A highly atmospheric image of Frictional Games' SOMA

Frictional Games, the creators of Penumbra, Amnesia, and SOMA have one of the more interesting developer blogs out there. Besides simply talking about the successes and failures of their own games, they also discuss a large variety of topics covering everything from gameplay design to the use of sound in horror games. If you ever have a few hours to lose, I'd recommend you give it a look as there is some fascinating insight in there.

What I would like to highlight today, however, is Frictional's latest blog post that talks about the state of SOMA two years after its release, as well as the state of their company as a whole. If you would like to read the whole thing you'll find what you seek over here, but for now allow me to share with you a couple of the more interesting quotes:

"First of all, let's talk about sales. As I've said many times before, sales are not straightforward to count, and the number you come up with is reliant on many different factors. For instance, SOMA was part of the Humble Monthly Bundle, which meant that everybody subscribing to that service was able to download a copy of SOMA. These are not really "sales", so should we count them? It's also worth noting that pricing differs a lot between different sales. A single unit sold at full price means more than one sold when the game is 75% off. I think it's important to think about these things, and remember you can't directly compare the sales of two games.

With all that said, what I'm going to do here is to basically take every single download of the game as a sale. Doing so gives us a total of 650 000 units, a 200 000 units increase since the the same time last year. This is a very good result.

However, this also makes it very clear that we need to be able to release games at a more regular rate. We were lucky that SOMA was a hit, and that the money is easily able to sustain us for the time we need to complete our next project. Had SOMA been a flop, the situation would have been a lot worse now. That's why we are focusing on becoming a two project studio, and the goal is to be able to release a game every two years. Had we managed to set that up prior to SOMA, we would be in the process of releasing a game right now.

This leads me to another thing that's been on my mind. A few months back someone asked me: "How do you get people to buy your game?". This is a fairly basic question, but it really made me think. 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. 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. A lofty goal? You bet. While it'll be impossible to make sure every single player has this type of experience, it feels like the perfect thing to strive for.

There will be no release this year, but we hope to announce something during the first six months of next year."

That part about unique experiences being the most important factor at securing a sale are surprisingly accurate. With so many games releasing every single month, why would you ever settle for something generic? For example, I'm a big fan of Overwatch, and despite there being dozens of similar games out there I have very little interest in grabbing them as they're all trying to do the exact same thing. On the other hand you have games like Total War: Warhammer 2 which i snatched up as soon as it arrived, simply because no other game even comes close to offering that sort of gameplay. Its an interesting topic to ponder, that's for sure.

As for the future, Frictional currently has two games in development, though they are still nowhere near finished. The first of these two games will be a proper horror affair, though what exactly it'll be all about I'm afraid nobody outside of Frictional really knows. They did say they're hoping to have something to announce during the first six months of the next year, so here's to hoping we'll at least get a brief teaser!

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