Yesterday, I wrote that I'm disappointed by Cult of the Wind—not because it's a bad game, but because I can't play it to find out if it's a good game. It runs fine, but I didn't see anyone in the single official server all day. I was surprised: Cult of the Wind (opens in new tab) generated a lot of excitement (opens in new tab) on Steam Greenlight, so where are all the players? In an e-mail correspondence, creator Alex Allen tells me he's also surprised, and expresses concern about the effects of Greenlight and Early Access.
"Greenlight, surprisingly, wasn't challenging," writes Allen. "Maybe that's the problem—it's too easy. In fact, Cult of the Wind was well on its way to the top five and was, briefly, the fastest Greenlit game of all time at 72 hours. I spoke with my Valve rep and he said they had their eye on it, and that it seemed 'really solid.' The trailer has 120,000 views on YouTube, and before being Greenlit over a dozen articles were written about the game.
"It was a surprise when all that hype amounted to nothing, especially considering my last game, Omegalodon, had a very slow-trickle release and little publicity yet saw considerably more success thanks to a single YouTube video by NerdCubed. Maybe people viewed CotW as a trailer-worthy novelty, but not much more. Many comments contain sentiments that it 'doesn't seem' like something you could play for long, but those who have actually tried it are begging for more people to join them. I designed it for a community and it can certainly support one long-term."
After Greenlight, Cult of the Wind was briefly available in Steam's Early Access section. Allen isn't sure if Early Access is to blame, but he's worried about how it might have affected perception.
"[Early Access] supplies connotations of 'joke games' that are never finished," writes Allen. "But I updated the game religiously throughout. It's difficult to please the crowd when they're so divided—gamers lament the Minecraft-style work-in-progress release method while simultaneously asking for regular updates to finished titles. I'm not sure how you can have both."
Allen isn't giving up. He plans on "doing the usual" to attract more players by advertising and lowering the price. He's already tried to knock Cult of the Wind down to $10, but says Valve wouldn't let him—he suspects because it was shortly after the Steam Summer Sale, which "would be seen as a bait-and-switch." He'll try again soon.
In the meantime, Allen says his concerns with Greenlight and Early Access aren't a cop out, and he'll maintain Cult of the Wind as he has been. "Either way, it's my responsibility and I don't want anyone to think I'm looking for a scapegoat," he writes. "I'll continue running the dedicated server and providing updates as needed, even if it's only for a handful of players per week."