News

Failbetter Update: Weathering a Storm

By Hannah Flynn, February 7, 2018 · Failbetter Fallen London Fundbetter General Update Kickstarter Sunless Sea Sunless Skies

2017 was a mixed bag for us. We’ve come out of it a changed company, and we have some things to update you on.

Sunless Skies

After the remarkable high of the Kickstarter, the response to Sunless Skies in Early Access hasn’t met the level of Sunless Sea in terms of sales. It sold about 15% as many copies as Sunless Sea in the comparable time period.

We think there are a few reasons for this. In hindsight, we went into Early Access too early. The game wasn’t immediately ready for media attention, we lost a key promotional moment; people aren’t talking about the game as much as we’d hope.

The marketplace is also hugely different to the last time we launched an Early Access game (in 2014), and Sunless Skies just isn’t as visible as Sunless Sea was. The success of our Kickstarter probably also led to fewer people buying it at EA launch, which will have made it less visible on storefronts; thousands of people had already picked up their copy.

What does this mean? Development is progressing rapidly (check out our latest Exploration build if you want to see more), and there’s no danger of us failing to deliver the project you backed. But the business has a lot less cash in the bank than we wanted to have at this point. 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.

Fallen London

In 2017 we rejuvenated Fallen London, and we received much heartwarming feedback from players who returned to the game for Christmas to find the fruits of a lot of hard work.

Something that hasn’t been working as well is the Fallen London mobile app. Despite our best efforts during development, it just doesn’t function as we wanted it to, and we’ve reluctantly concluded that much of this is due to some fundamental architectural decisions that it’s not now practical to change. It also hasn’t been as popular as we’d hoped, and every update we make to the game needs to be duplicated for the app, making it harder and slower for us to improve the game overall. Sadly, for these reasons, we plan to close it down in Q2 2018.

Some good news: work is almost complete that will make Fallen London web look much more like a modern website!

FL_BetaHUD

It will provide a much better experience than the current website on mobile, and not impose the same development burdens as the mobile app. We’re hopeful that it’s a better solution for players and for us. We’ll have more news about this soon.

What’s next?

  • Sunless Skies continues on its path to launch, but we won’t be releasing in May. Right now we’re working on updates that will improve Movement and Combat (due this month) and the release of Albion. We’ll have a revised launch window within the month.
  • We’re retiring the Fallen London app in Q2, and Fallen London on web will be re-launched. There will be a further announcement about this soon, but in the meantime if you have any questions please send them to mobilesupport@failbettergames.com.
  • We’re also officially retiring Fundbetter, our fund for small narrative games, until business improves for us. 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.
  • Three years since its initial release, we’ll be tying up loose ends in Sunless Sea (including releasing the special Blemmigan unlocked by our last Kickstarter). We will continue to support the game, but it will be the last update for a while as we focus on Sunless Skies.

Into the Fog

We’re keenly aware that, like all indie studios, we are a small and vulnerable vessel. We’re committed to keeping this studio open and making games. We’re in no danger of failing to deliver Sunless Skies, and never have been. The decisions we’ve made over the last few months will enable us to make more games after Sunless Skies and be around for many years to come.

Your support, be it financial, on social media, in Steam reviews, or simply by talking about our games, is as always so welcome. We look forward to telling you more about the relaunch of Fallen London, and especially to welcome you to Albion!
Wishlist or buy Sunless Skies on Steam or GOG.com

13 Comments

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Joe Mar 31, 4:35am

Personally, I'd much rather wait until the game is either finished or mostly finished. I really don't like the early access model we've shifted to, although it has it's uses. I think especially with a literary open-world game, you want it to be complete so you can go wherever and don't have to worry about story retcons or corrupted save games. I also don't really understand why y'all are so strapped for cash when you made 4x your kickstarter goal. I'll admit my ignorance about game development and costs. Sunless sea got me into fallen London, and I don't play it much but I subscribe to support y'all. I guess I'll have to buy sunless skies now to help y'all out too and just wait to play it. Good luch and thank you for giving us such vivid and weird worlds to escape to!

