Thursday, 24 March 2016

SOMA - 6 Months Later


It is now a bit over 6 months since SOMA was released, so it feels like it's time for an update on how everything has gone so far.

Sales
The total number of sales, across all platforms, is currently at a bit over 250 000 units. This is pretty good; it'll only take 20k - 30k more until we've earned back our entire investment in the project. Given that the daily sales are still solid (about 125 units a day) and we have regular boosts from various sale events, this is bound to happen well before this year is over.

While this is a good result for us, it's by no means earth shattering. For instance, Firewatch (which has quite a few elements in common with SOMA) sold over 500k in just a month, so there's obviously room for SOMA to sell a lot more. It might seem weird, but this is actually very encouraging for us. SOMA was a really ambitious project which took 5 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. Yet SOMA is well on the way to becoming profitable after just 6 months, despite not being a runaway success. This makes us a lot less worried about making another game of similar scope.

Still, it's interesting to ponder what kept the game from selling even more. One stand-out thing that we've identified is that the game falls between two genres: horror and sci-fi. What this means is that the game might feel a bit too sci-fi for someone looking for a pure horror experience and vice-versa. While we think the mix works very well for the game, it seems quite possible that this has put off potential buyers. I'll discuss this in more depth later on.

Modding
User created custom stories was (and still is) a big part of the Amnesia community. So far almost 450 Amnesia finished mods have been released. This is despite the game's mod support being far from good. So with SOMA we wanted to make sure we allowed even better mod support, so we would hopefully get as many mods made as we did for Amnesia.

Unfortunately the modding community around SOMA hasn't really taken off. So far only 5 custom stories (2 on moddb and 3 on steam workshop) have been released, and while it's amazing that people spend time making mods for SOMA at all, we expected that there would've been a few more. Just about everything in the game is controlled via script and modding allows you to replace any file, making it much more powerful than in Amnesia. Because of this, we'd hoped to see people do really crazy things with mods, but apart from Wuss Mode and a location tracking Omnitool there isn't much out there. Both of these are very cool modifications, but considering that the game could have been changed into an RTS or a racer, we'd hoped to see more experimental stuff.

It feels worthwhile to discuss why modding hasn't been as successful as it was with Amnesia. The first and most obvious answer is that SOMA is simply not as popular as the mega-hit Amnesia: TDD. Secondly when we released Amnesia there weren't many other similar horror games around, and as a result many of Amnesia's mods got played by popular streamers. This gave people a huge incentive for completing their mods. Thirdly, both the level creation and scripting is a bit harder in SOMA, making it more of a hassle for people to get things up and running. And finally, you can quickly create gameplay in Amnesia by just placing a few basic items, whereas SOMA requires more setup and lacks easily reusable elements. All of these issues combined probably explains why fewer mods are being released compared to Amnesia.

But we haven't given up on modding. Far from it. There are lots of interesting things in the works coming from the community (for instance, a very fitting SCP inspired custom story) and we're discussing what we could do to give people more incentive to create and finish more mods.

Reactions
I think the most surprising part of the player response is the depth in which SOMA's story and subject matters have been discussed. For instance, there have been really interesting discussions as to whether the game's (semi-)antagonist, WAU, is evil or not. Patrick Klepek at Kotaku wrote up a nice summary on this that can be found here. While WAU was designed to not be really evil, it was very surprising to see some people seeing it as the good force in the game's world. It made us look at the story in ways we'd never thought about ourselves.

Another interesting discussion has been the coin-flip 'controversy'. For instance, here is a long discussion that brings up various sides to the argument. This was another thing that we didn't figure would be very controversial, but ended up spawning tons of intelligent arguments. It's been a great deal of fun to see discussions like this. There's one aspect of the game that we've only seen mentioned once, though, which we thought would be a much bigger issue. What that is we'll leave as an exercise for the reader to figure out.

It's also been great to see all of the real-world connections people have made with SOMA. Here's an article that goes through a few of them.

By far the most surprising reaction we've had yet has got to be one guy mailing us saying that the game inspired him to fly to the US and propose to his girlfriend. We've always seen SOMA as a rather bleak game, and it was really interesting to see how some people actually found it uplifting and inspiring.

In all, we couldn't really have hoped for a better response. People report still thinking about the game months afterwards, and that it's made them think deeply about subjects they haven't considered before. This was what we were after when we started the game all those years ago, and it's incredibly satisfying to see that we managed to reach that goal.

Future
I mentioned above that a problem with SOMA is that it lies between two genres. Not only has this probably led to lost sales, it's also most likely the reason why SOMA cannibalized 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 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 minimize the risk that people will mix up our games, and instead they'll see them as separate entities. With SOMA it feels we've made it clear that Frictional Games is not just about pure horror, and we want to take advantage of that and diversify the experiences we craft.

Related to the above is our new internal development strategy. For the first time in company history we're now developing two games at the same time. 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. We're still in the early phases of this transition, but it's shaping up really well so far.

This also means we might do some recruitment in the near future. Watch this space for more news on that!


147 comments:

  1. Other than the game not reaching the same popularity as Amnesia, one of the big reasons modding is down is due to the assets the game provides, generic sci-fi corridors does not lend itself to the same level of creativity that the amnesia assets did.

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    1. Good point! On top of that they are harder to do things with . Amnesia used fewer and more versatile building blocks.

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  2. I love SOMA, best story driven game I have played last year.

    One thing though :

    People know you for the great Amnesia. Success lay on doing the same thing but slighty different. Because it's what they was expecting you to do...

    Your new strategy should work, like Telltale with all their sub-series between two Walking dead game.

    Keep up the good work and good luck

    Seroths.

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  3. I'm grateful for the games you and your team release to the world. I've played all of them. It must be stated that Soma isn't as good as Amnesia or Firewatch. You can rationalise this however you want, but game sales are certainly driven in a large part by their quality and the buzz they generate, particularly for non AAA games (the reasons we can discuss if you want).

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    1. "Soma isn't as good as Amnesia or Firewatch"
      Well, if you go by both user and meta critic score, they are all fairly similar, so not sure that "level of perceived quality" is what matters, but that the major difference is elsewhere.

      Also important to note that buzz does not directly correlate to quality.

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    3. @Anonymous

      The best movies, music, beer, and food in the world are by no means the the ones with the most sales, quality, or buzz.

      When you say that something is 'good,' what you are really saying is that it has met your expectations for what you consider to be good. These expectations are different for every person on this planet. An artist that desires to make the best video game / music / painting / food / beer would find themselves in a difficult position when trying to fulfill the wide variety of every individual's expectations.

      This leaves the artists with three options:

      1. Make something that will cater to a wide variety of people's expectations.

      2. Choose a specific kind of "good" that a small selection of people have expectations for, and then try to meet those expectations.

      3. Create something that can potentially change the public's expectation of what "good" can be.

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    4. I'm not sure I agree. While Firewatch was a very good game in terms of the story it told, so was Soma. While I think Firewatch was refreshing for telling such a grounded and down-to-earth story, it was very rough around the edges in terms of how it played. Soma was a superior game technology wise, and I thought the story was very cool in its own right.

      But ultimately, a niche sci-fi horror game, no matter how amazing, will have a hard time competing with a game like Firewatch that appeals to a HUGE audience, due to the more realistic nature of its setting and story. Firewatch was also hyped super hard by Sony leading up to its release.

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    5. Firewatch isn't even close to as good as SOMA. They're not even in the same league.

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    6. To be frank, gamers don't tend towards the "realistic nature of its setting and story" in ANY other context, from the most popular to the least popular titles. Games are generally over the top, even when they TRY to be realistic. SOMA is a more realistic game than most, really.

      Personally, I think presentation is what it comes down to. What were people expecting, what were they told beforehand? The plot of SOMA doesn't lend itself very well to trailers or teasers - as I think was pointed out in an earlier blog post. It's a really hard game to sell to people outside the main target audience, which is presumably science fiction fans and fans of previous Frictional titles.

      For me, SOMA was game of the year material. A more significant playing experience than any other game of 2015. But I fit snugly into the target audience, so it's hard to not bring a baggage of bias.

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    7. That is to say, I didn't really need any convincing. I was always going to buy it.

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  4. SOMA was unbelievably creative and has many many elements that keeps the player thinking. It's setting, characters and the whole story is too deep. I remember thinking, "This is the future, yes. This is going to happen," or "What does it mean, being a human then?"

    It was hands down the best game of 2015 for me. And a crucial step for you too guys, the Frictional Games. Don't mind the sales; people like to throw their money to ad-river games, keep getting hyped on things that are stupid as hell. This is the world at the moment, but hopefully, we will manage to launch the ARK. See you there! :)

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  5. I thought Amnesia sucked. It looked bad. It had no (interesting) story. It had no atmosphere. I quit halfway through.
    But SOMA was amazing. Some of the 3D Pac-Man-like enemy avoidance got a bit tiresome, but overall it is a great game. Great story. Beautiful environments. Great Sci-fi feel with a nice amount of horror. I don't know why people haven't embraced it. It is my pick for 2015 game of the year, hands down. I hope it finds an audience. 95% of the people who have played it love it. More people just need to play it.

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    1. Amnesia has no atmosphere? You must be joking.

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    2. "I thought Amnesia sucked. It looked bad. It had no (interesting) story. It had no atmosphere."

      Sure the game had its issues, but seriously? One of the least informed opinion I've seen in a long time.

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    3. Geez people. Don't get so butthurt! I'm sorry. I didn't like Amnesia. How informed do you have to be to have an opinion on a video game? I found it dull. I bought it twice, on Steam and then on GOG so I could easily install it on my various computers. It isn't like I didn't try. I re-started it 3 time before I gave up. I even gave it to friends to try because I thought they might like it. Some of them did. But this isn't about Amnesia. It is about SOMA.
      I loved SOMA. I assume you liked SOMA or you wouldn't be here. Why is it I hated Amnesia and absolutely loved SOMA, yet SOMA has only sold 250,000 units? Seriously, I thought it would have sold millions before it stated going on sale and was included in Humble Bundles.
      Is SOMA a huge step down from Amnesia? It seems like tons of people liked Amnesia. Since I didn't like Amnesia, but a million people did I assumed 10 million people would like SOMA.
      I don't mean to diss Amnesia, but SOMA seems better in every way. Why isn't it a huge hit?

