X-Com spiritual successor Phoenix Point is doing $100k per month in pre-orders

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Snapshot Games, lead by David Kaye and X-Com creator Julian Gollop, is a runaway success. Or at least I would think $100k a month in pledges would give a game studio some breathing room. But Snapshot isn’t sleeping at night. The prevalence of cheap games and promotional bundles has the studio spooked because, while this is a time of incredibly bounties for consumers, not every game can have the financial safety net of, say, Sea of Thieves. This makes creating a game of the scale of Phoenix Point exceptionally perilous.

Phoenix Point has garnered a lot of attention despite a cluttered games fundraising space. After a successful Fig campaign brought in $766,000 (smashing its $500,000 target), the firm has launched its own pre-order initiative that, according to Kaye, is currently delivering $100,000 a month. Kaye credits a trailer with a million and a half views and a highly developed Facebook ad campaign. If you want to deep-dive the business side of this, check it out here. Anyway, thanks Facebook.

See, having all of our data stolen is sometimes worth it. Like when it shows me where to buy a Resident Evil hoodie or when it makes my dreams of an X-Com: Terror from the Deep manifest. (If y’all didn’t grow up with it TFTD was like the original X-Com, except half of your weapons only worked underwater and everything else was twice as hard. Phoenix Point is similarly built on a series of nautical weapons and settings, so I’m prepping myself for some old school gaming frustration.)

As for Phoenix Point, the major concern for the studio and it’s team of twenty-eight in Bulgaria, is not so much that they’ll get the game out the door, but rather that they’ve set some high bars for their own standards of success. In 2015, they did a game called Chaos Reborn that also had a great social funding period (and good critical response) but was then completely forgotten. Obviously, no one involved wants to see a repeat, especially when this is the sort of title that could launch a franchise.

Our own Brendan wrote an incredible hands-on last week called “Phoenix Point is so much like XCOM it scares me” which is absolutely worth your read. The most fascinating part, to me, was about the bizarrely positive cooperation between the Firaxis studio and Snapshot, who see each other as collaborators instead of competition.

This attitude of incremental improvement is part of an odd relationship that’s arisen between Firaxis and Snapshot. Jullian Gollop and his team at Mythos may have invented XCOM back in the early nineties, but Firaxis re-invented it, putting Gollop’s new studio in the odd position of building upon a design that was already based on his own work. Imagine being asked to renovate a church, knowing that it was built on foundations of an even older temple you built yourself decades ago. A lot of people would be so affronted by this new religion, they’d want to knock that church down. Gollop wants to refurbish the steeple.

That’s just… not what you’d expect from two studios making titles this similar.

The game is currently set for a December 2018 release date. Also, the possibility of a Switch version of the game has been floated, thanks to the surprise success of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle — a game that sent me down a wormhole of other IPs that deserve to be XCOMified.

Here’s a play-through of just one level.

Here’s a March development update video from the team, featuring cool robots. Yeah, I had to specify cool robots. Not all robots are inherently cool.

52 Comments

  1. dethtoll says:

    I am still outrageously excited for this. It might be the one game coming out relatively soonish that I actually care about enough to remember is coming out.

  2. icecreamjones says:

    $100k per month isn’t exactly laying around money for a game studio – thats enough for about 10 staffers with overhead fulltime

    • Werthead says:

      They’re based in Bulgaria where I believe the costs go a fair bit further, but yeah, it doesn’t go anywhere near as far as you’d think.

    • April March says:

      Yeah, but this is just money coming in from a game that hasn’t even been released yet. So the question now is: when the game is released, will it explode in sales and let them comfortably patch it to perfection while they work on their next thing, or will it dry up because everyone who wanted it already bought it? (That’s without even thinking of the possibility that the game is bad, or just doesn’t click with audiences.)

      • Haphaz77 says:

        There’s DLCs and Expansions like the XCOM business model. Julian and Snapshot already have my Fig money, but I’m open to paying more if the right content is delivered on top of a quality base game.

    • Julian Gollop says:

      Bulgaria is about a third the cost of San Francisco or London. It helps.

    • Cederic says:

      $100k/month would cover all-in expenses for a team of 10-12 in the UK with ease, which means in Bulgaria it’ll be pretty close to paying for the whole team.

      Helps make that initial fund raising go a lot further.

