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Sunless Skies sales lead to Failbetter Games layoffs

Developer says Early Access RPG sold 15% of what Sunless Seas managed in comparable span; Fundbetter Games program discontinued

Failbetter Games has hit some turbulence with Sunless Skies. In a post on the company website today, the London-based developer today said that Early Access sales of the literary RPG have fallen well short of the mark set by its predecessor Sunless Sea.

Sunless Skies has sold just 15% of what Sunless Sea had in a comparable time period, prompting the studio to make some cuts to headcount.

"The business has a lot less cash in the bank than we wanted to have at this point," the company said in its update. "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."

A Failbetter Games representative told the team had a headcount of 16 before the layoffs.

"We're keenly aware that, like all indie studios, we are a small and vulnerable vessel," the statement read. "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."

As for what went wrong, Failbetter said it went into Early Access too early when the game wasn't in a shape to generate as much interest as it would have liked. It was further hampered by having so much of its initial playerbase coming from Kickstarter, as those fans didn't have to purchase the game on Steam when it hit Early Access, which decreased its visibility on the storefront. The full launch of the game has been pushed back from its previous May target, but a new launch window has not been announced.

Other areas of the company's business are also taking a hit, as Failbetter has decided to stop supporting the mobile version of Fallen London in the second quarter of this year, choosing to instead revamp the game's web version and focus on that. Additionally, it is retiring its "Fundbetter Games" program, which was set up in 2016 to fund independent narrative and interactive fiction titles.

"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," the company said.

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Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.