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    4. Objectively, it was better in no ways other than story.

      Amnesia's story was not the worst, but you didn't play for the story. You played for the environment and the set pieces and the scares. There was a constant feel of danger and you pretty much constantly had a chance of dying. It was the same reason why Alien Isolation was good; you could get murdered around any corner so you were careful with all of them.

      Amnesia 2 dropped that. The atmosphere was great, but there was no danger. I think I saw three enemies during the entire game.

      SOMA kind of went back to that. It wasn't scary horror, it was psychological horror. You didn't collect items, there weren't puzzles, and there was still a relatively low risk of being killed. It was less a game and more an interactiVe story. Which is fine, but I think people were looking more for "Amnesia, but underwater" and got "sci-fi Bioshock" instead.

      Plus the themes of the game were super dark and philosophical and probably don't resonate with the population at large. Transhumanism is a pretty heavy concept and SOMA pretty much explores every current possibility of it.

      Basically, Amnesia was visceral horror. It scared you traditionally via the environment and physical danger and insanity. But SOMA was existential; the game itself was not that scary but the possibilities and concepts it made you consider were horrifying. And a lot of people don't like that.

      As a game, Amnesia did better. However, as an experience, SOMA wins out. They both accomplish entirely different things.

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    5. "One of the least informed opinions I've heard in a long time"

      ...you do realize the definition of the word "atmosphere" is so nebulous that it's a personal concept and so beyond anything to do with being informed or uninformed?

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    6. Jim your opinion is fine, is just your tastes that are bit off imo, saying that Amnesia looked bad and add no atmosphere, is nonsense, compared to Penumbra series Amnesia was a huge leap not only on visual quality but also on atmosphere and interaction, you can say it was not as scary as people say it is, and i would concur, but that it add no atmosphere? No that i just can't concur, Amnesia add nothing but atmosphere and above Soma add more action. And i cuncor with shade's opinion on why SOMA didn't sold as much as Amnesia, plus i will add to it that the concepts and ideas that SOMA talked about,was not something i didn't liked, it really just went over my head the first time i played it, (and first impressions matter), i'm not a native English speaker and so plenty of the text and dialog just didn't get me or just went over my head, i was more focused on the gameplay so the "story" just flew past me, and so when the story can't get you only the gameplay and the environment can, and luckily SOMA add a interestingly enough setting, but not enough to make me want play it again. And i still can't pass by the fact that this game could have been much more, the concept of mixture of man with machine could have brought plenty of more creatures and situations, more gruesome and shocking imagery, and for example the ocean environment was just neglected, you could have come upped with more stuff to do on it, and beasts to run away from, but your fucus on the story just prevented it, and it was a petty imo.

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  6. The world is stupid , this game touched my soul. One of the best games ever made.

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  7. Soma was great, a very unique game that wasn't easy for the masses to consume. It's a shame it hasn't sold better for sure, but in my opinion it's your best creation to date by far.

    Please, do a boxed physical edition soon.

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  8. Don't forget that Firewatch is cheaper than SOMA as well. That might be another factor for the game to make bigger sales. (I don't mean to suggest you to reduce the price. Just point out a factor.)

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    1. Yeah you are correct! It is interesting to speculate if we could have sold more if we had the game at 20 dollars instead. But on the flipside, a high price now means we can make more money from 50+% sales further down the line.

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    2. SOMA was worth every penny at full price!
      Firewatch was cheaper, but also much shorter. It also didn't require much thinking, and the overall plot was really cheesy. And it looked like a bad cartoon. SOMA looks amazing and photorealistic.
      I've heard people complain about SOMA's "difficult" environmental/physics puzzles and enemy avoidance, but then Firewatch's terrain can be pretty difficult to navigate.
      I don't know. Maybe people were turned off the the Horror aspect. As well as Alien and Outlast did, I've tried to get a dozen friends to play them both and they won't touch them because they are too stressful. Maybe SOMA should have been billed as a sci-fi game and not so much horror. I didn't think it was horror compared to Alien and Outlast, although psychologically horrific enough by the end.
      SOMA has some slight problems, but it is still my favorite game from the last 5 years. I don't know why more people haven't bought it.

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    3. Yes for me 5 or 10€ less makes a lot of difference. For Portugal the game solds on steam for ~27€. Given that it is kind of a mixed genre, a lot of people might be reluctant to pay for something that they may not like. For me giving almost 30€ for something like that is risky but if it was 20€ it would be ok. And yes, the game is worth the full price, however given the audiences it may require a little incentive for new players to try the genre :)

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    4. Despite paying more for SOMA, I felt a lot more let down by Firewatch.
      SOMA really surprised me as I was expecting Amnesia under the sea with SCP elements and was pleasantly surprised that the game made me think hard after playing it.
      Firewatch on the other hand disappointed me because it was so short and for a story heavy walking simulator it couldn't get rid of plot holes that irritated me the more I thought about them.
      A lot of my friends said they would buy it, if it were cheaper so I'd expect when you have a decent % off on a sale, unit sales will shoot up.

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  9. It probably sold less than expected because you guys are ahead of the curve. Just wait a little and you'll see! Some amazing lengthy game came out last fall (MGSV, fallout and others) and it is the reason I have not yet bought it, but it's my next purchase! I trust you guys, I am certain SOMA is fantastic also! Keep up the good work and thanks for these updates!

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  10. Dear Frictional Games staff,

    thank you for this interesting posting.

    I really hope that you will not differentiate your games too much.

    SOMA is amazing as a game exactly in the middle between Sci-Fi and Horror, and that connection is also what allows it to be so deep and rich in storytelling.

    It has the feeling of many games great games, such as Bioshock, System Shock, Dead Space, Metro, Deus Ex and others, while it still is really original.

    I felt like playing SOMA and just SOMA.

    It is the perfect mixture that makes SOMA so special. Pure Sci-Fi might be too clean and maybe boring to bring up all those dark psychological and philosophical topics (which I really loved as a psychology student - you did an awesome job), and pure horror might keep the player from just sitting there and thinking about his choices before proceeding in the game.
    I must admit that for example in the body transfer scene I could not continue the game for a while because I just did not get to an ethically correct solution for the dilemma. I even discussed it with my girlfriend during the evening then to figure out our opinions about what was "right" and "wrong" in that dilemma situation (trying not to spoiler the actual situation for her as she wants to play through it, too... and she's not a gamer at all).
    Just this moment was already worth buying your game, and there were many more like this.

    The "problem" with SOMA is not the genre mix. It is just not a game for a too young or too superficial audience that just wants to get scared in the first 5-10 minutes and never touch the game again - just look at the playing time of many Amnesia critics. While most SOMA purchasers obviously play through the game, there are many, many people who bought Amnesia and didn't even play one hour... "2 spooky 4 me" ;) You can see it in the Steam reviews. Amnesia is scary. SOMA is a deep masterpiece.

    Therefore SOMA adresses to a more mature audience and it cannot be a mega-hype game like Amnesia. Amnesia went viral on many internet communities, reddit, 9gag and so on, but SOMA is too deep to appear on that kind of pages. Not the proper audience.

    I guess that in the future you might experience that SOMA will continue selling basically on the same level for a long time, as this kind of game is one that is more spread by person-to-person recommendation or by positive reviews on smaller pages than by huge viral internet hype.

    I consider SOMA a masterpiece and one of the best games I ever played. And it is definitely the game that made me *think* most.

    ----

    Last but not least, a few negative points:

    SOMA still needs some polishing.

    I experienced savegame problems (solved with the beta patch - I don't know if you made another official patch with that fix but I guess you should), some random crashes and relatively often graphical issues (after a monster approached me and the screen started showing distortions, partially the 3d rendering went crazy showing pink stripes and blocks - so I had to save&quit, load again and it was alright).

    The loading times are very long and there are some performance issues. One or two more updates should make it shine.

    And one thing during the story bothered me (SPOILER): That Simon was unable to tell Cath about Ross immediately... although that glass cage had just exploded in front of his eyes and he had heard that voice in his head several times.(/SPOILER)

    I think that Simon should have told a little more about what he was finding on his way and he should have asked a little more questions.



    But those few negative aspects would not keep me from rating your game 11/10. Amazing job.

    Greetings from Germany, and best wishes for your future projects!

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    1. I agree with this comment strongly. Please do not dilute your creativity to more accurately hit genre boundaries. Going back to something like Amnesia after SOMA would be a step backwards to me. But I don't exactly represent the majority...

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  11. SOMA is incredible, and thought provoking. Some people just want to point and shoot tho. Thanks for an awesome, unputdownable, experience.

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  12. It's the best game I've ever played, the story is so deep and creative, the choices are so mentally devastating, I've never experienced a game to challenge my mentality and morality so much, and I probably never will again.

    Soma, in my opinion, is perfect. I'm really looking forward to whatever you guys produce next, keep up the good work.

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  13. Thank you for publishing this blog; it is always a fascinating read. I understand your problem of marketing sci-fi/horror. I own a horror small press (french language, La Maison des viscères) and two of our anthologies are clearly horror books (with a gore overtone). The other two are either a mix of horror and sci-fi (with a bizarro touch) or a mix of historical fiction and horror. The clear horror books are an easy sell. The other two, altough people who read them love them, are hard to market and sell. Even finding the right audience to target ads is difficult for these two mixed-genre books. There must be a way to enhance the sales from this kind of product, but I have yet to find it.

    Keep up the good work, and the blog!

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  14. SOMA is awesome, one of the best games I played in 2015.The issue is marketing. It's much better than Overwatch in my opinion.

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  15. The main reason why Amnesia took off like it did, was the vast amount of LetsPlayers on YouTube making facecam videos in which they screamed like 4-year-old girls and thus getting a LOT of attention. Most notably, PewDiePie, the biggest YouTuber with a following of 42 MILLION viewers(!) made a LetsPlay of Amnesia, thus presenting it to millions of people! SOMA is just a completely different kind of game.

    And a better one, if you ask me. When I finished SOMA, it went straight up on number 1 of my list of the 25 best stories in computer games – a list I hadn't changed in years! It's an absolutely breathtaking experience.

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    1. Interesting fact here for you, when Pewdiepie started doing Amnesia videos he barely had any subscribers at all, the Amnesia videos is what got him popular in the first place.
      His subscriber count was in the very VERY low thousands.

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  16. How was the youtube coverage compared to Amnesia? Or Firewatch?

    I see PewDiePie did a Firewatch video, but did not do SOMA.

    I could write somethings about how I felt the monsters were bad or the story was too packed, but overall I quite enjoyed SOMA - better than Firewatch. So I think the biggest factors are probably just price (pointed out above) and marketing (lack of PewDiePie).

    I reaaallllly don't think it was the genre mix. Sci Fi horror is great!! System Shock, etc. So, I would beg you guys to not take the genre lesson to heart, but rather think about the marketing/pricing more. At least answer the question, "why didn't PewDiePie play our game?" before changing your creative directions for sales reason!

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  17. Thanks for the update, can't wait to see what you are working on next! Developing two games in parallel sounds like a quite an undertaking. Looking forward to the next ARG. :)

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  18. I believe that you, Frictional, committed a great mistake on the marketing part. You were Always telling about the terror, remember this post about the monsters? http://blog.us.playstation.com/2015/09/10/5-ways-the-creatures-stay-creepy-in-soma-on-ps4/
    (And hey, look! i had made the 2º comment on that post!). I'm sorry, but for me, your marketing was trying to sell a horror game, which is not. I liked SOMA exactly because it wasn't about the horror, but about the story. And i believe, that in your next project, it doesn't need to be lesser scarier, but you have to tell everyone "IT'S NOT ABOUT HORROR, IT'S ABOUT THE STORY". It is what Fire-watch did. I imagine how many people now, which never played your game, but love games like Everybody gone to the rapture, firewatch, oxenfree, gone home etc would love to play a game with the same idea (where the story is the principal), but with a horror background.

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    1. I think the issue is that we were a bit afraid of losing too much of the TDD in the marketing, and could have been better off focusing solely on the sci-fi. On the other hand, I never felt we were misleading as I consider the game very much a horror game. But in the end the message wasn't clear enough and that is probably a big source of ppl feeeling the game didn't live up to the hype. Again however, it felt stupid to not make use of our Amnesia pedigree.

      Will make a blog post about this some time next week!

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  19. About the sales: Firewatch looks "mainstream", but SOMA looks "underground", since not everybody likes horror or science fiction stories. So your audience or niche market is smaller.

    Also, if you see the trailers, Firewatch looks new: "become a fire lookout". That's new.
    But on the trailers SOMA looks like "Amnesia meets the Alien franchise". That's pretty cool, but not that new.

    Finally, SOMA looks "important" and "life changer". You can play Firewatch this Sunday afternoon if you have a little bit of time, no problem. But if you want to play SOMA, you need to be "ready". This is actually the reason I didn't buy your game yet. I feel like, to play SOMA everything must be perfect: I need to put my shit together first, and buy a more powerful computer to feel the experience as intended.


    Greetings from France.

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  20. Just wanted to mention that I totally love SOMA while Amnesia is interesting it didn't really kept me coming back to fully explore it....The story, the setting...everything is just filled with tension :D

    More interaction with elements in the would except just lifting things up and spinning them around would have been fun...but not a deal breaker ;)

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  21. Holy crap! I am kinda excited for you guys. While your games are horror and I am not a big fan of playing them myself I have watched and backseat played it with a friend at his house and I enjoyed it. Really stoked about hearing you hiring, might give you guys a shot when you open up ;)

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  22. SOMA was game of the year of 2015 for me too. The game was a piece of art! Pewdiepie didn't cover this game, I'm presuming, in hopes of another Pewdiepie following in his footsteps. You think this is the missing link to your hurt sales?

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  23. I utterly loved SOMA. The incredibly well-thought combination of horror and sci-fi, small gameplay issues aside, was wonderful. The way the narrative flowed taking me on such an amazing journey, the very tactile experience, the incredible sound design, it all immersed me in the experience more than most stuff I've played before. SOMA is my favorite game you've ever made, after Penumbra and Amnesia respectively. But I'm not sure that smaller games that are more distinctly grounded in a specific genre is the kind of stuff I'd like from you in the future. I understand it might be a solid decision when it comes to growing as a company, but after SOMA, something that was far riskier than another Amnesia, I was hoping you guys would continue being as bold and inventive in the future. Just know that there's a bunch of us you may also alienate by going back to making games with a few more jumpscares that might be easier to stream or clearly aimed at those who'd have no qualms playing through SOMA with the Wuss Mod because they are just there for the deep sci-fi narrative. Some of us enjoyed the experimental hybrid that was SOMA and I would really hope to see something like it and with a similar scope again in the future coming from you.

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  24. Mixing genres itself means nothing. Players don't directly think about genre in game, and it looks like a horror game from the outside. Genres is a garbage reason for poor sales.

    The $30 was a discouraging price though. That surely at least cut initial sales in half compared to $20. Soma could also use more advertising, but thats expensive, but you can't ask $30 for a nonsequel that has not been heavilly marketted, and as such, players feel no garuntee of their product quality(largely game length) except for developer reputation.

    As for modding- soma is singleplayer in a growing multilayer world. And Soma is centered on plot, not horror. You cant mod plot, and modding the horror wouldnt mean anything since it wouldnt change how the game feels.

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  25. Regarding why it didn't sell more. Personally, it's:

    1) Too little publicity: None of the youtube channels I watch mentioned it. I guess modern publicity can easily explode or just crawl along dependend on many factors not easily influencable by the developer (e.g. current mood vs. certain genres, other games published around that time, perceived novelty, ...)

    2) Price: 28 Euros is a little on the high side for a 10 hour 'indie'.

    3) Setting: 'Underwater' doesn't invoke any positive associations for me personally.

    I guess I will pick it up when it's 50% discounted.

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  26. The reason I haven't bought SOMA but did buy Firewatch on release is that SOMA is a fair bit more expensive. When it (hopefully) comes on sale I will buy it for sure. I'm looking forward to it.

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  27. "So if we make another sci-fi game, we'll probably tone down the horror elements and make the sci-fi narrative more prominent."

    Do what's right for the story first! That was why SOMA was a perfect game, it didn't compromise. I know it's the law of capitalism, but when you start to make creative decisions for the sake of statistical data and not inspiration-- well it may still sell but no one will say it's one of their favorite games, like SOMA is to me.

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  28. Mixing genres itself means nothing. Players don't directly think about genre in game, and it looks like a horror game from the outside. Genres is a garbage reason for poor sales.

    The $30 was a discouraging price though. That surely at least cut initial sales in half compared to $20. Soma could also use more advertising, but thats expensive, but you can't ask $30 for a nonsequel that has not been heavilly marketted, and as such, players feel no garuntee of their product quality(largely game length) except for developer reputation.

    As for modding- soma is singleplayer in a growing multilayer world. And Soma is centered on plot, not horror. You cant mod plot, and modding the horror wouldnt mean anything since it wouldnt change how the game feels.

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    Replies
    1. Yet people are willing to pay $60 plus a season pass yearly on annual releases. SOMA took them 5 years to make. $30 is too much to ask for?

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    2. CJ Melendez: doesn't matter...we vote with wallet. SOMA 30$ = 5 hours....other games as THE WITCHER 3, DARK SOULS 3, BLOODBORNE 60$ = 50hours at least + replay value....do the math :)

      Delete
    3. Not all 60$ or 60€ games are above 10 hours specially non RPG shooters like call of Duty, Crysis, Battlefield, etc so your argument about, gameplay time correlating solely to price is invalid, price is always based on other other even more important factor, like how much does it cost to make the game in the first place (time in the making + living expenses + team salaries + hardware and software licences + etc). Soma price is exactly right for the type of game it is and the quality it shows.

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  29. I would say that an important thing to keep in mind is the effect that Amnesia: The Dark Descent had in shaping the gaming landscape at the time. Not only did it become incredibly popular, but it spawned a sea of imitators and copycats. I think you guys at Frictional Games would be wise to take heed of this and adapt to it.

    I think it's important to differentiate yourself from the rest of the herd. I LOVED Soma. But when describing it to someone else, unfortunately, it has the disadvantage of being pegged into what people refer to as the "walking simulator" genre a lot of the time.

    I'd love to see a horror game from you in the vein of Soma where you had some method of extra gameplay that involved DEALING with the enemies. Maybe not necessarilly fighting them (and lord knows not turning it into an FPS), but maybe setting traps, or inserting some degree of strategy into the game that isn't just hiding and looking at the ground.

    I'm excited to see whatever you guys do next. I'd just like to see you increase the complexity of your gameplay! Thanks for reading!

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  30. Welp, let's hope PewDiePie will play SOMA and hopefully somehow more people will be aware of the game!

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  31. SOMA is the best story driven game i played. Really Great Atmosphere and Interesting storyline. Graphics are amazing as well and pacing was pretty good. I actually wish that there was less horror parts in SOMA, but it was good to have some for better pacing.

    Hope this article brings attention to the game and more people buy it and try out.
    Can't wait to see your next story-driven game

    Keep up the good work

    PS! Superb job on the Linux port as well!

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  32. Main problem I see now is the price. It's just too expensive. 30€ on UK/EU PSN....and 30$ on canadian PSN.

    Make it 20% cheaper for PS+ owners and I'll buy it 100%.

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  33. After playing Amnesia I instantly knew that I'd buy your next game no matter what. (Big Horror Game fan) So when your next game was announced I pretty much ignored all trailers and marketing because I like to go in blind since trailers in this day and age reveal too much of the game.

    So when I played through Soma I was kinda confused at first because I expected a pure horror experience. (Which is obviously my fault for not following the marketing) But I still loved almost every second of it. The themes addressed and conveyed through the story kept me glued to the screen. So for that experience I am very grateful and really hope we will get more experiences like that in the future, even though SOMA sadly didn't do as well sales wise.

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    Replies
    1. "I like to go in blind" - that's what I did, too. Best experience ever!

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  34. SOMA... words can't describe how much I loved this game. I see SOMA in a way that I see certain films, for example to me SOMA is The Shining of video games. At first when The Shining came out not alot of people liked it, it got a good amount of negative feedback but thoughout the years people started to appreciate the story and camerawork that Kubrick did with The Shining making it one of the best Horror movies that has ever came out. It'll take some time but i'm sure SOMA will reach that status. SOMA isn't like anything I ever played before. It's beautifully made and what made the experience even more better was the story and science behind it. I'm actually working on a short film and have told many of my friends that if SOMA was made into a movie it would be on the list as one of the best scifi horror movies to come out (depending on who directs it) Trust me Frictional.. You have yourself a masterpiece of a game that will slowly become something that will be talked about for years to come. Please continue to do what your doing, I will always support you and your vision.

    -Alex

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  35. I found SOMA to be one of the most enjoyable psychological sci-fi thrillers of the past few years. It had both food for thought and a truly depressing atmosphere, and it's a great study of how humans would react to being in such desperate situations. However, to me, gameplay elements seemed to occasionally interfere with the story. Some things felt too hammered-in (like the repeated encounters with robots thinking they're still humans), and some monster encounters seemed to be there just "because it's a game", that is, forced. I even found the Wuss Mode to be more disturbing, in a way. As a big fan of psychological horror, I found some scary aspects of SOMA to be, simply put, not subtle enough for my liking. But still, it's a great game. I feel like your future is going to be even better, as long as your writing stays on the same level of quality or improves.

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  36. Here is what made me and probably others hesitate about SOMA:

    Price – I mean, the game is worth the asking price no doubt. But I feel that price tolerance has really went down lately. I was certainly hesitant to buy it for 28 Euros, but after hearing all the praise for the story I bought it during the winter sale.

    It's a horror game – Horror is simply not everybody's cup of tea. Amnesia did very well, yes. But as I remember it, horror game fans were extremely starved of quality horrors at the time Amnesia came out, and it also got a lot of streaming time because of this. Horror games might also turn off female gamers, who otherwise appreciate story-focused adventure games.

    Comparatively, Firewatch has a setting and aesthetics, and a price point, that will appeal to a lot more people. But I'm very glad you created SOMA, and I hope that even in the future you will give priority to your vision of the game first, rather than what will sell.

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  37. I think the sales have less to do with genre (people like sci-fi horror, Dead Space, System Shock, Alien) and more with price point. It could be a case where Steam has conditioned consumers a bit. I know personally I discovered Amnesia when it was deeply discounted and SOMA therefore had a sort of sticker shock, rational or not.

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  38. I think the sales have less to do with genre (people like sci-fi horror, Dead Space, System Shock, Alien) and more with price point. It could be a case where Steam has conditioned consumers a bit. I know personally I discovered Amnesia when it was deeply discounted and SOMA therefore had a sort of sticker shock, rational or not.

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  39. Honestly I think you did an amazing job with SOMA and I think you reached a really balanced level between Sci-Fi and Horror while still exploring a bunch of ideas. Though I have to admit that I'm not the best Horror player out there (I'm interested in only a few of them but only a handful I've actually gotten to play through their entirety), I found the amount of it in SOMA just enough for me to feel like I'm facing a challenge while still feeling the immense drive to keep on forward due to the great story.

    I should also point out that I played the game in a moment of time in which I was feeling sort of purposeless and playing it and also reading about many great topics related to AI and Existential Risk (which they all linked back to SOMA) lead me to feel more determined in my goals and made me start working on them.

    Regarding sales, though, I'm honestly quite surprised as-well. I thought it was doing way better than that considering the pretty great reviews its gotten on Steam and the fact that it's known that it is made by none other than you guys.

    I'm glad to know you're making this transition and really look forward to your next games.

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  40. Hi Frictional Games,

    I understand all your thoughts, but please don't just look at the sales! Every new "Call of Duty" sells 10 million copys a week, but for what? This games are bullshit! No story, dulled gameplay and multiplayer fun. It's just the hype. Best games and movies are always offside mainstream. And you can't be always more successful with any game. Amnesia was a masterpiece (of course, SOMA is too) but what people expect is a horror game, a really scary one. This is the reason why people like "Frictional Games" label for. It's not primarly the storytelling. You are masters of storytelling, but the first reason why people love you is the well designed horror.

    As far as I know, Amnesia had a budget of 400.000 Euros and a team of 6 people working for 2 years. The game sold many million copies just on PC.
    SOMA must have a budget of 2 or 3 million Euros, 11 or 20 people working 5 years! And solds 250.000 copies on multi-platforms.

    That's why triple-A is always a riskand not automatically better. In contrary: the best games and movies are low budget like for example "True Love Ways" a professional horror movie from germany and switzerland.

    When developers begin making games for a larger audience just for more profit, then it always ends in the contrary. Quality goes down, because of more mainstream crap. This is not SOMA related, but for games in general. So please make games for the fascination and not just to sell as much copies as possible. Then you can make an other Call of Duty ego-shooter without story!!!

    And don't make too much "different" games. People like what you do and they only want what you do: horror games

    Frictional stands for horror and not for something else.

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  41. SOMA is in my top games of all time list(along side Alan Wake, Half Life 2 and a few others). It def left a deep feeling since completing it.

    I've had an Oculus DK2 for years and this game would be perfect for it IMO. The beautiful enviroments mixed with the slowish gameplay makes it ideal. You guys are missing a potential huge part of the market with not considering VR support.

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  42. To be perfectly honest Frictional, I don't think you're pinpointing the reasons for the less-then-optimal sales correctly.
    Anecdotal evidence might not be the best source of information, but judging from my own thoughts and what I've stumbled upon the internet or from talking to people... Your games are becoming less and less about atmosphere and puzzles, and more about "experiences a.k.a. walking simulators", and people are simply getting tired of them.
    Penumbra had it all - cool story, fantastic atmosphere, great gameplay (adventure-like, with proper puzzles, felt non-linear, evironmental manipulation etc.), but it had little to no marketing. Your best game(s).Then came Amnesia, a dumbed down Penumbra, but still a very good game, youtubers popularized it (scary, see my reaction!). SOMA... graphically fabulous, nice premise and atmosphere, but the rest - like I said, dangerously close to walking sims and simplified to a fault. And people are getting tired of such games.

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  43. I wish the game had been more like the teaser trailers. I think the initial viral marketing collided with the game's atmosphere. I also wish the price point had been adjusted slightly to be more along the lines of a game like Firewatch, because unlike an RPG where I will explore for 100+ hours, I need to justify buying a game that I see as a one-time playthrough.

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  44. I really wanted to like Soma. I picked it up at launch but never finished it. Just about everything about the game was great, but I found the gameplay to be really boring. Amnesia didn't haven't much more complex gameplay, but the horror element really pushed the game along, you wanted to see how much scarier the next part would be.

    In SOMA, after getting lost wandering around the ocean floor with nothing around and no way to find the next objective and literally no threat what so ever around... I got bored and shut if off. I've never been tempted to play it again. Maybe it's just me, but I wanted to enjoy the game but I just could not.

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  45. Very interesting reading. I really enjoyed Soma but at same was a little disappointed. The story and setting were really interesting to me but it never felt scary. This was on one side caused by the repetitive and predictive enemy movement but also in a large part by the constant conversations and jokes going on. It still stands out as a wonderful experience and I'm really looking forward to your next project, whatever form it will take.

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  46. I like how you deal with the hard questions of humanity and strange ideas that are dealth in SOMA. Amnesia was also groundbreaking in terms of survival horror genre.
    What I would suggest for your next projects is to create more challenging but fair stealth mechanic and combat.
    Not the way contemporary shooters or action games are being made.
    You need to sell the game to the players who enjoy being more involved in the game world.
    Furthermore, if you achieve that the gameplay would offer more replayability and different story outakes, game would stay longer in community discussions and conteplations about consequences.
    Best regards and looking forward to your future projects.

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  47. My thoughts about SOMA:

    I really enjoyed playing it,beacuse I knew that you guys were focused more on pyschological way than "survival horror" like escpaing from monsters and eg.Atmosphere was totally amazing in the game,story was phenomenal and I found it very scary and interesting.When I played played SOMA i had a feeling that Im playing mixed Penumbra and Silent Hill 2,it was very emotional experience for me and I was really satisfied.The sadest moments in the games was seeing how those poor robots are dying and ending made me depressed,I was depressed 5 days,and then I realized what you guys wanted to make.Creatures/enemies were amazingly made,every each creature have its own theme,but few of them were boring because I wanted to explore the level but they were bothering me and I been little dissapointed.Its interesting how game has a huge story that drives you in,and that philosophical theme was great"What it means to be a human". What I didnt like in the SOMA is that game was a bit short to me,I missed old puzzles from Amnesia. And my rate for this game is 9/10,I really enjoyed playing it,it has an intense atmosphere,amazing story,well-written characters,emotinonal side too :)
    And I have one question,do you guys plan to make an DLC or something?

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  48. When I saw that a new sci-fi game was coming from the makers of Amnesia, I was excited. When I saw the live action shorts, particularly Mockingbird, I was super duper excited.

    Then when I saw a trailer involving sneaking around corridors hiding from a monster, most of that excitement vanished. "Oh, it's just Amnesia in space." (later I learned it was underwater, but you get the idea)

    I still plan to play Soma at some point, but it's not a high priority, and in all honestly it's probably something I'll wait to get 60% off during a Steam sale. Not because I expect it to be a bad game, but because nothing about that trailer, or any subsequent footage, makes me feel like I need to play it RIGHT NOW. The "Amnesia in space" vibe killed a lot of the hype I had for it.

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  49. Just wanted to chime in here to let you guys know that SOMA is absolutely amazing. It was my 2015 GOTY, and I continue to recommend it to as many people as I can. As a horror and sci-fi fan, it felt closer to true horror, which is something video games haven't had in a long time. It's also not a PT knockoff, which is nice.

    Also, that ending. My god. That stuck with me for a long time. Brilliant.

    I could write a million more words about how amazing this game is, but I'll spare you. Going to give Amnesia another shot (I got too scared the first time, ha) and will keep evangelizing SOMA.

    Looking forward to anything new this team works on! <3

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  50. Your game has blown my mind, really. It's a memorable, meaningful adventure that let's you think about life, etc.
    But to be honest the start of the game, before you meet the girl, was really misleading to me and I was about to uninstall the game. I thought I was playing another generic horror game where you just walk alone through dark hallways, waiting for jumpscares.
    But when I met that girl, the game suddenly became so interesting because your SF universe and your story was unbelievably awesome and inspired.
    This is the best aspect of your game and sadly I think no one can get it until they play it.
    So basically, I think you're really good to tell a story, to create an immersive experience for the players. And maybe you should focus your communication on this aspect for your next projects.
    Because if you don't play the game or don't know the studio, you quickly think that Soma is just a generic spooky game, which is not.

