One of Valve’s yearly, player-voted Steam Awards is called the “Labor Of Love” award. It’s designed to reward a developer that has been continually updating a game for years. Naturally, the award goes to games with big, satisfied communities with lots of players to vote, and in 2020 the award went to Valve’s own Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The other nominees were Among Us, Terraria, The Witcher 3 and No Man’s Sky.
Worthy games, but I’m going to make a belated pitch for a left field contender: Planetary Annihilation: Titans, a real-time strategy game that hoped to follow in Supreme Commander’s big robot footsteps, and which has been quietly humming away under new developers for the past couple of years.
It’s easy to toil away on something enormously popular, which – with the exception of Among Us – all of the other games mentioned above always have been. (Yes, even No Man’s Sky). Planetary Annihilation was Kickstarted 8 years ago, released to middling reviews and audience anger about missing features, re-released as Planetary Annihilation: Titans in 2015, and then mostly set aside by its developers Uber Entertainment because it wasn’t profitable to continue work on.
(Uber, by the way, would later team up with Take Two to produce Kerbal Space Program 2, rename the studio Star Theory, refuse a buy-out, and shut down in early 2020 after much of their staff was poached. A sad end for the studio that also made Monday Night Combat.)
This wasn’t the end of PA, though, because back in 2018 a small group of developers on the original game gained permission to break away from Uber and take Planetary Annihilation with them. They formed Planetary Annihilation Inc, and since then have released balance, performance, and quality-of-life updates for the game while also running tournaments for its small community. It’s nothing to make you change your mind if you didn’t like the game before, but it’s lovely for those players who have continued to play it.
Of which there aren’t many, either. At the time of writing, Planetary Annihilation: Titans has 531 concurrent players, a small number that’s been bolstered by discounted sales over Christmas. Month on month, the game averages about 200-300 players, about as many as it’s had every month since three months after its release in 2015.
There are legitimate criticisms to be made of Titans as a game, and of its developers for what was promised on the original Kickstarter versus what was released. But heck, all these years later, I find the commitment of those who have stuck with it admirable. A true labour of love.
Planetary Annihilation: Titans is £6/$7.50/€6.25 for the next 48 hours, £23.79 normally, and free if you backed the original Kickstarter.