    • waltC says:

      I’ll never understand why even one person pre-orders a game @ 100% of the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price.) It makes no sense whatever, imo. Nor does trying to run your studio on pre-order income–which they’d better hope they aren’t doing…!…;) Basically, the only thing they have to be jittery about these days is releasing a shoddy game that few want to buy–or overpricing it, etc.

  3. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Success isn’t measured in pledges but whether the game is any good when it it released.
    Compare this to No Man’s Sky which won accolades and prizes way before release with 60€+ pre-orders.
    As an older gamer I find the “recent” concept of paying for a game months and years in advance on a complete gamble in essence questionable. Like the only industry where the customer is also the bank/investor in union.

    • brucethemoose says:

      I’d say its more deceptive. At least banks and other investors see investments as rolling dice, where many individual backers see them as a pre-orders… Something alot of these ventures unfortunately encourage.

      I have no problem dropping $60 for a 50/50 chance at a project I REALLY want to see someday. It makes sense, as devs need to eat and sleep while they attempt to develop the game. The only part that irks me is the devs being deceptive about it, and backers acting like someone robbed them blind when their gamble falls though.

      • skyst says:

        Exactly. People seem to view these Kickstarters and early access buy-ins as preorders, they’re not. You are making an investment in a concept which may or may not come to fruition.

        I think that it’s all a fine practice, especially since I have gotten some PC games that I absolutely adored out of it (Pillars of Eternity, Divinity: Original Sin, Wasteland 2, Expeditions: Conquistador, Stasis, The Banner Saga, etc) as well as some other unrelated projects (miniatures, board games), many of which would not have come to exist if not for crowd funding and/or early access, but it’s all still a risk. Caveat emptor.

      • Chaoslord AJ says:

        The concept of pre-ordering an unlimited digital commodity is something else again.
        I might pre-order two days before release when the game looks ok, the devs are solid and I’d get some bonus on top.
        (and have the Steam refund policy)
        I’m not opening up the “preorders killed gaming”-debate again but I fail to see the point why it’s useful.

        • brucethemoose says:

          Well, it’s not suppoaed to be useful to the buyer. It’s useful to the development studio because they get paid for their work earlier.

          • Someoldguy says:

            It’s useful to the buyer because they get to see a reasonably detailed concept of what the game is that the studio wants to make, then the studio (if successful) gets some breathing space to make exactly that game without a publisher saying yeah, that choc ice is great but we want it in strawberry flavour, with lootboxes and 64 player deathmatch or you get no money.

          • brucethemoose says:

            That only applies to early buyins though. If you truly “pre-order” a game, development should already be well underway and the game itself is more or less set-in-stone. The publisher has already told the studio what to do at that point.

      • Nihilexistentialist says:

        People being clueless doesn’t make this practice deceptive nor do unrealistic expectations from the fans. This reads to me like someone who thinks they were burned in the past, learned their lesson, but still wants to participate in the system.

    • zdesert says:

      no mans sky was a success… that company made a killing off that game. it wasn’t a good game, but it wasa success that still gets sales today.

    • dglenny says:

      As another older gamer, I too find the concept of pre-orders to be extremely odd. However, Julian Gollop is a special case, and I will happily fling my money at him without needing anything in return. I’m just paying him back for the years I spent with X-COM; anything else is just a bonus.

  4. Jim Reaper says:

    Uh….that last video is from Retcon Raider, not Snapshot Games. He’s just a guy who’s salivating over the game like the rest of us. His channel is definitely worth keeping an eye on because he’s very good at collating all the new information available from the forums, discord etc.

  5. Templar says:

    I’ve been gaming since my Nana bought me a NES when I was five. I have never really understood the entire crowd fund / kick-starter thing with games. Thanks to RPS’s coverage of this and popping it up on my radar I am starting to. This will be my first such “venture”.

    David Kaye and Jullian Gollop and everyone else at Snapshot, you have my support and good luck! I eagerly await Phoenix Point. In a time of casual disapointments its good to feel excited about something again.

    • Julian Gollop says:

      Thanks enormously Templar. It’s people like you that make games like Phoenix Point possible, especially when traditional development funding from publishers has become very narrowly focussed and very limited.

  6. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    I still think that Necromunda would work perfectly as an XCOM style game.
    It’s probably too close to the table top game for Games Workshop to license it though.

