Sunset developer Tale of Tales has announced that it’s closing down as a game development company, following poor sales of its latest game.
In a blog post on the studio’s official website, founders Michaël Samyn and Auriea Harvey said that Sunset had only managed to shift 4,000 copies – and that included copies sent to Kickstarter backers and sold while the game was 50% off in a Steam sale last week.
Tale of Tales has developed a number of games over the years, and had become known for their experimental style that pushed the boundaries of what constitutes a game. Titles like The Path and Bientôt l’été were often received well by critics and the studio had developed a small base of devoted fans, though perhaps due to their refusal to adhere to traditional game design principles, they never managed the breakthrough or recognition they had hoped for.
“In its 12 year existence Tale of Tales has always teetered on the edge of sustainability, combining art grants and commercial revenue to fund our exploration of video games as an expressive medium,” the studio explained in the blog post. “We considered it spreading our dependencies. And that was fine, because we assumed this situation to be stable. All we really wanted was the opportunity to create.”
On why Sunset failed to do well at retail – despite plenty of coverage, positive reviews and advertising on sites in line with their target audience – Samyn and Harvey were frank in their assessment. “We studied successful games and applied our findings to the design of Sunset. And while the inclusion of certain conventions seems to have helped some people enjoy the game, it didn’t affect the size of our audience much,” they wrote.
“We spent a lot of money on a PR company who got us plenty of press, took some work and worries off our shoulders, and found us other marketing opportunities. But it didn’t help sales one bit.
“We even took out an advertisement on Rock, Paper, Shotgun, where we figured the people most interested in Sunset would be gathered. They must all use AdBlock because that had no effect whatsoever.
“We worked hard on presenting a gentler Tale of Tales to the public. Which basically meant that Michaël was forbidden to talk in public and Auriea often just smiled at the camera, parroting words whispered in her ears by communication coaches. Didn’t make a difference.”
The pair ended the post by ruling out a return to commercial game development in the future. “We are happy and proud that we have tried to make a game for gamers,” they wrote. “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.”