Friday, 23 September 2016

SOMA - One Year Later


It is now one year since we released SOMA which means it is time for an update on the current state of things.

As always let's start with the thing that is of most interest to people: How much has the game sold? This is always a bit of a tricky figure to nail down as it depends a bit on how you want to count. For instance, we were part of the Humble Monthly Bundle this September which caused a lot of people to get the game, but none of these were "direct sales". Instead, we got one big payment for taking part in the deal. For the sake of simplicity, I will simply lump all of these figures together as a whole, which brings us to a total of a bit over 450 000. Or to phrase it differently: almost half a million units sold!

This is quite good, in fact it is so good that we have now broken even and then some! I think it is worth to stress just how great this is. We spent over five years making our, by far, most ambitious game ever. We also spent quite a lot of money on various outsourcing such as voice acting, 3d models and animations. For instance, to make sure we got it right, we actually recorded a lot of the game's dialog three times. In the past we have just recorded voices at the end of the project and hoped for the best. With SOMA we knew that nailing the voice acting would be crucial, and spent money accordingly. In the end, it meant that around half of our voice recordings were never used. The same thing was true for things like models and animations. We ordered a ton of these and as design changed many of them didn't make it into the final game. On top of that we also spent a lot on making live action clips for PR purposes. Taken together with salaries and all other kinds of expenses, SOMA cost quite a bit to make - well over 10 times what Amnesia: The Dark Descent cost us.

It is important to understand that SOMA was far from a safe bet. While we had the luxury of having already made a successful horror game, SOMA was not an easy sell. The game relies heavily on getting certain themes across to the player, and communicating this proved to be a hard task indeed. When showcasing Amnesia we could just show how you blocked a door with some rubble and hid in a closet and the game's core experience was neatly summarized. But with SOMA things were way harder. First of all, weaponless horror games are no longer anything special and by no means a stand-out feature. In fact, the "chased by monsters"-gameplay was not even a core part of the SOMA-experience. The whole idea with the game was to give the player a first person perspective on a variety of disturbing philosophical musings. To make matters worse any concrete gameplay example of this would be riddled with spoilers, so all discussion had to be made in an obscure "you'll understand when you play it"-fashion.

We were also constantly worried about a backlash based on faulty expectations. Early on we realized that SOMA was never gonna be the scare-fest that Amnesia: TDD was. But because we felt other aspects of what made the game special were so fuzzy, making "from the creators of Amnesia" a big part of the PR campaign felt crucial. The problem with this was of course that this might set up expectations for SOMA being a direct follow-up from Amnesia - with everything that that would imply. We tried to tone it down and make it clear what sort of game SOMA was, but there was still a noticeable negative effect. For instance, many reviews start by saying "Well, it's not as scary as Amnesia" or similar.

Despite a bloated budget and tough sell, here we are a year later having earned back every single dime spent. And not only that; we earned well past the break-even point! The project was a big success and we are able to keep doing games with scope and quality comparable to SOMA. In fact, our goal is to aim higher still.

It is also interesting to compare SOMA to Amnesia. As can be read here Amnesia: TDD sold about 390 000 units a year after release, but worth noting that that was for PC only. SOMA's 450 000 units come from PC and PS4 combined. However, many of the Amnesia units were sold during 75% off sales, a discount rate we have not really had with SOMA yet. On top of this, SOMA also costs 30 dollars compared to Amnesia TDD's 20 dollars. So even just counting the PC sales the total income is higher for SOMA the first year compared to those of Amnesia. And when you add the PS4 sales on top of that, it is clear that, in actual earnings, SOMA has far outsold what Amnesia: TDD did during the same period.

