Update September 12, 2016: In an interview with Gamasutra, Chris Park of Arcen Games has explained why In Case Of Emergency, Release Raptor was pulled from sale after less than a week.
If you're going to cancel a game, the general point to do it is before its released. That's a guideline though, and one Arcen Games did not follow. Now founder Chris Park has explained why - it was the better financial decision.
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"This option had not remotely entered my mind prior to about an hour before deciding to do it," says Park, explaining the normal process of releasing a mid-performing game. "I figured that the worst case with this game would be to struggle along for a month, maybe two, spend about $40k doing so, and then leave people with a good $5 experience."
However, things got complicated - and obviously expensive - quickly. "The problem, looking at the numbers and the early feedback and the early response from much of the press, was that I realized that we were not remotely going to recoup that $40k anytime soon, and that I'd burn a couple of depressing months slogging out something that apparently no-one wanted or understood."
He goes on to say that press reaction and public feedback didn't really understand the game, and while some YouTube and Twitch coverage was positive, it clearly wasn't going to make its money. Launch sales were not high enough to cover ongoing marketing, and as he puts it, would cut to a tenth after two weeks if it followed normal paths.
"If the press hadn't really reacted yet, or YouTubers and Twitch folks hadn't been covering it at all yet, or our advertising campaign hadn't kicked into gear yet, then I would have still had some hope. Once it became clear that all of those things were not making a difference and we were spending more on advertising than the game was even making, and the game was being misunderstood and seen as a cash grab... well, that was the death of hope, I suppose.
"What the key realization was, though, was that this game had sold so poorly that I could actually withdraw it from the market with minimal financial loss compared to what I'd otherwise lose. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 of direct cost in refund bank fees, versus $40,000. Obviously the revenue would be lost on top of that, but that's not money we ever had in our pocket anyway. I'm referring to money out the door that was in a bank account we have."
As far as mistakes of this tier go, that's relatively cheap. Park says that Arcen Games will continue to support their older titles while they work on a Kickstarter for AI War 2, which should show up in the next few weeks. You can read the full interview on Gamasutra.
Original story August 31, 2016: After almost a week in Early Access, Arcen Games have pulled In Case Of Emergency, Release Raptor from sale on Steam and have ceased development on it. The game is currently listed as free to play on Steam - although there’s no way to download or install it right now - and its developers are offering full refunds to anyone who purchased it in Early Access via Steam’s standard refund policy.
The decision was first announced on the Release Raptor’s Steam page August 27, with Arcen Games stating that they’re taking the game off sale and refunding all purchases. Chris Park, Founder of Arcen Games explained the decision as being a result of poor sales. “The game is selling extremely poorly, even below what happened with Starward Rogue.
“I stated upfront that our reason for doing EA with this game was partly as a market survey of sorts. 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.” Chris Park also mulled over some of the reasons for the game’s poor financial performance, saying it’s likely down to a mix of people’s expectations of the game, the company’s decision to move away from making strategy games and the oversaturation of the Steam.
Arcen made a follow-up post on Release Raptor’s Steam page on August 30, announcing that in the wake of this commercial misstep they would be returning to the strategy games they’re best known for: “We're going to be putting all our efforts into AI War 2: Rise from Ashes, which will be a kickstarter project that then comes over to Steam.”