Creator Dan Pinchbeck explained that going commercial had caused "an insurmountable contradiction" between the University of Portsmouth, where Dear Esther began life as a research project, and the distribution deal with Steam.
"We suddenly lost our host organization and our investment and everything else," he said. "[We] found ourselves basically with a 75%-finished game and no money and no backers and nowhere to take it to market."
Fortunately, the Indie Fund stepped in to save the day. The Fund was founded in 2010 by a group of indie luminaries who'd struck it rich and were "looking to encourage the next wave of game developers" Its members include Ron Carmel and Kyle Gabler of World of Goo dev 2D Boy, Braid creator Jonathan Blow, and Kellee Santiago of Flower maker thatgamecompany. IGF Grand Prize winner Monaco is another to have receive friendly Fund money.
Dear Esther is aiming to go on sale at under $10, Pinchbeck recently told BeefJack. "My rule of thumb is, 'same as a pack of cigarettes, a cinema ticket, a round of drinks.' I hope we bring it in under $10, I think that'd be a fair price," he said. Pinchbeck expects to launch Dear Esther by the end of the summer.
$10 seems a perfectly reasonable price to me, but still might prove off-putting to many, partially due to Dear Esther's length (or lack thereof) and weirdness. thechineseroom describes it as a "ghost story," where "Rather than traditional game-play the focus here is on exploration, uncovering the mystery of the island, of who you are and why you are here. Fragments of story are randomly uncovered when exploring the various locations of the island, making every each journey a unique experience." It's a lovely thing not intended for the mass market, you see.
"For a team of 20 or 100 to make a game like this is not commercially viable," Pinchbeck told Gamasutra. "But that's kind of part of the indie charm--you need to fund a team of one or two, and it's very easy to make something commercially viable when it's a one or two person team."