Another thing worth bringing up are the user reactions. Our current MetaCritic score is at 84 and will probably stay like that. While this is a really nice score, what has really blown us away is the user reviews. You hear a lot of people complaining about the Steam reviews and how they get sad when they read them. But for us it is the other way around. Whenever I feel a bit down, I actually go and read some steam reviews and instantly feel better. I mean, even user reviews that have given the game a thumbs down contain stuff like this:
"Amazing game, [...] This game literally changed how i view games. it had an amazing story, the atmosphere was spot on, there wasn't a moment where i thought i was safe and the pacing of the game was magnificent."
And it is really hard to not feel good when even the refund notes contain nuggets like this:
"I love horror. Soma is distressing. There is a scene where I have to hurt an innocent robot to progress and I don't know why. It made me cry."
Currently our Steam reviews have 98% positive calculated short term and 95% counting the total. This makes SOMA the most well-liked game we have ever made. And when people say they didn't like it, it is almost always because of the monster encounters - a non-core part of the experience. When it came to the narrative bits very few people disliked it, which is a wonderful surprise to me as this was by far the most uncertain element. My fear was always that a lot of people would think there were not enough horror and monsters, and the opposite turned out to be true.

While talking about user reactions it is worthwhile mentioning all the great discourse around the game. For instance, the SOMA subreddit is still fairly active, and new, interesting subjects pop up all the time, like this discussion on the future of the Ark. These youtube videos that deep dives into the story are also great, and it is fantastic to see people giving so much thought on our work. There is a load of other user content like this and it's honestly quite overwhelming.

Finally, I want to briefly go over where Frictional is currently at. As I said last time, our goal now is to be a two-project studio and so far it is going really well. One project, which most of the team is working on, is going to start production at end of the year and the other project is mid-way through the R&D stage. Unfortunately I cannot divulge any specific information on these two, and it will be a little while before there will be a proper announcement. However, we do have some smaller, cool stuff in store, one of each we will announced later this year. If all goes well, we should also have another thing for early next year.

So exciting things happen both in the short and long term, and I am really excited for the future of the company.


41 comments:

  1. I wish you my sincerely good luck! I didn't read anything from SOMA for have 100% clear experience and as I never played your games on PC, PS4 gave me the opportunity to know the famous Frictional Games. It turned out to be better than I expected, i quickly get that the game wasn't focus on scare me, but tell me a tale.
    Now I know that I can trust on Frictional next games (and I know it's some game version from PC to PS4, haha).
    Good luck, can't wait to see your next news.

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  2. As someone who just completed SOMA a week ago, I want to say a massive well done to you guys for an absolutely amazing game. It's been a long time since a game really made me sit down and think about what I would do in the situation it portrays. Voice acting and sounds for this game were far beyond my expectations (the music for a certain thing in a certain server room was probably the most tense I've ever felt). Good luck with the next two projects you're working on and I'll be making sure to keep up with their progress.

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  3. I have only been able to watch a let's player run through this fantastic game but due to the sheer attention and care from the lper I don't believe the story and atmosphere had been at all diminished for me at all.

    If I were to purchase a copy, even without any real intention to replay the experience, which purchase method would ensure that as much money as possible would funnel back to your studio?

    I'm overjoyed that there are still studios out there willing to risk capital and income security in the name of creative enterprise and I wish everyone involved in this game a good future.

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  4. For whatever it is worth, please know that I've been playing games for over 30 years, and Frictional games are one of two studios where I will always buy your product knowing I will get a tremendous, polished, unique experience.

    Thank you.

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  5. Soma was the best gaming experience I'd had in a decade. Marvellous.

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  6. Soma was the best gaming experience I'd had in a decade. Marvellous.

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  7. Best Game I have played in years! Very happy to hear it was a success! Keep up the grear work!

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  8. Amnesia was an amazing game, but SOMA is one of my favorite games of all time. Thanks so much for being brave and creative in your direction. I can't wait to see what's coming out next. Congrats!

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  9. I'm currently playing through SOMA and it's been amazing. The game's themes pair up beautifully with the story, artistic direction, and gameplay. Just wanted to say thanks for the hard work and creative effort. Keep pushing your games in awesome new directions!

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  10. Can only really echo the comments above. I've been playing computer games since the early 80s and Soma is one of only a handful that really, genuinely, has continued to haunt me. Never got on with Amnesia and found hiding from the monsters the least satisfying bit of Soma, but the fact that I stuck with it speaks to the excellent, compelling plot, the amazing art/sound direction and a game design that really roots you in the visceral. Can't wait to see what's next.

