise, and in particular those of you jumped in on our Steam and UL player forums and shared your feedback with us — both the praise, which makes us giddy like little kids, and also the criticism, which makes us learn and get better at our jobs. Our future games will benefit tremendously from your feedback and support.”

Here’s what Moonrise was/is:


  1. prudislav says:

    I would so love the offline version of this :-/ Too bad they went the online MMO way

    • TechnicalBen says:

      But that would be so much more expensive and impossible to fun and would run out of money… oh wait.

  2. Allenomura says:

    How sad. Especially since the game had not even fully launched. No doubt they’ll have their metrics, but do we have any idea as to the sample size they’re working with to reach that conclusion? I can’t say I noticed any resounding advertising push for Moonrise, which might have left ample impression that it had been released “for real”. My impression from the outside, is that Moonrise may have been ended before its time.

  3. cool4345 says:

    Why would you launch a game on early access expecting a constant playerbase? :/ it seems like most steam users don’t even bother with early access and only buy games when they’re released (like myself). It seems like a bad decision to me to expect people to be consistently playing a game that’s a prototype. Most of the people who did play it probably played once or twice and were waiting until the game was released to continue playing.

    • Wormoxide says:

      Exactly something about this does not smell right or the publisher really is clueless to how steam users approach early access.

      • RedViv says:

        I will add my voice to those confused as to how it makes sense to panic and throw the whole project out because not enough people pay to get access to a playable early beta/late alpha.

        • razgon says:

          Early access is just allowing you to see what happens to a multitude of games – Its nowhere near unusual for games to be cancelled in development. We just rarely heard about it, unless it was major titles (Prey 2) – now EA gives us an insight into the business we usually don’t have.

  4. trjp says:

    You can’t make a decision on the likely popularity of a game purely based on what amounted to a closed beta test – there’s more going-on than they’re admitting here (likely they are running out of money and nowhere near finished)

    Success is elusive and often comes from surprising places (is also absent in many places you’d expect it). If you think you can judge it before it happens – you can’t.

  5. EhexT says:

    The game we never launched didn’t get the player numbers we wanted so we’re not launching it.

    Great logic there guys. I totally understand you. I personally have hundreds of games I never launched in my portfolio that I never launched because they didn’t have the playerbase I wanted.

  6. Zankman says:

    I dunno what surprises me more – that a MMO within this “genre” failed or that they didn’t go for the infinitely safer option of making it (primarily) single-player game.

    People would love to play a modern, 3D, open-world Pokemone(-esque) game.

    With few people (I assume) hearing about this game *and* with it being a MMO, I guess it failing does make sense.

    They should honestly just “restructure and refurbish” the game into a SP one.

    • Shuck says:

      I’m guessing it wasn’t so much an MMO as an online multiplayer game – that is, they were relying on player vs. player battles to provide most of the game content, and there just wasn’t enough there to turn into a single-player game. The appeal of multiplayer games if you’re a small studio is lower development costs from having less content; it’s just that the ongoing running costs add up and aren’t viable below a certain number of players. That was something they knew going into it, and by going the Early Access route were foisting more of the risk onto the players, which is problematic.

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    It's not me it's you says:

    Huh. Not often I come across a steam game I’ve never even heard of, but I’d never heard of this one. Shame it didn’t find an audience.

  8. Kitsunin says:

    Ugh, dammit. It was a rather good game. I stopped playing it because of the early access factor, but it really did have a good battling system. It practically expecting you to grind battles for coins in the background on the auto setting was complete nonsense though.

    I just want a new Dragon Quest Monsters equivalent or ten. That’s all. Come on. Somebody make one. Please.

  9. Ejmir says:

    “Thanks for the money guys ! We let you play the unfinished version of the game, so we are clean, aren’t we ? See you next time !”

    Undead Labs already had a bad reputation, now it’s even worse. I think they want last very long on the market…

  10. solro says:

    Nice thing this crowdfunding/early access economy.

    If a game is bad, just stop production and get out the begging hat again.

    No pesky investors threatening legal action, making you have to work on the game so people actually do want to play it.

  11. Elusiv3Pastry says:

    I feel bad for them, but I’m more upset that they didn’t spend all this time and money developing a better funded sequel to State of Decay. There’s plenty of zombie games, I know, but their execution on making everything work in SoD was superb.

  12. Rednecksith says:

    Just shows that Undead Labs are either incredibly incompetent, or a bunch of scam artists. It’ll be a cold day in hell before I give these a-holes any of my hard earned money again, and I’ll be trying my best to make sure nobody else does either.

    So sick of software companies getting away with behavior which would land a company in any other industry in court. If I were to charge people for a product while providing a prototype to test in the interim, then canceled the release of said product while confiscating the prototypes and keeping the money I received, I’d be sued to hell and back, and rightfully so. Yet due to the ‘intangibility’ of software, companies get away with just that.

    It’s high time consumer protection laws caught up to the digital age. This garbage simply cannot be allowed to continue.