Soma studio's next game is in full production and will be 'horrific'

Frictional Games, the studio that brought you the unforgettable happy-fun-times of Penumbra, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and Soma, revealed last year that it was working on not just one, but two new games. Releasing games more frequently, it explained at the time, meant that it wouldn't be so reliant on every project being a hit. In a new blog post, the studio shared an update on the state of both of its new projects, and also dug deeper into why the decision to take on two projects simultaneously was necessary.   

The post begins with a rundown of the success of Soma, which has now sold approximately 650,000 copies. That's "a very good result," but it also counts "every single download of the game as a sale," regardless of its source or price. Even so, it continues to generate enough revenue to keep Frictional in the black while it works on the new stuff. 

"The normal day-to-day income, when there are no discounts or anything, is 33% of what it was the same time last year. However, when the game is at a discount (such as a Steam summer sale), the generated income is about 75% of what similar events generated last year. This means that discount events are extra important this year," the message says. 

"Taken as a whole, the sales that we make from all our games will cover all our expenses every month, and even make us a profit. This is quite amazing. Given that we currently have about 16 people working with us full time, we have a pretty high burn rate, and to still be able to support all that on your ongoing sales is great." 

While taking on two games will (presumably) make Frictional more financially stable, its approach to development will remain unchanged. Interestingly, the post says that while discovery tools on Steam and elsewhere have some value, they're not actually a major factor when it comes to ensuring a game's continued relevance: What really matters is "the slow build-up of good will around a game." 

"Because of this, and considering the sheer number of games that are currently being released, I think the best strategy is to focus on unique experiences. You want to create the type of experience that is not only hard to get elsewhere, but also leaves a mark on those who play it," the message says. "This is now a core philosophy here at Frictional. I guess we sort of always had it unconsciously, but we have now made it official. Our goal is to create games that are more than forgettable escapism. We want people to come out of their experiences feeling changed." 

As for the new projects currently underway: The first is in "full production," but development was recently sidetracked after the studio came up with some "new avenues" it wanted to explore. 

"The stuff that has come out of this recent detour is feeling really great and I am certain it'll make the game feel very special. All of this came out of what I just discussed: our focus on making games that leaves a mark on the player. I'm not sure we would have gone down this route if we hadn't explicitly stated that goal, which makes me confident it's a really good way of thinking," the studio wrote. 

Details, including a possible release date, aren't being shared yet, but it will be "horrific in nature." 

The second project is also coming along well, but it's been delayed a bit by the need to develop new technology for it. But that's enabled Frictional to keep it in pre-production for longer than any of its past projects, "and allowing it to all to brew for a bit has meant many of the basic aspects are clearer for us." 

"This game will be less about direct, visceral horror, and more about the player gaining an understanding of different concepts. This can, as we know from working on SOMA, be quite tricky to get right and requires a slightly different approach than when working on a more direct horror game. Release for this game is quite far off though, so don't expect to hear any concrete details in the near future." 

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.