    I don't know why, but I'm thinking about Bioshock Infinite. Regarding the gameplay, the game becomes tedious and absurd at some point, but everyone loves it anyway because of its amazing storytelling, from the start to the end of the game. Even if I found the game design of Soma really smart, I think many people thought that the core aspect of the game was "be scared". Then maybe some people started to think while watching some videos of streamers, etc, that the game wasn't scary > not really good. That's why I think that focusing on the storytelling can never disappoint when you make a game in a "saturated" genre.

    Anyway, I wish you the best !

    P.S. : I think the story and the universe of Soma is so perfect that it need to be adapted into a film (by a great director of course^^).

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  51. It kinda makes me sad that a game like this doesn't sell more and reward the developers like they deserve. Honestly, I was thinking about this game for weeks after I finished it. I was left in shock, I still think about it from time to time. It's one of the most amazing games ever for me, and I'm really grateful to developers for making it. Amnesia had a similar impact on me, but honestly, not even half as strong as SOMA. I try to recommend this game to as many people as I can, because I think that a true game should experience a gem like this. Amazing, unforgettable and breathtaking game. Good luck and thank you.

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  52. "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."

    So since you've switched to two-project development, one scifi and one horror confirmed? :D

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  53. I love SOMA! I really liked the sci-fi and horror mix. I don't know if this the issue. I do remember that the day it came out I had to look and search for it in the Playstation store. I have about 25 gaming coworkers and if I mention SOMA nobody knows what I am talking about. They are casual mainstream gamers. Maybe it's the marketing behind SOMA? Also, bring out a boxed copy. Let people see it on the shelves. I would double dip, in an instant. I only bought it digital because of its price and no hardcopy available. Thank you for a great, great game.

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  54. You guys made one of the best games ever created. You shouldn't slander that thought, because it's the truth. When I've talked to people I know, I expected just as you did, to hear "No I'm too scared to play it" or even "It's not a game for me". I never heard that, the only thing I got as a response was "What is SOMA?".

    Now, 6 months later after we've processed this game, I can with confidence say that it wasn't the game that was lacking anything but simply marketing. Marketing costs a lot of money and has to be done right, but I kept thinking about how Bethesda marketed their Fallout 4. They put up signs bigger than houses, repainted subway cars to show off "FALLOUT 4!". It's honestly as simple as that.

    The good news however, is that you still have a possibility to market SOMA. I'm confident that you've not yet got the sales that the game deserves simply because people do not know it exists. I know that word of mouth goes a long way, but international marketing isn't bad either. Get the name out and you'll see that the sales will go up like never before. You've already established a name / "brand" that everyone knows because of Amnesia:TDD - why not use it?

    Second thought I had - I personally wouldn't tone down the horror of SOMA. It wasn't as horrifying as Amnesia was, but in one of your blog posts you mention that the horror comes from the "existential dread". SOMA nails that horror. You managed to convert the literal horror into making the player re-evaluate their existence and why they are there. A lot of this is also with the help of the little "pointless" surveys that make you think through what's REALLY going on.

    My last thought was that even though not many people may or may not buy SOMA, they can just as easily pirate it. I'd personally say that people buy SOMA because they want to support Frictional Games - there's not really any "reason" to buy it otherwise. Unfortunately, other publishers have taken this to the extreme and locked their games to online-only and so on. While this is the completely wrong way to do it, they have the right idea about giving people a "reason" to buy it. Good thing is, you even mentioned the reason! Amnesia lasted so long because of the community content. While I know that SOMA also is on its way up, you should really focus on getting the tools out there properly, with a guide, for everyone.

    SOMA has everything it needs. Gameplay, horror, story, puzzles, interactivity, community content. Just get the word out more, there are over 7 billion people who have yet to play this game.

    Thank you for making one of the best games I'll probably ever play!

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  55. I agree 100% with the assessment about the disparate genres - personally I'm huge on narrative and against horror - and I loved what I was hearing about SOMA's story, but I didn't want to deal with the tension of the horror-stealth to experience it. It's sad and unfair, but that was honestly the biggest reason I didn't engage with SOMA more - I knew about it, loved the look, and hoped it did well, but I would need to work up the motivation to deal with a genre I usually didn't. It's worth saying that I also didn't play Amnesia for similar reasons.

    I would 100% support an expansion into more narrative focused affairs, BUT one must consider if this would alienate (no SF pun intended) your established audience, used to your horror works. It's not worth expanding an audience if it also contracts more than it expands. That said, I think everything I heard about SOMA suggests that an intelligent narrative game could be highly successful and perhaps if made in the context of a temporary break from horror, be effective in expanding Frictional's audience. Wish you all the best of luck!

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  56. It'd be cool if SOMA came to Xbox One. I like survival-horror, even if the horror was toned down.

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  57. Dear Frictional Games staff,

    I hope that this comment does not sound too negative.

    I consider SOMA a masterpiece and I love and appreciate your work.

    However, your posting, the more often I read it, makes my alarm bells ring. I hope that you will consider the following words of warning for your future plans.


    Please do not take the wrong conclusions from your sales analysis!

    Some studios make games which you should consider *art* and you are one of those.

    If you try to fit into the market too much, your work will not be independent art anymore and might fail.

    There are many studios that took the wrong way, trying to please the market. They left their small spot in the market in which they were able to rule without real competitors, and in which they were able to express their own creative ideas 100%, got corrupted, lost the stable part of their fanbase and failed.

    Just remember Dead Space or any other of those game series in which the devs or the publisher tried to please what they considered the taste of the majority - and how they failed then.

    I read on your Facebook page about how the idea you had for SOMA changed. From the player in a little submarine robot to the final game. I am glad that you were artistically free enough to make such big changes.

    You maybe need that freedom of creative expression in order create something really unique and great in the end.

    If you ask first what the market wants to see and limit yourselves, you lose a great part of your possible creativity - which makes your work less unique - which makes it in the end less attractive for people who like you for creating unique games.


    Therefore I think that you should be really sure about the question if you want to do more what you think that people want to see from you and if you want to hire more people.

    I remember reading an interview in which one of you stated that the team of SOMA was already so big that nobody could oversee/participate in the whole thing anymore and that you did not want to expand due to that reason (if I remember well).

    So it would be good for you guys to think about which path you want to go... I personally think that small and careful steps should be done and you should stop the expansion process immediately as soon as anything feels wrong about it.


    Here is an important recommandation:

    Go for a walk on the graveyard of failed studios to see which mistakes they did.

    - Concessions to the supposed "majority taste" on the market
    - Improvement for the worse without understanding anymore if what you're changing makes your game better or worse than before
    - Expansion of the team with cost explosion
    - Mistaking the "average" taste of people (ratings etc.) for the taste of individuals although art is always sold to individual people who will decide each for himself if he likes it or not
    - Preferring to release something mediocre instead of just throwing it into garbage, learning from the mistakes made and starting all over again

    And please remember that you cannot really calculate success. Especially in art products, it is more a question of luck.

    Probably nobody of you expected to see Amnesia go viral and become a surprise hit. While other independent studios really struggle with finding an audience, you had the luck that a significant number of people 1) noticed your work and 2) liked your own, unique style.

    So better calculate pessimistically, which leaves space for nice surprises, than calculating too optimistically, which leaves space for big, unexpected problems.


    I hope that you will take wise decisions. Good luck and I am looking forward to your next games!

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  58. I can't stop thinking about Simon, the one who has been left on Pathos. What happened to him? Did he try to fix Catherine? It might be just Omnitool malfunctioning, right? Then he just has to plug her cortex chip elsewhere.
    Or he could go back to Catherine's lab on Theta, grab that hard disc with people's personalities and upload them into other diving suits from Epsilon. That is also possible, right? God damnit guys you can't just leave that story where it is! Make a DLC or something!

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  59. You guys make a comparison to firewatch, but I would like to comment on this regarding the varied successes. While you guys did a unique and memorable advertising campaign, it was not as visible as firewatch. I and my friends would see the ads, but we were sorta confused as to if it were a game, combined content, (similar to defiance tv show/game) or an experimental title. I also have seen far FAR more advertising for Firewatch in more varied locations than I have seen from Soma.

    This isn't necessarily a condemnation of your title or marketing team, but honest opinion. The marketing campaign felt very drawn out, even sparse. I almost feel if you kept a bit of a lid on the live action videos until closer to release it would have built up more hype for this awesome and underplayed game. Anyway, keep being awesome and thanks for Soma!

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  60. I loved the interesting story, the immersive environments and the deep psychological aspects of SOMA. Your vision worked.

    But at the same time I felt disappointed by the game.

    The presence of "enemies" made no sense to me.
    I loathed having to avoid them. The Look-At-The-Floor guy actually got me so pissed off due to its tediousness I left the game for a couple of days. Jump scares without real danger made me ignore all of them going forward. Running away from scary fish felt like "we have to add some action here".

    For me, on the overall enjoyment scale, it's Penumbra > Amnesia > SOMA > Machine for Pigs.

    I'm going to be unduly harsh, but it felt like a "walking simulator" with hide&seek mechanics added on top.

    Storytelling and environments are what saved SOMA from being a disaster in my eyes. :(

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  62. SOMA is an awesome game, but it is unfortunate to fall into the awesome games that didn't sell well category sadly. I loved every minute of SOMA, but not the last monster in a tight corridor. Hated that. I loved the story, the setting, WAU is not evil. Just like animals, it wasn't driven by hatred. Only humans kills because of hatred. I loved the mix of horror and sci-fi, that was the first thing that made me buy the game. I would like to tell you to make more like SOMA but gamers voted with their wallet i guess. Thank you again.

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  63. SOMA was a gem in the 2015 gaming landscape, and its story and philosophical underpinnings were wonderful. Thanks so much to you and your team for all your efforts in bringing it to players!

    I think the real issue for many people was a combination of it being digital-only, combined with the initial asking price. If SOMA is to be compared to Firewatch, then the price point of each definitely factors into the consumer equation at least as much as any marketing confusion on SOMA's part. That's not to say that SOMA isn't worth the $30--for myself, I purchased it day one and enjoyed it immensely.

