Indie game company Arcen (AI War, The Last Federation) expects to lay off nearly all of its staff by Monday for financial reasons, according to a lengthy blog post published today by company founder Chris Park.
The announcement comes not long after the launch last week of Arcen's latest game, Starward Rogue (pictured), which according to Park's post has not sold what it needed to despite what he describes as a positive reception.
Park attributes the sad turn of fate to a common developer concern -- spending too much money and time getting a game (in this case, Stars Beyond Reach) just right -- but also to a shift in the way Steam's storefront works.
"Time spent in extra development more than doubled the cost of making the game, and in the meantime our steady stream of income from our 2014-and-before titles started to dry up," writes Park. "The Steam store changed a lot, and periodic discount sales — as well as the larger store-wide sales — were no longer the huge windfalls they once had been. Our non-discount-period sales were up because of the new changes, so that was good. But the promotional income was gutted, and that was our main source of income. So we started bleeding money."
The bleeding didn't stop during Steam's recent winter sale -- which (according to Valve) saw greater traffic to a broader variety of games, rather than just high-profile hits -- and now the lion's share of Arcen's staff are expected to be out of a job come Monday.
Park's blog post is worth reading in full, both because he shares useful perspective on the financial challenges that face a small game company and because it reflects a common experience of trying to find success shipping indie games in today's crowded markets.