  7. Hoot says:

    More XCOM / X-COM is always a good thing. With how absorbing the format is there is easily room for both XCOM 2 and Phoenix Point in my games library.

  8. Caiman says:

    Well half the problem with Chaos Reborn is hardly anyone reviewed the damn thing, including you guys despite several excited previews. I suspect most people just missed it. Despite this, it’s still got an active, core community playing games daily. I usually have half a dozen async games on the go at any time.

    • klops says:

      Also quite many reviews that were done missed the big idea in my mind. Quite much undeserved criticism for the RNG, while actually the game played more like poker:

      Sure, you might win or lose because of the RNG at times just like in poker. But if you put a good player and a bad player against each other for 100 games, you can clearly see which one is better. Just like in poker. The skill to analyse the opportunities and the probabilities has very little to do with luck in the long run.

      Some critique towards the design: The power-up items and the single player game with multiplayer aspects could’ve been left out in my mind to keep the player base more concentrated.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      It was weird because it was a downright fantastic game. Anyone who digs tactics games should play it. The single player aspect was just a training field for human opponents, with whom almost always the matches were, at the very least, exciting. It’s too bad it fell off the side, but I’d recommend it thoroughly nonetheless.

  9. klops says:

    I’m about as interested and enthousiastic about this as any other Fig-funder fanboy, fangirl or 3rd gender fan there is, BUT
    The colour palette…

    It is far from exiting. Dark, grey, brown and misty perhaps with a hint of purple… mngh. It could be the whole game isn’t like this, just like XCOM2 wasn’t all about grey zombie night missions, but the shown material and the Geoscape don’t look so promising.

  10. SaintAn says:

    I love that they have realistic bullet trajectory. Bullets clipping through stuff is incredibly annoying in the XCom games.
    But what else does this game improve on the formula? It sounds like a cheap XCom knockoff from what I saw in the video, even if this is made by a creator of the original X-Com. They should have chose another theme instead of aliens because we already have XCom 1, 2, their xpacs, mods, spinoffs, and future games, all about aliens already, there’s no reason to have a cheap unoriginal indie one that will be constantly compared to the AAA XCom.

    • Archonsod says:

      They’re not quite aliens.

    • h3artlesstinman says:

      I think the enemy is more Lovecraftian in tone than the 70’s alien invasion style of XCOM. There’s also the idea that the enemy will mutate to counter your tactics/weapons over time.

    • Jim Reaper says:

      “there’s no reason to have a cheap unoriginal indie one that will be constantly compared to the AAA XCom.”

      Well, I know that plenty of people had issues with the new XCOM games, myself included to a certain degree. I think there’s space for a more simulation based XCOM, inspired by the older games. Besides, we can’t really judge it against the new XCOM games until we see the geoscape in action.

    • Julian Gollop says:

      Phoenix Point is definitely more simulationy. There is inventory management, multi-classing/skill trees. The strategic side of the game is massively different to modern XCOM. And it’s not just about aliens. There are three main human factions vying to control the future of humanity. The story is definitely a modern Lovecraftian interpretation, but I can’t reveal too much about it.

      • Baranor says:

        I love and hate Lovecraft.

        I’ll pre-order. Can I get a bug where I make mind-controlled aliens drop their handgrenades by cycling through all the inventories untill I reach theirs? I used to cackle with glee almost every time I did that.

    • Arglebargle says:

      You know, if you like Vampire movies, you don’t stop after viewing the first one. Not even after seeing the first good one.

  11. Gustavus says:

    Alright, you got me.

    I don’t ever pre-order games, but I just pre-ordered this. If my money can help make this a better game, I’m willing to contribute.

  12. BloatedGuppy says:

    Despite my fairly firm stance on “no more kickstarters” after being roundly unimpressed with the wave of kickstarted RPGs…most of which ended up being slavish re-creations of a bygone era without the spark and pioneering ingenuity that made those games special…I made an exception for Phoenix Point when it was first announced due to fond memories of the original X-Com and respect for Mr. Gollop.

    I didn’t expect much to come of it, and it slipped my mind almost entirely, until these recent game play videos popped up. I’m actually rather startled at how polished it looks. Some rough edges for sure, but much of what made XCOM shine in terms of accessibility is on display here. It’s a good sign.

