While you may not have heard about Sunless Skies, nearly everyone has heard of the game’s predecessor — Sunless Sea. This, itself, is one of the noted woes and difficulties facing indie developer Failbetter Games in their latest Kickstarter update for the game which paints a gloomy-yet-realistic picture on the uncertainty of indie game development. The kicker of the update seems to be a delay for the studios’ biggest project, and a shuttering of a smaller side project.
The news comes following a fairly uplifting Kickstarter update roughly a week ago where they revealed “the biggest appreciable change to [Sunless Skies] during Early Access” for players, speaking about a new region that was opening up in-game. However, it seems this announcement was the calm before the storm on the news that Sunless Skies was being pushed from its May 2018 launch window to an unspecified time. Thankfully, Failbetter Games said they should have a revised launch window before February ends.
But why the delay? Among other things, Failbetter acknowledges administrative changes and financial difficulties that had the potential of putting the studio “in a financial state… in danger of closing before [they] can make another game.” First and foremost, Sunless Skies is proving to be less of an indie darling as Sunless Sea so far, with only 15% as many copies sold in comparable time periods. Additionally, four members of the team are layed off the already-small team.
Additionally, the studio laments various aspects on Kickstarter — the successful campaign led to many not purchasing the game in Early Access, cannibalizing visibility on storefronts for Steam. On top of that, Failbetter notes that the market for Early Access has changed (likely saturated) in ways that it hadn’t when Sunless Sea launched in 2014.
However, it appears that the speedbumps in Sunless Skies financing and development are also impacting other studio projects. For one, iOS and Web-exclusive Fallen London will be shuttering the mobile app in Q2, whereas the web version will be re-launched following an upcoming announcement. Failbetter’s Fundbetter small narrative games fund is being retired — at least until the indie studio has more “spare funds or bandwidth.” Finally, Sunless Sea will stop getting regular updates in the build to Sunless Skies so the team can more regularly focus on their new project.
Sunless Skies is a roguelike survival exploration game, where gamers take on a Victorian-era world. The game will be available exclusively to PC, though it is unclear when the game will release. In the meantime, check out the Early Access trailer, below: