Is it too late for ROKH? The Mars-based survival game has definitely been having a rough go of things for a while. And now, development is stalled, the studio is working on something else, and players are unhappy. Or probably more accurately, ex-players: There don’t even seem to be any actually playing, at least on any of the one to three 12-player official servers I can find any given day. Of those total slots, I only made player number two when I livestreamed (before that server went kaput on me!). More could possibly be spending time on local games of course, but with nothing to look forward to development-wise, how long could that last?
In an effort to communicate with past — and hopefully future — players, the Darewise team has posted a very open look at exactly what is up with the game, including financially. How open? We’re talking exact numbers of copies sold and when, how much money was brought in, and how much investment started it all. This is info I have never seen other studios dare to share quite like this. Was it wise? Perhaps so. It was a frank discussion that I wonder might buy a little more life for the game. Could this transparency help ROKH survive? (The announced price drop can’t hurt, either!)
How many times have players felt like they are never given all the info, that so much is kept from them? This is very prevalent in crowdfunded and early access games. Well, here’s a novel idea for game development: Just tell people what is what. That seems to be just what Darewise is trying. The September 2018 update states, “So, we are going to take a risk, and be brutally transparent about the financial history and status of the project.” And transparent it is: The studio outlines the initial $2 million investment, breaks down when copies were sold and for how much, and how much additional it cost to address problems with game bugs. It is a bold move to divulge all three; most companies that do share any pick one, maybe two. I bet the studio is banking on folks appreciating the transparency; after all, players/supporters/backers want to be kept in the loop and communicated with!
Make no mistake, Darewise knows that it is a risk, and one that might not have any reward. The studio is going out on a limb, and it might just break. But it is a risk it seems willing to take. Then again, the devs don’t really seem to have too much to lose, at least in the form of faith of customers, let alone customers themselves. But if this crashes and burns, then they do lose their dreams of the game and all the time and effort put in. Would the team lose any more credibility by being so frank and open? I don’t think so. I think it can only go up from where it is.
Now the question is, what can the studio gain with this openness? Perhaps a little restored faith. Perhaps a bit more interest. Perhaps just that upset players put down their pitchforks. And with the price drop, maybe some more revenue will trickle in. Perhaps an investor will see all this and add to the dedication give it a try. So really, why not share all this?
I’ve never run a game studio, so I can’t say whether being so open about financials is a big no-no because it damages your product or marketability out in the general business world, or if it is (as I suspect can be) more a way to be less accountable for actions. I know that many don’t do it, leaving more detailed information for investors. That’s fair. But in the gaming industry, especially lately, folks are actually investing in these games via Kickstarter, crowdfunding, and supporting early access. This is using money to invest in the game, and I feel players should be more privy to financials. The details. What money is going where, what can and can’t be done with it, etc. I want that accountability present. This could help head off questions and concerns about what all is transpiring before it reaches a head. I like that Darewise is being frank and accountable. Wouldn’t it be nice if it could set a new precedent for other studios?
Another factor I appreciated in this update was how the devs addressed players’ concern about the studio working on a different project (Project C). It is totally understandable that people feel cheated of time and effort that could be put into the project they backed. Darewise’s explanation does make sense and has calmed my own concern and disappointment over the issue. Darewise says that the new team was created and is paid for completely through different funding from a new partnership exclusively dedicated to that project. It would actually be pretty dishonest to steal time and resources from that other partnership to use on ROKH. Frankly, I prefer the integrity of not trying to skirt around that. I’d be pretty ticked if money I put in for something particular was used for something else, and talk about a way to lose faith with investors!
I wish I could give good odds for ROKH’s revival. I never want for any game to disappear, whether or not I personally play. Maybe this transparency will pay off over time — if the game has enough time. It is a hard sell right now, if not to investors than to players. Maybe the game won’t survive because, as one Stream Team viewer put it, it comes across the same as all the other UE4 template games. Maybe that is the bigger hurdle: finding what really sets it apart and sharing that. But maybe that can’t really come until there’s more to the game. And then you are stuck with more can’t come to the game until there is more revenue to spend on it, and that only comes when there are more players, but the players won’t come until there is more to the game…
It may be that ROKH will never rise to the surface in the flood that is survival games. Perhaps it can carve out a decent enough niche that it can indeed survive. After the devs openness, I hope they can pull it off; I’d be happy for them to be rewarded for the transparency. I’d like to see others be able to point back to being open with supporters as beneficial and start adopting that.
Maybe the price drop will help keep ROKH afloat. Is it worth a tenner? A month ago I was asking whether ROKH was worth it for players who were looking for that survival-on-a-hostile-planet experience. I don’t think too many would have answered yes at the $24.99 price tag. But now that it has dropped to $9.99, maybe it is more so. Even just local fun, trying to work out the story of what happened to those who came before you while preparing to make the colony, could be worth ten bucks. Maybe more will try it, making more revenue to put right back into the game and development (which Darewise promises it will be).
What do you think? Is it all too late? Is there no hope for ROKH? Even if Darewise’s actions don’t result in the survival of the game, will they affect anything going forward? Would you like to see more of this level of transparency in other early access and funded games? Let us know!