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Amnesia Developers Discuss Sales, Piracy, and Future of Frictional Games

by Jeff Mattas, Oct 25, 2010 4:00pm PDT

Frictional Games' first-person survival horror title, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, has been scaring the crap out of gamers for just over a month now. Following an initial week-one report, in which the developers discussed the lack of parity between review scores and early sales, the team has posted a one-month follow-up entry about Amnesia's sales, reception, piracy issues, and what it all means for the future of Frictional Games.

Despite initial worries that Amnesia was underperforming from a sales perspective, the game had already sold 36,000 copies as of October 8. The figure, which includes pre-orders but not the boxed versions sold in Russia, surpasses the 24,000 units sales the team projected as the requisite number for the project to be considered a success. In practical terms, the news should make fans happy. "Frictional Games will live to create another game!"

Frictional reports that just shy of 42% (15,000 units) of Amnesia's sales were thanks to pre-orders (offered at a 20% discount), a successful strategy the team intends to employ for future titles. About 5,000 units were sold directly through the Frictional Games website, which is the only place to obtain Amnesia in Linux flavor. Frictional estimates that about 5% of total sales were for the Linux version, and 8% were for the Mac version.

Interestingly, the developers didn't notice much in the way of a correlation between the positive review scores Amnesia has received and any direct spikes in unit sales. The notable exceptions were the release of reviews on Zero Punctuation and GameSpot. Sales quadrupled from roughly 150 per day to about 600 per day around the time those outlets published their review coverage. Despite any other tangible bumps due to reviews, Frictional doesn't discount their overall value: "What this means is that reviews convince players that already know about the game to purchase it, instead of acting as a PR catalyst."

On a troubling (and sadly unsurprising) note, Amnesia's sales haven't been unfettered by filthy pirates. The team notes that when searching for Amnesia coverage online, nearly half the results point to pirated versions of the game. Frictional points out that Notch's Minecraft has outsold Amnesia tenfold, but has only twice the number of illegal torrent distributors. The team is quick to point out that Minecraft is "a vastly different game compared to Amnesia," but that aside, feels there are lessons to be learned by comparing the exposure and success of both titles.

I would say that Minecraft is more well known, but Amnesia is not far behind. Google gives us two times the hits compared to them and a popular pirate site gives Minecraft double the distributors compared to us. We have gotten more reviews from popular outlets, Minecraft has gotten more viral-like PR. As I said, I think Minecraft has the upper hand here, but not by that much. Still, Minecraft has a over ten times the sales compared to Amnesia, which is a huge difference.

Frictional Games concludes that there are a couple of main reasons that Amnesia's sales haven't come close to Minecraft's, despite great exposure. As a single-player, puzzle-based experience, Amnesia doesn't have much in the way replay value once it's been completed (despite its multiple endings). Amnesia also lacks any real copy-protection measures. It also doesn't share Minecraft's benefit of being server-based, or of receiving regular content updates. The observations come as more of a realization that certain game-types are inherently more difficult to monetize, if they have a more finite lifespan.

Realizing this doesn't sound like it will have undue influence on Frictional's upcoming projects. "A developer should not design a game based on how it can be protected and doing so can only lead to bad things for our games," Frictional states. "What we want to continue doing is to create single player games that try to evolve the way in which videogames tell stories and evoke emotions." Increasing exposure through other means, such as bringing titles to more platforms, is something the team is strongly considering.

As for news on Frictional Games' next project, the future is looking bright, despite any real specifics:

We also feel that we finally can leave Amnesia behind us and start focusing on our next project instead. As this will be our first project where we know from the start that we can finance it ourselves, it will be very interesting to see what can be done. In all our previous games, we have mostly rushed through the production.

This is will be the first time we can take our time and make sure that all is the way we want it to.





Comments

12 Threads | 26 Comments




  • I don't know why he's comparing his game to Minecraft. They're completely different playing styles, with completely different goals.

    He should compare it to other pseudo-rpg horror games. Silent Hill, maybe? Actually, the more I think about it, the more I really like the direction Amnesia took: you're completely helpless. It's an awesome thing for a game to make you feel really vulnerable, and then make you suffer through demons beating down doors to get to you.

    I think their bad sales were just a problem that is inherent in the genre. Some people like to play games for mindless fun to pass the time, some people play to get lost in a virtual world, or to use their reflexes. I have to admit that before I played this game I didn't care much for scary games. Left 4 Dead was my first 'scary monster game' I took an interest in -- before I played it I thought, "I have no interest in scary zombies". I went some 25 years before I could sit down and enjoy a scary movie -- not because I was scared, but because I didn't see the point (funny thing; being scared IS the point -- took me a while to figure that out, believe it or not). Anyway, it was like a horror-genre thing that I couldn't imagine myself getting into. Kind of like anime. It's a sub-culture inside the sub-culture that is gaming, and people really need to break into it or have a point of reference before entering. In a perfect world a game would stand on its own merits and everyone will see and understand what makes it refreshing and kind of brilliant. Unfortunately Amnesia falls into that horror sub-category that gets relatively little interest from the masses, despite the great reviews.