    However, I think people creating games today must realize that the gaming market is bursting with experiences of all sorts, and when looking at it from the consumer's end, price point and time allocation increasingly play a larger role in choosing what games to play/purchase and not play/not purchase. Another factor that can't be underestimated is what I would call the mindshare factor. Obviously, the greatest time to sell the most units of a game is in its first few weeks, when the ‘newness’ factor has the ability to grab the consumer’s attention. Personally, I think if SOMA had a price point similar to Firewatch when it was first released, it could have done just as well as in terms of units sold. I realize this is not a heartening view for creators who spend years of their lives creating something—nobody wants to labor and undersell/devalue their efforts. I also realize it's easier to reduce a price later versus raising it, and I imagine that was the idea with SOMA to give it a longer tail in the sales projections with various sales/price reductions. However, by the time such sales occur, you're now battling newer games that now occupy greater mindshare, and the sales prospects are that much tougher, and the returns that much fewer.

    Ironically, the exception to the price point issue above could be pursuing a physical option as well, as many people are increasingly hesitant to pay more and more for a digital only release. Whether that’s a reasonable stance is entirely up for debate, but I will again use myself as an example. As I said earlier, I purchased your game on day one (with the opening week PS+ discount) and enjoyed it. However, earlier this year, there was another high profile release that I was looking forward to playing—Jon Blow’s The Witness. However, the digital only format, combined with the $40 price point kept me away and keeps me away even now. If there were a physical release at that price point (or even a little more), I would gladly pay. However, if it’s only going to be available digitally, I will now wait until the game is more than 50% off before buying, and even then, if/when I purchase it I might not get to it right away due to decreased mindshare. I imagine many other gamers experience this in the same way, especially considering backlogs and Steam libraries. Long story short, the tipping point in terms of mindshare has already passed.

    In the time since The Witness has released, I’ve purchased a fair share of digital only games on day one—Salt and Sanctuary, Assault Android Cactus, and Firewatch, just to name a few. All those games released with lower asking prices, which allows me as a gamer to experience/enjoy a greater variety of what’s out there. I imagine there could be gamers out there who feel similarly but with SOMA. I don’t mean this as a slight towards Jon Blow or you/your team or any other game creator, but see it as an honest appraisal of the issues facing both creators and consumers in this ever expanding world of gaming. In a world where there’s a finite amount of consumer dollars and time, combined with an ever growing number of games, a game’s price point can be a much larger factor at the outset for determining the success/market penetration of a given game (in my opinion), especially when mindshare is at its greatest.

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  64. Hey guys, I think the reason SOMA had less income is because that it had too high system requirements. It needed a 64 bit operating system, so I had to make a BIOS update to install a 64 bit operating system :D It worked, I actually installed a 64 bit system and the SOMA game, at last. I get to play the game but my system wasn't really that good, I had some freezes while I was playing the game. But it didn't affect the gameplay much.

    You know what I enjoyed in the game? I enjoyed walking down under the ocean, it was so cool and felt so real. Very imaginative. And also, there were some memories from the Earth, the pictures, the writings everywhere, those made me feel like I am actually there :) I actually didn't want to leave that rooms that had name plates near themselves. Like it made me feel like, now all these people are gone. With all that memories, photographs they left behind. I had so much feelings in that rooms. That really made me think about beauty of life for a few minutes, or maybe an half hour. That was really cool :)

    I wish your income increases. I'd like to check out your new projects, games or what so ever :D Hope I can get a better system until then though xD

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  65. I think SOMA may be the best game ever made.
    But that's just like, my opinion, man.

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  66. I thought Soma was superb. It amazes me the people who think it's too expensive - it was £25 in the uk, and worth every penny!

    High production values, an interesting story, and a decent play length of around ten hours - why is it not worth half the price of an equal length AAA game just because it's indie?

    I bought it full price because it was great, and I wanted to support the developers. People who wait for a sale are doing them a disservice - it's good to hear that Frictional are close to recouping their costs. Really looking forward to their new games!

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  67. "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 minimize the risk that people will mix up our games, and instead they'll see them as separate entities. With SOMA it feels we've made it clear that Frictional Games is not just about pure horror, and we want to take advantage of that and diversify the experiences we craft."

    I hope this doesn't mean you'll be abandoning your Lovecraftian weird/slipstream genre style. It has made your work unique, unpredictable, and is just the right je ne sais quoi to have fans coming back to see how you've evolved.

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  68. God I Love SOMA. Never played Amnesia wich I cannot stand. But I'am a console player... and my laptop i reallly bad. I bought Amnesia but I cannot run it :(

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  69. Frictional guys and gals. SOMA is a masterpiece of video game storytelling and an underrated gem of a game.

    Suggestions to squeeze a bit more commercial success out of your next title:

    1. Get more press attention. Firewatch got good hype from some shows.

    2. Consider paying for ads on PSN store. I never saw the game on PSN till I searched for it (though I bought it on Steam).

    3. Get some streamers interested in your game. Have them do some streams for you. Pull a Kojima and do a playable teaser that has experience you might see in the full game...okay, actually, credit where credit is due, you guys did a playable teaser for Penumbra. I bought the game based on that and was very appreciative of the fact that the content was not repeated. Bravo. So yeah, do that again...have a good pay off, have folks stream it.

    4. Consider new pricing models. SOMA was worth the thirty bucks but Firewatch had an attractive sub-$20 price at launch (with the pre-order discount). Maybe lower the price of the game a little but add a fan edition with music and other goodies...which is actually just a way for us to give you more money.

    ...and for the Frictional fans out there, promote the hell out of their games and get your friends to pick them up. If they don't make it their gift for their birthday or holidays.

    Your games are always day one purchases for me. Looking forward to your future games. Best of luck!

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  70. I personally don't understand why "Sci-fi/Horror" would be at odds, whereas "Contemporary-ish mystery/Horror" wouldn't be.

    I mean, it can still be true of course, but I just loathe the notion that certain mechanics and "moods" simply _have to_ be married to certain settings. SOMA worked much better for me as a horror experience than most Sleepy Hollow or Jack the Ripper-ish stories ever have. Alien, Dead Space... yeah, love that stuff.

    So I do wonder what "Sci-fi" is supposed to mean. Also, how would players even know? There really is nothing in the positioning of the game that doesn't make it really clear that this will still be scary game - albeit in a setting different from Amnesia's.

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    1. I write specifically in the scifi/horror genre and it's hard to pitch to people sometimes.

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  71. I loved SOMA, in fact I still love the game months after finishing it.

    It did horror really well, and I think the sci fi setting really helped to draw me in. This is a game I far more enjoyed than any other Horror game.

    I played Outlast after SOMA and that game was so disappointing. The setting wasn't as interesting, the story was subpar and the horror was just jumpscares and nothing more. Meanwhile SOMA had some top notch horror.

    I'm looking forward to playing Alien: Isolation and Dead Space.

    Personally I think you are looking at this all wrong, Frictional. It's a shame a masterpiece like SOMA didn't earn back its investment, while another game like Firewatch sold so well.

    Like others have pointed out: this has to do with all the media attention. Everyone knows about firewatch. While even horror fans don't know about SOMA.

    Getting your game in the media more would definitely help sales. As the only thing right now selling your game is the positive word of mouth. No ad campaign, no coverage by big sites, barely any coverage by famous youtube channels, ...

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  72. SOMA lingered on in my mind for a long time even after it reached the end of the line. It destroyed me from inside and that was something I had never experienced from a video game. I can't thank you enough for this great piece of art.

    Some people think the WAU was the true saviour. Some people called Simon an ignorant fool and Catherine a disloyal b***h. I myself agree with neither but all those various responses have been amusing me as well. It shows your mission was accomplished and for that I'm happy.

    Whatever it is that you set your mind to, I don't think I could expect more. This game and you guys are real gems of this industry.

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  73. I think the game is simply too less horror. Frictional games means one thing: Fear.
    But i never felt this in SOMA. Maybe it missed expectations at this point, so people don't run to their friends telling them it's so terrifying.

    The story is awesome, although personally i would like more gameplay, less walking simulator.
    I never forget the first minutes in penumbra demo - those physics really worked, the world felt real and interactive, not even Half Life 2 was close.

    Don't put this in the background just to aid story telling.

    Just thoughts - SOMA is still a 90% game to to me ;)

    JoeJ


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  74. SOMA was the first title I purchased that wasn't a triple A game. I was looking for a reason to try out an 'indie' game. My attitude towards indie games is somewhat cynical I have to confess. It still is today although less so after playing SOMA (I find it hard to find the time to give indie games a go over the generally-trusted triple A games). I was in the market for a horror survival game, an experience I haven't had before. I'd seen KSI's Let's Play youtube videos and I was curious about Frictional's Amnesia series. So SOMA seemed like a perfect place to start.

    I wasn't disappointed. The story and atmosphere of the game sucked me in, in a way that a lot of games don't. The plot is thought-provoking. Everything from the universe, the characters and the supernatural enemies feel real and interesting. It's hard not to be reminded of the Bioshock series, if you've played them. They both share under-the-sea cities and have engaging dialogue (obviously a good thing!).

    For me SOMA is an 8 or 9 out of 10 game. It did however feel like a little something was missing. It's hard to put my finger on what exactly. I'm not forgetting that it is an indie title and it has it's limitations. It was mostly a complete game. I will definitely be looking out for Frictionals next title.


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    1. ridor i hope now rialise you are losing so much fantastic games by being so suspicious of indie games, first "indie" does not mean lower quality (even tho some are), in reality it only means, independente from big publishers, funny enough Valve is a "indie" studio because they are the publishers of their own games, Frictional games is now imo in the AAA-indie category (indie developers that make games with high production values).
      Btw is needed to stress that are some, so called "AAA" games, that are worse then indie or AAA-indie games, they just have one thing on their favor, enormous production values, that makes sometimes for better graphics, better voice actors, better cut scenes, etc, but there's plenty of indie games with excellent voice actors and other features as well, for example, Stanley Parable, Amnesia, Outlast, Dear Esther, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and plenty others.
      And on the gameplay side some indie games are just beyond so called "AAA" games.

      Delete
  75. I dont understand!

    Soma was one of the best games I have ever, ever played in my life.

