Sunset, the artsy game from Tale of Tales, is a total sales failure. Unsurprisingly, the game about doing housekeeping chores for a fictional tinpot dictator in the 70’s, did not resonate with gamers. In fact, sales were so dismal that Tale of Tales is kaput as a game company.
The devs posted a blog with their view.
So far a little over 4,000 copies of Sunset have changed hands. That includes the copies for our backers on Kickstarter. That includes the sale. There’s barely enough income to keep our company going while we look for ways to raise the funds to pay back our debts.
We are happy and proud that we have tried to make a “game for gamers.” We really did our best with Sunset, our very best. And we failed. So that’s one thing we never need to do again. Creativity still burns wildly in our hearts but we don’t think we will be making videogames after this. And if we do, definitely not commercial ones.
I have never heard of this game until today. It looks like these people are making games for insufferable, pretentious hipsters. Of which, there are probably only about 4000 actual jobs and money. So, the sales figures seem right on.
Yeah, reading this article yesterday was the first time I’d heard it had released. I picked it up because it sounds like a neat idea. I don’t generally enjoy Tale of Tales games, but they’re often worth trying. In the article, they mentioned they advertised on RPS, and I vaguely remember seeing an ad there but just assumed the game was in early access or something. There’s too many games to follow nowadays it’s easy for a game like this to fall through the cracks.
I want to be sympathetic for Tale of Tales, but they make it very difficult with that blog post and the way they’ve reacted to the whole scenario. They come off as pissed that their niche indie artsy game wasn’t an immediate internet darling, despite the fact that it seems to have had very little in the way of actual marketing at release and they gave it less than 30 days to be successful. A little more patience and a little less pretentiousness probably would have gone a long way.
Armchair analyzing, it seems Tale of Tales catalog is mostly software that is more art than game, the only arguable exception prior to Sunset being The Path. None of these “games” was ever priced higher than $10. Sunset certainly looks to be the most “game-like” of their offerings to date, and yet they came out of the gate with a pricepoint of $20, which is pretty steep for something most buyers aren’t going to be sure is even a game in a playable sense. Then they give their new product less than 30 days sales to judge it’s success, and get angry when even a 50% reduction in price for a week doesn’t spur sales. News flash, nobody knew the game was even out, and those that did stumble across it probably had trouble figuring out exactly what it was. Niche indie games take time and a hell of a lot of word-of-mouth to be successful. The smart play probably would have been to price it at $10, and flood Steam with 25% off coupons at launch. Then drop it to 33% off during the Summer sale. Selling 1000 copies at $20 a pop is nice (most of their 4000 “sales” so far went to kickstarter backers), but selling 10,000 copies at $6.66-$7.50 is a hell of a lot nicer. The more copies you get out into the world, the more word-of-mouth you get, and if Sunset was a well-designed and unique niche game experience, it could have caught on and continued selling in the same vein as Gone Home (300K+), Dear Esther (750K+) and other unique indies.
That’s pretty much exactly my reaction. When it was in Kickstarter, I remember the RPS story about it and thought it sounded interesting and looked very pretty. But yeah, an actual “It’s done, released!” thing is something I never saw, or if I did it zoomed by so quickly that I missed it.
Also probably not helping them much: consumer confusion with this game and This War Of Mine.
I didn’t know it was out, I didn’t know it was on Steam, and I certainly am not going to pay $20 (or even $10, really) for it after playing The Path. I mean, I think I probably appreciate having played The Path and I don’t regret having purchased it per se. But it made it clear that Tale of Tales’ sensibilities and mine were not particularly aligned and although Sunset was intended to be more “gamer-friendly” than their previous stuff, there’s plenty of room to make something more “gamer-friendly” without actually getting to a point where I would enjoy it.
When I got the new issue of Edge magazine yesterday and saw Sunset had earned a 9 out of 10, I got so far as adding it to my cart on Steam. But then I added a bunch of other sale titles and my subtotal was adding up so I did a quick mental calculation down my list and wound up clicking Remove on the one that had me role-playing a housekeeper. I kinda figured I’d get it for $5 next time out, but reading that dev post is a big turn-off. It’s a real smorgasbord of subtextual blame, self-pity, and gracelessness.
You tried and failed, Tale of Tales. The lesson is, never try.
Looking at data (though lots of variance, especially before the sale started) - they basically got nothing out of their sale price until the last three days of the sale. And most of that came on the 21st, which while it’s the last day of the sale…also is the day their blog post was posted. That’s definitely seems like a a problem with their marketing/word of mouth.
EDIT: Though looking at other games in the few thousand owners range…that noise in measurement is a serious problem to get a handle on. Uggh.
Eyeballing a few others it looks like most don’t actually see much from a “standard” discount until the last few days, so looks like their sale problem is shared. But then again, if there wasn’t that 6/21 bump, they would look more anemic than many others.
I’m not sure they understand the medium they’re using for their art. Going by their trailer, they wanted to make a game about household chores, yet they represent every chore with a cutscene, showing less awareness of basic interactivity than Viscera Cleanup Detail.
Heh, I remember when PC games in Denmark all cost around 450 kroner back in the day, which was probably something like 80 -100 dollars by now. Steam’s sales REALLY put the pricehurt on games in general it seems to me.
Well put. Their marketing seems to have completely missed the mark. Putting more support behind advertising at RPS is all well and good, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be trying to get their name and game out there to any site with a viewer base that’ll listen. The blog post also hints at the fact that the developers weren’t the best behaved on social media, which… seems to be easily proven: http://imgur.com/iVaE9EM (fairly profane so I didn’t inline)
Indie studio with abrasive devs whose past offerings were short art non-games that more often than not ended up in bundles? And launching at a time when everyone knew a summer sale was imminent, then discounting your $20 indie title 50% to what it probably should have been as a base price? Yea, I’d say this is about the expected outcome.
Plus, to be fair to gamers, the actual gameplay portion of Sunset was pretty barebones. It was a bunch of mundane un-fun chores and letter-scrap hunting while looking out a window and listening to narration. It had slightly more game in it than Dear Esther.
I still contend Luxuria Superbia is one of the more embarassing games ever made. It’s also, once you’ve gotten past the blush enducing content and rather silly asthetic is actually somewhat retrograde and sort of “Simone de Beauvoir-ian”. But as a game it’s probably their most successful, since what they seem to have a problems with is actually the gameplay part of their games.
If anything it’s a very instructive failure. Minecraft doesn’t have “Design” or “Narrative” but what is has in spades is “Gameplay”. Ultimately it seems, what makes video games different from cinema and visual arts is the interactivity and nature of that gameplay, which sits underneath the design and narrative but is the most important part of “game design” of all. No matter how profound your artsy game is, without Gameplay underneath it, no one is going to play.
Dear Esther was one of my favorite gaming experiences and has lived with me more than most gameplay-centric games. I know that is a divisive title for many, but I adored it. Immersive experience-rich, or narrative-driven, titles definitely have an audience and certainly have the capability to succeed commercially. I don’t know much about Sunset here so it may have missed the mark, but I fundamentally disagree that titles live or die based on the presence of gameplay or mechanics–for some that is true, but not all.
Dear Esther, Gone Home, The Path, The Walking Dead, To the Moon… Some of May favourite games ever, (and all of them commercially successful) and all of them with little to none gameplay. Games are a very diverse medium, pests not be reductionist, please…