BabylonOnFire Mar 29, 12:14pm

A well crafted summation for 2017, kudos to the writer. I'm here in the States and (like for many of us), life is busy. I don't have a ton of time to focus on games or game development. Many of us can make that statement, my point is I love games but I don't follow game development 8 ). I first learned about Sunless Seas in PC Gamer and after downloading, I was intrigued for months! Such a fascinating game with steampunky and menacing overtones, I was hooked. I didn't hear anything about Sunless Skies until just recently so (to the author's point), the media wasn't intrigued with Skies so there was a lot less buzz. Less buzz equates to less sales. The last point I wanted to make is that the cell phone has changed gaming forever. We are now an ADD stricken society that flitters about from one app to the next, forever following that new shiny thing. Be it Flappy Bird, Fruit Ninja, Clash Royale, whatever. It is tough to build customer loyalty when most customers don't care about the production house, they just want to be entertained. I for one love Failbetter Games, you guys are amazing! Thank you for the candor and have a fantastic 2018!

Charles Mar 23, 5:00pm

Personally, the reason I didn't buy Sunless Skies in early access is because I would prefer to play the full game (and I suspect this is true for many people.)

Son_e_jim Mar 5, 9:43am

Wow. Difficult update to write. To own and honour your successes and failures in a humble and public manner can surely only lead to maturity.... right? The business of having fun - sounds like an oxymoron.

Vincent Mar 2, 8:56pm

I've been watching the updates on Steam for a while and the reason I personally decided not to buy it was exactly because the Early Access version had a massive lack of content. Honestly even now I'm still not tempted to buy it. Reading the updates notes it's clear you are putting a lot of work in the game mechanics, but there's just not enough meat around the bone! I hope you guys have a well defined and realistic development road map and if the game turns out to be as good as Sunless Sea I WILL buy it without hesitation but, as you stated, you released it on Early Access WAY TOO FAST!! Keep up the great work. Create a game you're proud of.

Gnurt Feb 20, 6:54am

I for one hadn't planned on buying Sunless Skies until it was fully released. I figure I don't want to beta test it that much, and would rather go into it complete and unspoiled. If you guys are in dire straits though, I'll pick it up right away. I can only hope a lot of other people have my same thought process, and that the bulk of the money will come in for release.

Vael Victus Feb 13, 5:32pm

Those of you who do Google Play surveys should use your earnings to buy Fate before the app goes away. It's also a great way to support our beloved developers.

GregM Feb 11, 1:23am

I've been in Fallen London for less than 3 months, and it's been a blast--you guys are a great company, extremely responsive to the fan base and creative--and my fellow players are, to a person, people of excellent character. You deserve to be financially secure and massively successful. I've bought fate, subscribed, and am preaching the gospel of FL to anyone whose eyes don't instantly glaze over. Wishing you a much better 2018-- GregM

Julian Feb 8, 10:23am

I liked the idea of the mobile app but I always had problems with it. Its ui was very nice though, and I'm glad the web version is finally taking after it.

She-Who-Writes Feb 8, 6:48am

That seems like a fair go to me FB. I've noticed how quiet the forums around Skies have been (both here and on steam) and was definitely finding it a little strange. The mobile app has been a problem for years with it's syncing issues and I'm glad you've decided to retire it (and touch up the web app!). Sounds to me like your making all the right decisions! Looking forward to Albion, more great FBG podcasts and Fallen London stories in 2018. We love you guys, She-Who-Wrote

Mike Hawk Feb 8, 6:35am

YES! Get rid of the mobile app, BRING BACK K&C, PLEASE!

Bob Uripides Feb 7, 8:51pm

I'm sorry to hear that you had to cut staff. Have been there and it is never an easy thing to do, especially when people have done nothing to deserve that fate. I wish those impacted (and you, because it hurts you too) all the best. Re the Fallen London mobile app: quite frankly it has gotten so bad that I quit using it six months ago. Every so often I try to start it up and it just hangs indefinitely, so IMO your resources will indeed be better spent on the (new and improved) browser version. I'm sure you have some metrics that tell you how many of your players are still fighting through the bugs but it seems unlikely to be a significant portion of your active user community.

solomonchik Feb 7, 7:12pm

Wishing all of you creative and committed people the very very best.