Frictional moves to multi-game development as Soma approaches profit

Amnesia: The Dark Descent creator suggests that mixing horror and sci-fi impacted sales of both its titles
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Frictional Games, the developer of Soma, is changing its internal development strategy as the sci-fi horror title looks set to turn a profit under a year.

Looking back on the first six months of the game, Frictional co-founder Thomas Grip revealed that the PS4 and PC title has sold just over 250,000 units, with around 30,000 needed to break even – a total that Grip believes it will hit easily within a year, given a sales rate of around 125 copies each day.

While Grip admits that runaway indie success stories such as Firewatch trounce that statistic (Firewatch sold more than half a million copies in under a month), Soma’s reception has been “very encouraging” for the developer.

“Soma was a really ambitious project which took five years to develop, used a load of external help and had a big chunk of money spent on a live action series and so forth, making it a very costly affair,” Grip explained.

“Yet Soma is well on the way to becoming profitable after just six months, despite not being a runaway success. This makes us a lot less worried about making another game of similar scope.”

Exploring why the game may not have fared as well as Frictional previous effort, the cult horror hit Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Grip suggested that mixing the horror genre with sci-fi had not just impacted Soma’s sales, but also cut off the steady flow of Amnesia, too.

“A problem with Soma is that it lies between two genres,” he observed. “Not only has this probably led to lost sales, it's also most likely the reason why Soma cannibalised the Amnesia sales.

“The moment that Soma came out, sales of Amnesia: The Dark Descent went down too, and has stayed down ever since. We saw the same happening when we released [sequel] Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, but since Soma is in many ways quite different from Amnesia, we thought it wouldn't happen this time. But it did, and the reason seems to be that people lump both titles under a "Current Horror From Frictional Games" label.

“In order to combat this issue we're thinking about differentiating the games we make a bit more. So if we make another sci-fi game, we'll probably tone down the horror elements and make the sci-fi narrative more prominent. The reverse would be true if we made a new horror game. The idea is that this'll not only let us reach a new and wider audience, but also minimise the risk that people will mix up our games, and instead they'll see them as separate entities.”

Grip went on to reveal that as part of this new strategy, Frictional would now work on multiple projects simultaneously, and will potentially look to hire new developers in the future.

“For the first time in company history we're now developing two games at the same time,” he announced. “This will require non-trivial changes in how we manage the team, but in the end we're very sure it'll be worth it all.

“By having two projects going at the same time, we can release games at much higher frequency. In turn, this let us be more experimental as we don't have to rely as much on each new game being a big money generator.”

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