The Day Before saga, explained: From Steam's most wishlisted game to the end of a studio

the day before
(Image credit: Fntastic)

The survival MMO that once sat at the top of Steam's most-wishlisted games list is crumbling before our eyes. After numerous delays, weirdly confrontational statements, and a trademark dispute with a calendar app, The Day Before finally released last week and its Steam review average almost immediately settled at "overwhelmingly negative." Today, its studio abruptly closed, citing poor financial performance. 

Still unfolding, this is one of the most surprising things to happen in PC gaming this year. But how did we get here? Let's take a step back and walk through the strange saga of The Day Before. 

The impressive trailers: January - October 2021

Vibe check: 😯
The Day Before story started almost three years ago, when a trailer for the open-world survival MMO appeared online, most notably shared by IGN. The trailer, which included scripted player comms and a voiceover explanation of the game, drew immediate comparisons to The Last of Us and The Division for its PvPvE format, scavenging mechanics, and city setting.

While some commenters at the time were skeptical the final game would look as good, the graphically impressive demo was enough to sell people on the idea of a survival MMO with a triple-A sheen, and propelled The Day Before into Steam's top-wishlisted games list, where it'd stay for two years.

"This looks cool! But it also looks like a super super super polished demo and the real version is not going to look like this haha," wrote IGN user Ooshbala at the time.

If The Day Before's narrated announcement trailer looked too artificial, the 13-minute gameplay debuted on IGN in April 2021 might've convinced you otherwise. The trailer shows off what The Day Before will be like outside the big city: mud trucking, fixing flat tires, and farmhouse raids. The demo was still obviously scripted, but not in a way uncommon for games still in active development, so nobody was calling foul quite yet. In fact, trucking through mud already looked pretty fun.

The release date drops: October 2021

the day before

(Image credit: Fntastic)

Vibe check: 👍
Another few months later, Fntastic had a release date to share: June 2022. Nothing out of the ordinary still—trailers continued to look impressive, and the new release date sounded about right for a game that's been in development for a few years already. Comment sections around this time were a healthy mix of hype and skepticism.

"Watch Dogs, The Division, and Cyberpunk 2077 all looked incredible in trailers...don't get too hyped," wrote YouTube user dr.loomis4221 at the time.

Then, The Day Before went dark for six months. Other than a January 2022 trailer showing off  DLSS and RTX support with panning shots of reflective skyscrapers, Fntastic stopped sharing updates on the game as it was presumably ramping up for release day.

The Day Before is delayed one month before release: May 2022

Vibe check: 😕
Just a month before The Day Before, now the top-wishlisted game on Steam, is set to release, Fntastic pulled the plug. The game was delayed nearly a year so Fntastic could upgrade to Unreal Engine 5. The new date is March 1, 2023.

"Feeling and understanding the great responsibility that we face, with enormous gratitude in our hearts, we're pleased to announce that The Day Before is switching to the new Unreal Engine 5 technology!" the studio said in a statement at the time. "The transition to a more advanced and adapted open worlds engine, will make the gameplay of The Day Before even more fantastic."

It was a little weird. Big games sometimes get delayed just months before their release date, but usually they're pushed back a matter of weeks or a month, not a whole year. 

Fntastic criticized for using unpaid 'volunteer' workers: June 2022

Vibe check: 🤔
Just a month after the big delay, Fntastic put out a call for "volunteers" willing to help get The Day Before over the finish line. People had already taken notice of the studios' quirky communication style, but this was the first time it got them into trouble. There seemed to be a misunderstanding around Fntastic's special definition of volunteer, but it did admit some of its employees were unpaid help.

Six months of silence, Fntastic promises to show some gameplay before release: January 2023

Vibe check: 😐
By 2023, unease around the lack of The Day Before updates was on the rise. The game's second deadline was in two months, and by this time it'd been nearly two years since we'd seen significant gameplay. The official Discord was abuzz with fans who were convinced the next DayZ-like phenomenon was almost here. The Day Before had its naysayers, too, but pessimism was shot down by much louder enthusiasm.

Fntastic announced that it'd finally share a new video in January that'd "showcase a majority of the features and gameplay elements requested by our community and will provide a clear glimpse into the current state of development." Meanwhile, we seriously questioned if The Day Before was legit. The red flags were piling up, but things would get really weird just a few days later.