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  11. Thanks for one year later update and waiting for more news about upcoming projects.

    Really liked SOMA and it felt more like Penumbra series. I like Penumbra more than Amnesia. Have no idea why.

    Good luck with upcoming projects.

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  12. Superb experience, not just a game, but experience. SOMA made me feel things you don't usually associate with games, and it unfolded at just the right pace. Congratulations on sales and can't wait to see what's next!

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  13. What you write here on your blog is always interesting. I have no insights or anything; just wanted to thank you for sharing.

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  14. One of the best games I've ever played. Thank you for this great game.

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  15. A year has passed but it still lingers in my mind. Thank you for one of the most fascinating experiences I've ever had and this update. I wish you the best of luck with what's next.

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  16. So happy to hear things have gone well for you folks! You always produce wonderful titles.

    Could we get subtitles added to the developer commentary for your games? I've tried playing Amnesia TDD with dev commentary and some of your team members are rather difficult to understand. I'd much rather they speak in their native language and we just receive appropriate subtitles :)

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  17. SOMA is a god damn masterpiece. Reading your updates always fills me with joy. And yeah I don't get the whining about steam reviews, personally. I have had great experience with them and contributed myself as well.

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  18. Fjolårets bästa story i min mening. Arbeta i eran takt och stressa inte ut nästa projekt! Tusen tack för en djup upplevelse ;)
    /Axel

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  19. Congratulations to Frictional Games. SOMA was one the best gaming experiences I've had in my 20 years of gaming (mostly FPS). The atmosphere and pacing were amazing. I've recommended it to all my gamer friends. I'm glad to hear it has been a profitable venture because it's obvious a lot of passion was put into the project.

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  20. As a gamer most all my life (~30 yrs old) I have to say that SOMA is one of the best video experiences I've had. So thought-provoking in a smart way, the voice, plot, and the way the ending was handled was way above my expectations, immensely refreshing and wonderfully satisfying to see the credits roll. Happy that the studio was able to make a profit from this fantastic game, well done - all of you.

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  21. I've unfortunatelly never played Amnesia....but I was certain that I always play anything you put on console market. SOMA was beside Dying Light my best game of 2015. For me, a good game is about emotion. It can be a shooter, horror, puzzle.....don't care. I have to FEEL something....and SOMA delivered it for me (and many many other). When the game stays in your head for days and months it's sure did something right. It did EVERYTHING right. Keep up the good work. Can't wait for antother gem from your studio. I for sure want and will play Amnesia. SOMAhow :) (see what I did there :)? Greetings from Poland. Marcin

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  22. I'm one of your players that love SOMA but would have appreciate it even more without the creature chasing parts. I'm not too much into the horror genre and it frustrate me a bit because you do amazing adventure stuff but I am not able to handle the scary parts. I would have loved being able to finish amnesia, but it was too scary :p

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  23. Cheers and congratulations. This is the top game of the year for me. I've actually re-played it a couple times...it really makes you THINK, long after the final credits have rolled. The atmosphere is utterly engaging.

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  24. Hey, it looks like your share widget is broken on this blog, "Whoops! Looks like the API key you passed was invalid." - Great game!

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  26. Frictional is among my favorite developers and SOMA is among my favorite games and has what I consider to be the best story in a video game ever. So glad to hear of SOMA's success and looking forward to everything your studio is working on.

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  27. Thank you for all your hard work :)

    SOMA was the atmospheric game I was longing for and when it came out I was pleasantly happy that it delivered just what I expected, doesn't just happen that often ;D

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  28. So glad to hear this.
    Didn't finish Amnesia, but enjoyed (& was bit terrified by) what I did play. That got me excited for SOMA.
    Wow, was I NOT disappointed.
    Note: I'm really not into horror games. I like the *idea* of playing+liking a horror game, but the often don't grab me ....or bore/terrify me with cheap jump-scares.
    I like plot/story & interesting characters & intellectual noodling/dilemmas. Off the cuff examples of games I've loved: Bioshock series, Dishonored, Half-Life & what I've played of Metro. All of these having combat as a (mostly) key element.
    It takes a lot for a game to really impress me/leaving lasting impression - SOMA did in spades!
    Honestly, one of the most memorable games/experiences that left me thinking about it for weeks after.
    Slack-jawed & teary-eyed are not typical responses to games for me.
    Congrats again - I'm expecting one/both of your new titles will be a Day1 purchase for me.
    [ Side note: I'd also pay for DLC add-on set in SOMA's world - just love that setting/environment ]

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  30. I'm really happy for you guys! Soma is definitely one of the best games I've ever played!