    Seriously powerful and thought provoking and visceral. Not just one of the best horror games I have ever played, but one of the best GAMES I have ever played. How did this not sell as well... so confusing : (

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  76. I remember recommending the game to my brother being the best game of the year. Later he told me he did not play it, but he watched the entire game on youtube.

    Because SOMA is story driven so much, this case might hurt sales more than in other genres :(


    About the 'too less horror' argument i made earlier, i agree if you say 'we can't repeat this forever', and personally i did not miss it.
    But maybe you did not communicate this well enough before release. There might be many people who don't look at SOMA because they still expect it to be hardcore horror, which it isn't.

    JoeJ

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  77. I was a bit confused when I saw some of the reviews for this game. A little bit pissed, to be honest. I had read about SOMA for a bit before I made the purchase, and saw people notifying that the game wouldn't be "as scary". Seeing those comments, I thought that this would be another A Machine for Pigs type of deal, but I found myself to be sorely mistaken. I found this game to be terrifying, even more terrifying than Amnesia. I played Amnesia back in 2012, and got scared shitless (like anyone would've, back then anyway). Although SOMA didn't offer as many screams, it did bring forth a profound feeling of dread. Greater monster variety was also a big turn-on for me, as horrifying as it was when I was playing.
    I loved this game so much that I decided to replay the game with a little twist: I had bound the crouch key to like "P" or something, and I was allowed to crouch only when I had to venture through a hole in the wall or something like that. Needless to say, I didn't have a good time. I only got hit once, though! It was tough with the monsters who had extremely good hearing. I don't regret the experience though, it really just made me love the game even more. I had to plan my way through the monster segments, and I mean it: (also, spoiler alert) I stood in front of the orange blast door at Tau for fifty minutes trying to come up with a potent strategy for avoiding Yoshida. Well, I'd say it was ten minutes planning and forty minutes wussing out. To my relief, the plan worked like a charm, and the rest of the game was smooth sailing.

    All in all, SOMA was good stuff. Like, REALLY good stuff. Loved it to bits. Currently going through A Machine for Pigs (which is actually bloody scary, much to my surprise. I really don't know what all the fuss is about), and after that I have completed the collection. Eagerly awaiting your future products!

    Cheers!

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  78. I've skimmed through the comments and I'd like to disclose that I've only "played" SOMA as in watching Let's Play on youtube (me too old, too busy to game), but I admired SOMA's story-telling & philosophy, albeit its originally intention (mentioned by devs) being just a horror game without much emphasis on philosophy or even sci-fi (being just a vehicle for moving horror).

    I've never played or even "played" the Amnesia series, I've only watched its LPs after watching SOMA but I am unable to finish watching it, because it's boring to me, I just don't like pure-horror games with no philosophy in it. Being scared by monsters or the unknown is way less "scary" than being scared by one's mortality or impermanence. To me a REAL horror game should scare a gamer for its own existence, rather than making him "scared" for a few nights of so-called "nightmares", it's just too shallow for me.

    So I'm still trying my best to keep this short, I OPPOSE the game dev's plan for making their NEXT game "either pure horror or pure sci-fi" (by not furthering what SOMA did), and I agree on some other posters saying that SOMA's less-than-stellar sales is primarily caused by "misguided marketing" (not breaking away from the Amnesia's mode of thinking, selling too much monsters). And echoing another poster's word, SOMA isn't about "horror vs sci-fi", but, to us, it's about a life-reflecting, existence-questioning STORY, period.

    It's just like when I watched the 1st Matrix movie when I was still a teenager, I walked out of the movie theater checking if my mobile phone would suddenly ring and a voice in it telling me to run for my life or something. I've watched Matrix in theater many times, and I'm sure many of its fans did too. The Matrix Trilogy did well I guess, but the franchise following up is somewhat mishandled and unfortunately being untimely, being too ahead of its time, so it was forced to "fail" under its own success.

    The "Matrix Online" MMORPG was released in a time of ridiculously POOR graphics processing power and slow internet speed, the hardware simply cannot tell the Matrix Story at its fullest, and the "Path of Neo", to me, is of no comparison to just re-watching the movies, so it has failed to attract me & my money.

    The Matrix is also a niche topic, like SOMA, as opposed to a love story or a space opera (Star Wars), un-cyberpunk-educated people would not be interested in the Matrix, nor be wanting to watch Star Trek episodes, so they ended up going for "The Force Awakens" maybe? To me, SOMA = MATRIX, it has a specific bunch of fans and those fans must be pre-educated with some philosophy or life-reflecting experience to fully appreciate the story.

    (Part 2 following...)

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    1. (Part 2)

      The voice acting, the atmosphere, the suspense, the question on soul, life, self, mortality, morality, and the genre-mold-breaking is what driving me to "played" SOMA, and I know I'm a niche audience and I haven't paid any money, but I recommend every of my gamer friends to check SOMA out, I discuss on forums and I post here. Isn't this what a good game should be affecting on its players? Isn't this a prime opportunity for expanding the horizon or creating a new genre that might open up new crowds of audiences? Or following old & time-tested forumla raking in more money should be considered stella-success? Then would it be easier on the mind to just make & re-make those football-2045 & basketball-2135 games, or some first person shoot-em-up games? Those are definitely money-makers right? All these thoughts & efforts being put into SOMA that we appreciate would originally for a mass-market, genre-constricted, money-maker game??? It baffles me to no end upon hearing it, still.

      What surprises me is that Frictional Games (by these forum posts) seems to be wanting to sway way from the SOMA formula, instead of furthering on its success, in terms of creating another story with philosophical depth. Surely I know sales ($$$) is what propels the company, but so is a rock-solid & future-proof fan base, so despite my opposition, Frictional Games should really ditch the SOMA formula and instead make a Space-Opera-Horror game, put some droids & chewy inside to scare the force out of the protaganist, also stick in a love-triangle story, along with a family-feud kinda setting, then I'm sure it would do great in sales!! Honestly, my opinion should mean close to nothing since I would still be watching LPs on youtube, but if what SOMA has achieved is retracted, instead of furthered, it would be unfortunate and I couldn't care less then.

      Delete
  79. Entirely agree with Shade's comment.
    Frictional team: your games are always day one purchases.
    All the best, and keep up the good work!

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  80. I love you guys.

    SOMA is the first game that left me with few days of an emotional aftertaste. It made me think and ask myself many questions. Thats the highest point of any kind of art.

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  81. First - thanks for great cross platform game (liked all previous games too).
    Second - don't invest to much (at all) in live action or cgi trailers in feature. Please :)

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  82. I skipped on SOMA because there was no reason to actually play it. It's a walking sim.
    I was really frustrated with AMFP, which never allowed me to actually do anything on my own, keeping me on a set path and talking into my ear, and SOMA is more of the same.
    Too short to be a proper lengthy novel, too simplistic to be a proper game.

    Sci-fi is niche, horror is niche too. That's twice niche. And then you put it into a genre designed for melodramas. Why?

    So, bullet points:
    1. Sci-fi's target audience is tech minded folks. They love brain candy. It means either mechanics or puzzles or both. You don't have it.

    2. Walking sims are a passive experience. They do not attract active gamers, the ones that make mods.

    3. AMFP did undermine your reputation.

    And if some active tech-minded gamer that LOVED the game wishes to prove me wrong, I'd suggest them to put a mod out.

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    1. "AMFP did undermine your reputation."

      It was developed by thechineseroom, not Frictional.

      Delete
  83. I just don't get it: why walk away from the genre that made you famous?! People don't want any other games from you other than horror! When you reach a level like this you should please your audience. Otherwise, if you just want to do whatever you feel like doing, go create a game for yourselves and your friends only. Don't expect to sell well if you don't have a definite focus on game genres - people get confused when YOU get confused as to what you want to do. And even though I enjoyed SOMA, I felt like the character could easily have had amnesia - It was really like Amnesia: SOMA. Just deal with it; embrace it! It's what you do best, don't try to do different stuff because you don't want to risk sucking at it. Neither do we.

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  84. I just want to say - thank you Frictional Games for one of the best horror game in the world (number two in my list is Penumbra).

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  85. My 2 cents:

    Pros: story, ocean storms!, reveals and ending, very stable build, animated UI elements (+ all pro's mentioned by other players above)

    Cons: weak horror (for me), confusing enemies, sometimes boring gameplay, sometimes bad art direction (monsters)


    Regarding sales:

    - was your ideas A/B tested? (early proto > ~5k gamers > results > 60% like AAA (build this), 25% like BBB (option to have, if cheap to develop), 15% like CCC (briefly mention or skip this), etc.)

    - what your audience actually want? (more/less horror - maybe in-game options to tone down horror, that are cheap in development. more/less puzzles - again organic options in game - skip puzzles, if i don't like to solve them and ability to beat the main story line only)

    BIG QUESTION to Thomas:
    Is there any analytics / dev tool to change some portions of the game levels / design / story after release of the game for each gamer and receive gains based on users tastes / preferences that are segmented to some groups of players?

    Example: Group (A) I like horror, bring me more of this; Group (B) I like action - more of this; (C) I have only 30 mins to play each evening - give me appropriate content for this period of time each day; (D) I'm casual player with low skills - teach me, reduce tension, reduce pain and punishment for my bad... strafe skills :)

    --

    Ivan

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  86. I think one of the key reasons of low sales isthe factthat playerbase is generally... Stupid. That's why games like CoD or Dota go to pupularity - they are simple. Now, SOMA is not just complex: it is deeply philosophical. SOMA touches upon matters so complicated, so divisive - the matters of mind and one's self. I would pay twice that price for this game. Whereelse you can find a gamethat talks about such problems? It is, truly, a masterpiece - but the one that doesn't appeal to major public.

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    1. Totally agree with you.

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  87. I don't get this "ooh, I'd much prefer more scifi" or vice versa. It's your vision. The gamers should put up or shut up. Do you expect a movie director to refuse casting a blonde for the lead role because the lot prefers brunes?

    And about that differentiation. If anyone throws SOMA and the previous FG games to the same sack it surely should tell you something about their capabilities. Maybe it's just not the part of the audience you should cater to.

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    1. If they're opening up to their customers about sales concerns, we sure DO have the right to state what we'd like to see coming next, and not just "shut up".

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  88. I love SOMA's story (it's the best I've played recently), but I got dissapointed a little (I wanted more horror, and the stealth gameplay got gutted compared to Amnesia).

