Following a difficult year, Sunless Sea and Fallen London devs Failbetter have battened down the hatches and scaled back some of their plans, including laying off several members of staff and delaying Sunless Skies. Part of the problem is early access sales of the encounter-unspeakable-cosmic-horrors-then-eat-your-crew space survive-o-exploration RPG sequel have been lower than expected. The small English studio assure that they will finish Sunless Skies but they want to be sure they'll be safe to fund another game beyond that, so they've made a few cautious cuts.
Failbetter's Hannah Flynn reveals in today's blog post that Sunless Skies hasn't sold nearly since hitting early access as well as Sunless Sea did - "about 15% as many copies as Sunless Sea in the comparable time period."
The post has a few ideas why that might be, including that it entered early access too early and missed out on some attention and word-of-mouth because of that. When Fraser Brown Prematurely Evaluated Sunless Skies last year, he enjoyed parts but did note that he'd rather not return until the game was more complete. It was due to leave early access in May, but now it'll be later.
Whatever the reasons, Failbetter are feeling a little cautious about the future. "We're in no danger of failing to deliver Sunless Skies, and never have been," they insist, but looking ahead further they want to be careful, saying "the business has a lot less cash in the bank than we wanted to have at this point." They continue:
"Late last year we made some hard decisions to ensure a couple of things: that we don't reach launch in a financial state that would put the studio in danger of closing before we can make another game, and that we continue with a better structure for a business making games of our kind. With much regret, we have just completed a redundancy consultancy process and four of us are leaving as a result."
They're also shutting down the mobile app for Fallen London, their free-to-play RPG. It hasn't been as popular as they'd hoped, and needing to update both it and the original browser-based version separately has been a lot of effort. On the bright side, Fallen London's browser version will getting a makeover soon, and it looks quite nice.
Failbetter's cost-cutting measures include suspending Fundbetter, their punfaced scheme to help fund small narrative games, "until business improves for us." Launched into 2016, the scheme has helped fund games including The Edgelands and Astronaut: The Best. Failbetter say, "Giving back to the community was very rewarding, and we have some ideas for how we'd do it again in future, but right now we just don't have the spare funds or bandwidth."
Best of luck to everyone affected by the layoffs.