The second delay & Steam takedown: January 2023

The Day Before screenshot

(Image credit: Mytona Fntastic)

Vibe check: 🚩😡🚩
Surprise! The Day Before was delayed another eight months, this time because of a trademark dispute with a calendar app called "TheDayBefore." The Day Before Steam page disappeared, and Fntastic also postponed that gameplay video we were promised. Reactions were all over the place: On one hand, the dispute seemed real and disruptive for Fntastic. On the other hand, eight months! That's a really long time to delay a game that's supposedly almost finished—unless it wasn't?

The delay and bizarre timing created a perfect storm. The Day Before had been elevated from wishlist curiosity to the main character of the internet. To make matters worse, Fntastic changed its story, clarifying that it was going to delay The Day Before regardless of the trademark dispute. The curious case of the survival game that may or may not really exist became a closely-followed beat for websites and YouTubers. The Discord was flooded with trolls and miffed fans who were starting to believe they were misled. Misinformed and unpaid Discord moderators were left at the frontlines to field Fntastic's mess. Fans demanded answers, but the mods knew as much as us.

"I've got a fresh canister of Copium for those that believe this game is *actually* real," wrote PC Gamer commenter HiraethGamer at the time.

The promised return: February - October 2023

Vibe check: 🙄
Following the January delay, Fntastic's communications got weirder and desperate. In February the studio announced it would show new gameplay despite the lawsuit. The 10-minute gameplay trailer did actually come out, and the game looked…fine, I guess? It was a lot of running around empty streets, looting cabinets, and very little combat. Viewers also questioned Fntastic's claim that it was "raw gameplay," citing the lack of a HUD and minimal look at the UI. Others noticed that elements of the latest trailer looked heavily inspired by a Call of Duty trailer from 2020.

In the same month, several The Day Before trailers disappeared from Fntastic's YouTube channel. The studio said it was the lawsuit's fault. With no Steam page and delisted videos, Fntastic pledged to return to Steam in time to make its November release date, and even announced a beta test.

"We’ll be back at the top of the wishlists," Fntastic co-founders Eduard and Aisen Gotovtsev said in a WellPlayed interview in June.

The Day Before returns to Steam with one last delay: November 2023

Vibe check: 🥱
Fntastic managed to keep a promise…sort of. The studio beat the lawsuit. The Day Before's Steam page was restored at the start of November and even reclaimed its spot among the top-wishlisted games. Unfortunately, the game also got delayed a month to December 7, now planned for early access.The studio's hopes seemed high as its attitude shifted from defensive to indignant.

"All this time, we've been focused on developing the game itself," Gotovtsev told PC Gamer. "You know for us it's a huge leap forward from a little indie studio from the edge of the world and over all these years we've been going through pain, suffering and blood, but we're doing everything possible to go through all the obstacles to the very top. We've encountered everything, from people's disbelief to trademark attacks."

There was a new gameplay overview trailer too. Fntastic had largely lost the confidence of the internet by this point, but the trailer wasn't half bad. It at least looked true to the game Fntastic planned to release.

the day before

(Image credit: Fntastic)

The Day Before finally comes out, and stinks: December 7, 2023

The Day Before screenshot

(Image credit: Mytona Fntastic)

Vibe check: 😬
The Day Before finally came out, and it was broken. The game immediately shot into the top sellers list on Steam with over 30,000 concurrents, but only a fraction of those players could successfully play the game.

Those who could play noticed something unexpected about The Day Before: it wasn't really an open-world survival MMO by typical standards. Its format of gearing up in a hub zone, deploying to an open world, then extracting your gear back home resembled more of an extraction shooter like Escape from Tarkov. This realisation was the last straw for many, but personally, it was The Day Before's terrible shooting, boring world, and uninteresting characters that led me to uninstall it after an hour. The game is flooded with thousands of reviews on day one, settling at "Overwhelmingly negative" on Steam.

Fntastic shuts down: December 11, 2023

Vibe check: 😲
That brings us to today. Only four days after finally getting its game out the door, Fntastic has closed its doors, citing the financial failure of The Day Before and its "miscalculated capabilities."

There are still a lot of unknowns around this abrupt shuttering, but it's clear this is no normal studio shutdown. Fntastic hasn't just ceased operations, it's seemingly trying to erase any evidence that it ever existed. You can no longer buy The Day Before. Every video on Fntastic's YouTube page is gone, as is nearly every voice and text channel on the official Discord server. The situation is still unfolding, and we'll keep you updated as we learn more.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.