    It's not sci-fi vs. horror per se, just expectations.

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  89. I really liked SOMA's story, was absolutely delighted and surprised by it - I started off playing expecting a game like Amnesia - and as I got absorbed in the story - I kept coming back to play more Soma, hoping for even less and less of Amnesia in the game. Also Toronto and the CN Tower was cool!

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  90. I'm easily scared, but I also love horror, because of its sense of mystery (also sci-fi). And I loved SOMA, it really impressed me, it had been a while since I felt that about a game (Maybe Deadly Premonition on ps3... hey I love that scary weird-ass game!). Before I played it I thought it'd be kinda Bioshock because of well, deep sea stuff, I heard great things from friends so was very interested. Story, voice-acting, gameplay, everything. Really surpassed any expectation I had. I dont get why there would be a division of horror and sci-fi. Both can and do coexist frequently...

    The only reason I won't be replaying it anytime soon, even though I'd like to, and the only thing that frustrated me a little (but not too much or I wouldn't have finished) at times, was the stealth mechanic. I'm not saying it didn't work - I'm just not very patient to try and sneak past scary enemies with no means of defense. I get too nervous. I never played your past games, I wanted to and I tried (Penumbra Black Plague) but gave up cause I'd get too nervous, hah.

    Anyway I remember in special the part where you have to enter a labyrinth-like room to power something on while running from a monster - I was soooo glad when that was over. I'm the kind of person who loves to explore every nook and cranny of games, and I couldn't do that in SOMA because well, I was too focused on not dying and running like hell, I even wondered what I missed.
    (I'm trying to play through Outlast atm but story/setting didn't grab me like SOMA did)

    So I'd prefer to watch someone play than having to play through all those parts again. Which I find a pity cause aside from that, I'd love to replay it. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the feeling of finally getting past them.

    Strangely though, the scariest game I know is one you can't even get hurt - Scratches. It's pure adventure, inventory, oldschool explore-creepy-house, but just the atmosphere, sound and graphics scared me and a friend enough to make us uninstall it. - Also strangely, I seem to get more scared playing on pc than on console, so I play more horror on console... (I played SOMA on ps4)

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  91. Oh and, I'd say Firewatch is more popular because well, from my pov, it had more marketing? Or maybe I just wasn't around when SOMA came out, sorry (I only got a ps4 this year). I had time to get hyped for Firewatch, look at all the pretty, calming colors it showcased, and calm-relaxing game seems like a more popular type than sci-fi horror. Although as soon as I found out more about Firewatch I changed my mind and lost all interest (and hey I enjoyed other walking simulators)... I noticed a lot of people who bought it were disappointed, with the ending specially.

    Anyway I hope you make more games like SOMA. I'd enjoy less gut-wrenching stealth, but, just do what you wanna do.

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  92. I believe the issue here lies within genre itself as well. I am grown up with horror (not slasher or jump scare, but psychological horror)films and so going from this to games was just welcome action for me. But unlike taking mainstream titles like - lets say Fallout, witcher (CD Project is kind of indie too) to my friends, I cannot "sell" Frictional Games titles to people I know because "its too scary" according to them. I had no problems to make 10s of people trough social media to try mainstream games, but I sure never managed to get anyone play Amnesia nor Soma. And Firewatch markets itself as mystery game. or "markets" in general. People do not know what to buy, when they never even heard about it.

    However I have one issue with Soma. I have played:Alien isolation on high difficulty (Nightmare and hardmode), and that game relies same logic on tension and fear - 'dodging and distracting the monster', it is mechanic I am grown tired of. However Alien game got away with it because the Alien was very smart and so some of the escape techniques were needed to be as sophisticated (i.e. instead hiding, waiting, sneaking - you had to stand up, turn off sounds and walk in good speed as AI learned if you hid too long). I do not like monsters that are 'scripted' and 'set on stone'. In those moments its easier for just to 'mod them out' and focus on atmospheric-exploration. Monster AI needs some more oomph in Soma. It should be more dynamic and smart like aliens were. I find two games very alike on atmosphere wise and also game-play wise, but monster AI sets them apart.

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  93. Hi people,
    Thank you so much for this wonderful article really!
    If someone want to learn more about the y8 games I think this is the right place for you!

    ReplyDelete
  94. I think SOMA was a well polished and thought-provoking game which was almost perfect for what it was trying to be.

    But.

    Looking and comparing the last 3 games, it seems to me that you are wanting to get rid of "animal instinct based fear" as 'unartistic' or 'cheap' but mixing it with a great atmosphere is what made such an impact to people and a great part of what made you famous.

    You have now clearly mastered storytelling, atmosphere and psychological horror in SOMA but as a previous commentator said, I hope you embrace the full spectrum of horror as your legacy. That is what makes people talk about the game. I often read that people bought TDD even though they were too scared to play it.

    If this is not the path you want to take, I also think you should differentiate your brand more. And personally I feel that when lowering the amount of horror, you should increase the amount of game mechanics / interactivity. Maybe market a game under a new "branch name" say Frictional Adventure/RPG or something else. To me and many others Frictional Games = horror. People don't only see your game brands but many also know your story as an indie company which became a great success through high quality and unique horror.

    But why did Firewatch do so well? I honestly think it was a mixture of no expectations and a compilation of fresh-enough-ideas and surroundings. Repeating the success with "Firewatch 2" might be quite a task.. since the ending wasn't that good at all.

    I might be wrong with all of this. But I feel that I and many others are waiting for you to fulfill the expectation of doing a follower for Penumbra/Amnesia which is even more terrifying and oppressing than the last ones. Going ever further and modernising it. Pigs and SOMA, while being great by themselves, just didn't scratch that itch. You have the blessing and burden of your reputation, and I hope you embrace it.

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    1. Couldn't agree more. I really am expecting the fear P:O and P:BP brought, not to mention ADD, of course.

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  95. Please don't stop making games like SOMA. You hit on some deep, philosophical and ethical human dilemmas with SOMA, many of which flicked the nerve endings buried in my lizard brain. I could not stop thinking about it well after I was done. If you want to spur the mod community, consider creating one in-house. Perhaps a bit of tangent continuity that takes place at any number of fascinating story points within the world of SOMA. I for one will gobble up everything related to this universe. Thanks for a great game!

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  96. Ok I just need to get this out of my head. AI is key. The monsters in Soma were incredibly well designed and diverse, but they more or less lost all their pressure once I noticed their movement and behavior. Getting stuck on the other side of a table. Playing ring around the rosie till you had enough time to come up with an exit plan, all of this made the game rather easy. And easy isn't scary. You tried a nice different death-mechanic and I will applaud you for it, but if the first playthrough is without a "you died" screen much of the pressure just disappears.
    Alien Isolation managed to keep up this pressure with only one monster throughout an incredibly long game. Playing a game that has enemies smarter than me is the scariest thought.

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  97. Soma's story is far bigger than the game.
    The game format itself is sorta keeping it down in my opinion. I hope to see it made into a book and then ... who knows ... maybe a movie?

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  98. Hey there, co creator of amnesia mod "The String"

    What turned me off SOMA modding was due to the lack of tutorials and user tutorials, I didn't have my beloved Mudbill or YourComputer to teach me the new features of SOMA scripting.

    I couldn't even setup a terminal in my mod because the tutorial on the wiki is still incomplete months later, I tried messing around for hours without any success which killed the morale to try and figure out things.

    That and time...

    The level design however went smooth as anticipated, that was exciting.

    But yeah my level didnt get life due to the missing tutorials, especially at launch there was almost nothing to learn from.

    Now there at least is a engine script page for the codes so we'll see in the future if tutorials get fleshed out a bit.

    When i modded for amnesia i held hand to hand with tutorials untill i could improve and try out stuff myself which is what i missed with SOMA.

    *excuse me if the text looks weird, im just writing what i got on my mind at the momemt.*

    Hauken

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  99. Great game, please just make the game you want to make...
    I loved the way that this game got you thinking about what it means to be you..
    Its not really to sci-fy at all its a GREAT mix of Horror and Syfy.

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  100. Honestly, Soma was by far the best game I've ever played. In a way, I hate it, because now I have a hard time enjoying other games... I wish I could erase my memory and play it again. Although, then I might become trapped in an infinite loop of playing Soma and erasing memories. :P

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  101. To me it seems weird that if you want to create a truly amazing game like SOMA, you have to sacrifice the "mainstreamness" of it. Why can't we have both, though? If you want the game to go viral - don't sacrifice the horror - make it as scary as you possibly can, so the youtubers can have their screams and fun getting scared shitless. At the same time make the story as great as SOMA had. You can't complain about the sales if you don't try to make the main aspect of the game that makes it go viral - the horror - as perfect as possible in the first place.

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  102. SOMA is an amazing game, most definitely one of my all time favorites. I'm really sad it didn't sell very well, especially when compared with a decent-at-best game like Firewatch. Who knows, maybe it was the lack of marketing presence, but I feel like it failed to capture the attention of the masses, which saddens me.

    Any old way, it looks like y'all have great ideas with not mish-moshing sci-fi/horror, so I have the utmost confidence in you guys. Meanwhile, I'll be buying SOMA for all my friends.

    Ciao. Best of luck to one of my favorite developers; keep being awesome.

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  103. Good luck, team.

    I haven't played SOMA yet and probably won't anytime soon, as I'm currently low on cash and can't afford upgrading my hardware. I was still pleased by the strong critical reception of the game and that reviewers appreciated the themes tackled by the narrative.

    The observations on the danger of a crowded horror and SF game market are rather apt. The thought alone depresses me. Personally, I just hope SOMA has broken even financially since you wrote this article in March. Nothing would make me happier than you guys staying in business and creating amazing and thoughtful games.

    Best wishes, Frictional. There are very few developers left in today's world that I care about, and you're by far the best of those remnants. You've been close to my heart as a company for nearly 10 years now, and I hope you'll still be around in the years to come.

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  104. On a hopeful side note: Things will be looking up financially for me this autumn, so I'll try to reserve some money for buying SOMA. :-) I'll buy it as directly as possible, just so the studio could get the most profit out of my purchase. You'll always be needing money for your new projects. I might even rebuy some of your older titles, just so I'd have digital copies too.

    Thanks for all the hard work and dedication.

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