In Case of Emergency, Release Raptor was released on Steam earlier last week, but already buyers have been refunded and the game switched to free-to-play.
Developer Arcen has had a tough time of late, being forced to layoff staff after previous release Starward Rogue sold below expectations. Now Release Raptor has fared even worse, forcing the studio to drastically rethink its model.
Our reason for doing Early Access with this game was partly as a market survey of sorts,” CEO Chris Park said. I felt like that would be a way of determining how big this game could get. With Starward Rogue, and indeed some of our other past commercial failures, we put in everything and the kitchen sink and then there wasn’t a market there.
Just from the concept alone, we have a lot of pushback from press; and despite some quite positive coverage from some reasonably biggish YouTubers, that isn’t moving the needle at all. We don’t need Release Raptor to be our sole source of income, or even our largest one. However, if it’s going to be our largest expense it also has to vaguely earn its keep or at least show the promise that it will someday do so. That’s what is missing here.”
Park went on to speculate that comparison with Goat Simulator (the name ‘Raptor Simulator’ was considered at one stage) may have affected expectations of the game. He admits, however, that its early struggles remain somewhat of a mystery, and that media coverage didn’t deliver the sort of sales spike they would have expected.
People’s perception of this was not matching up to what it was,” he added. I’m all for enthusiasm, but hype is not something I really like. We had a lot of hype for A Valley Without Wind, and that burned the company and myself in some fairly profound ways. So I’m really wary of hype; that was our one game that had it, and it was distinctly unpleasant.
Overall the market is more crowded now, and gaining visibility is harder. We tried advertising this time, but we literally spent more money today on advertising than the game made. So this is some sort of New Market now, anyhow, with something approaching the App Store effect that we’ve seen on Apple devices. I was incredibly paranoid that would happen going all the way back to 2009, and then I gradually got less worried about it, and now here we are. How many indie developers do you know of who have made more than one or two games at this point? That’s a bit scary to think about.
It’s not all doom and gloom in the market, obviously: in some ways, opportunities are larger now than they ever were. And it’s certainly a better market now than in mid-2009 when I first started out with AI War. So it’s certainly not all market forces, and I don’t mean to imply that.
At the end of the day, for whatever combination of reasons, this doesn’t seem to be the right game at the right time. Might we pick this project back up in the future? I’d like to think so.”