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  31. I remember that playing it and reading medical notes about disturbing behaviour including stupid suicides I was like: "naah, cheap and illogical" for about almost half of the game... just to figure out that everything I found cheap and illogical had sense. Deep, disturbing sense. And I was in the middle of shit thinking about why everyone did what they did. And I am amazed till now. Damn, it's not the scariest game ever but hmm... the "darkest" one.

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  32. Like other users here, I've been playing games for about 28 years now. All kinds of games, computer, console, card games, tabletop rpgs you name it. I was super hyped for SOMA because of penumbra and ATDD. While playing a game, there was a part of me that felt disappointed because the game wasn't really scary. After going through the entire experience, I have this to say. SOMA is the most horrifying game that I have ever played, on a deep personal level. It's easily in the top 3 best games I've ever played and it's the best storytelling experience I've ever had in my life in any medium (well except lolita, that was an amazing book.) I know that you probably don't need to hear this, but if you thought living up to amnesia's standards was hard, good luck trying to top SOMA. Still, I'll buy anything you make because you guys have done an amazing job with your games so far.

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  33. To me, Soma was EXACTLY the followup I wanted from the studio that made Amnesia. I cannot stress how much I enjoyed the game, I was so glad the "chased by monsters" part was not the core gameplay, the experience was still amazing. I particularily enjoyed the runaway part when you're on the boat, pulling out the plugs and then have to run for your life to the. That type of thrill is amazing, especially when done right.

    I've bought the game 3 times, making sure it is at full price, and gifted it twice. I hope you continue to make great games, evolving and using different styles as you go, and I will GLADLY continue to support your company as much as a consumer can. Thank you for Soma.

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  34. I wrote a comment on the other post, not realising that this post existed and am glad to see SOMA doing well. In fact, this just makes me want to share the experience I had more with people even more! I hope for the best for Frictional and truly hope to see more works of similar quality, as SOMA is my favourite game from you guys.

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  36. Since getting SOMA, I've played it through 3 times already. I'm just waiting to get enough $$$ so I can buy a new PC with VR for the fourth time.

    No other work of entertainment/art has ever elicit such strong emotions from myself. SOMA really is an experience one of a kind. In my opinion, you've set a new standard of what it means to tell a story.

    Thank you so much for that! I can't wait to get my hands on one of your new projects. <3

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  37. Horror games are not really my favourites, but SOMA was exception. SOMA had story like no other and had me really thinking what i was doing in the game. I did watch a full gameplay series on youtube when it came out, but just recently played it myself and it was a blast.
    It was interesting and atmospheric in the ways i have never seen videogame being. Only downside is that it didn’t show any warning about the “spider caves” in the seabed, because i have serious arachnophobia.
    I'm glad to hear that the game was success and i'll be looking forward to your upcoming games. I will maybe try the earlier titles if i get some courage.
    Overall 9/10 game.

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  39. 10/10 Would recommend in a heart beat

    I just want to say for myself and my girlfriend, Soma changed who we are. The amount of terror and sheer anxiety playing this game put us through has truly changed our outlooks on so many topics. It took us months, we could only play for so long before being forced to take a break due to the numerous night terrors we would have. Eventually we made it and after finally finishing Soma We can both agree that this game was a piece of art. We fell in love with the story and atmosphere. Any other game we would have forgotten but Soma pulled us back in and left us wanting more even after the end. I personally cannot imagine it ever being out done. The experience was one of a kind and will most likely stick with us for years. Thank you for your 5 years of dedication and hard work and we'd like to wish Frictional Games all the best in the industry because there is no other company alike.

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