    My general hope is that they get the game play sophistication, difficulty curve and replayability right. As much as I will praise Firaxis for resurrecting XCOM properly as a TBS game, the vanilla incarnations of both titles suffered from a bizarre inverted difficulty curve, an accelerated pace, and…more recently…a stubborn insistence on cramming the game full of a Saturday Morning cartoon aesthetic at odd with the otherwise dour subject matter. I’d usually play once through the campaign, then get disenchanted and drift away. Long War though…my god. I have hundreds upon hundreds of hours sunk into Long War. I want…nay…NEED my turn based tactical shooters to be that crunchy and protracted. The more Jagged Alliance 2 and original X-Com in the DNA, the better. If I end up whisking through a campaign in 20 hours, I’ll be terribly disappointed.

  13. Gilead says:

    I backed this on Fig, so I’m happy things seem to be going well for the game so far. More pre-order money can only help things along.

    This post has also helped me remember I got Chaos Reborn as part of that pledge — I redeemed it but I don’t think I actually played it. I should give it go.

  14. Captain Narol says:

    That’s the only game that I ever backed, and I have no regrets as all I see and read so far makes me very confident about the result.

    I missed the X-Com games but I am a big fan of XCOM and it really feels like Julian and his team are taking it to the next level on many aspects.

    I am also quite interested in the lovecratian setting of the story and all the lore they have created for it, that will be key in giving the game its own identity compared to XCOM.

  15. BaronKreight says:

    I think that’s great. This game promises to be a really good one.

  16. Bull0 says:

    Loving what I’m seeing of this and the somewhat darker tone compared to the Firaxis games. I have very high hopes!

  17. DanMan says:

    I’m very interested in this game. It’s kind of the reason I’ve ignored XCOM 2 for now – wanting something different. But another reason is that I’m on Ubuntu these days, and while the game has been announced for Linux, we’ve been burned before by various others. So I’ll be waiting this out.

  18. Vacuity729 says:

    @Julian Gollop, if you’re still reading the comments:
    I’d like to personally thank you for the hours of entertainment you provided me and my close friends with Chaos (and just me with Rebelstar II). I grew up in the middle of the Scottish countryside with very poor health day to day; Chaos was something that my two best friends and I could always agree to play.
    I could write a lot more, but I’ll keep this short. Thank you, and thank you again.

  19. JimDiGritz says:

    I haven’t pre-ordered this yet – it’s on my to-do list!

    Been a fan of Julian’s games since playing Rebelstar Raiders on my Spectrum and then the outstanding Laser Squad (some very happy memories spending hours of my summer holidays playing this with my brand new Appetite for Destruction tape rocking in the background!!)

    The original XCom were also amazing, though somehow never quite felt as human as Laser Squad. I really enjoyed Chaos Reborn shame it never met with the commercial success it deserved, this looks like it will be fantastic and I’m glad the publicity is heating up!

    • Cederic says:

      I loved Laser Squad. Definitely a game that needs recreating.

  20. Josh W says:

    Well they’ll probably get at least one sale when the game is finally out, I tend to prefer to wait for games to have reached a relatively final form before I get involved, even in games as systems driven as this one.

    Sometimes that means waiting for it to be patched up, sometimes waiting for the first dlc, but the requirement is just that the systems mesh together in a satisfying way, so that there’s at least one whole game there, even if people could add a lot more on top (as with the big xcom 2 expansion).

    There’s more to it than that, about mechanical loose ends vs things that seem to have a clear purpose, about things in the art being represented clearly in the game mechanics or obviously background, and I can even put up with a certain amount of weird mechanics that make so no sense so long as it feels like sprawl, extending outside the primary concept rather than gaps in it. (I can also bite the bullet and play archetypally unfinished games like dwarf fortress if there’s some domain I can cut out for myself in which I can play a relatively coherent game that happens to sprawl beyond it, which I think is mostly true, even if it makes articulating exactly what a finished game looks like even more difficult.)

    Anyway, I like finished games. Fortunately, my experience of xcom apocalypse, lazer squad nemesis etc. suggests that Julian does make games that are possible to settle into, find the logic, and work out the sorts of balances and dynamics these things are supposed to have, even if I immediately go off pacifist raiding everyone for their stuff.

    So I’m reasonably confident there will be a finished game at ship time, even if there’s obvious potential for more expansion, and a few things hanging over the edge.