2017 was a "mixed bag" for Sunless Sea developer Failbetter Games, and it's resulted in some unfortunate changes at the studio and on its next project, Sunless Skies, which has sold far fewer copies than Sunless Sea and isn't going to make its scheduled May release.
Sunless Skies was a huge success on Kickstarter, breaking its £100,000 goal in just four hours and finishing with nearly four times that amount. The Early Access release has been a very different matter, however, as sales have only achieved about 15 percent of what Sunless Sea achieved over the same period of time. The studio cited a number of reasons for the slippage, including a premature rollout, changes to the marketplace, and the wild success of the Kickstarter, which led to fewer Early Access purchases and thus lower visibility on the storefront.
Despite that rough start, development of Sunless Skies continues to move ahead, "and there's no danger of us failing to deliver the project you backed," communications director Hannah Flynn wrote in a blog post. "But the business has a lot less cash in the bank than we wanted to have at this point."
Because of that, Failbetter has been forced to lay off four of its 16 employees, and also to eliminate the Fundbetter program that has previously helped finance games like The Edgelands. The Fallen London mobile app, which has proven difficult to update and isn't as popular as the studio had hoped, will also be shut down. Fallen London itself will carry on, however, and the website will be relaunched with a more modern look that "will provide a much better experience" on mobile devices.
"We’re keenly aware that, like all indie studios, we are a small and vulnerable vessel. We’re committed to keeping this studio open and making games," Flynn wrote. "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."
An updated launch schedule for Sunless Skies will be announced "within the month."
Update: The report originally indicated that Failbetter had 11 employees, as indicated on its "About" page, but the studio said the website is "a bit out of date" and that there were actually 16 employees prior to the layoffs.