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July 2020

Sunless Skies

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Developer: Failbetter Games
Release Date: Jan. 31, 2019

About Rainier

PC gamer, WorthPlaying EIC, globe-trotting couch potato, patriot, '80s headbanger, movie watcher, music lover, foodie and man in black -- squirrel!


'Sunless Skies' Developer Hit By Layoffs, Delayed

by Rainier on Feb. 8, 2018 @ 2:45 a.m. PST

Sunless Skies is a top-down literary RPG set amongst the stars. Explore a universe steeped in celestial horror and ravaged by Victorian ambition in this game of exploration, corruption and jeopardy.

It is the dawn of the 20th century, and London has taken to the stars! As the captain of a space-faring locomotive you'll behold wonders and battle cosmic abominations in the furthest heavens. Stake your claim. Fight to survive. Speak to storms. Murder a sun. Face judgement.

Ten years have passed since Sunless Sea, and Queen Victoria has led an exodus from London to the heavens. There, a revitalized British Empire - ambitious and authoritarian - begins to expand across the skies.

The stars are alive. They are the Judgements: vast intelligences that govern all things. But they are dying. One by one, something is snuffing them out, leaving their thrones empty. An opportunistic Victorian Empire is colonizing the domains they leave behind, painting its industrial vision upon the fabric of the heavens.

Failbetter Games has hit some rough waters as disappointing Early Access sales have forced the developer to cut staff (down to 11 employees according to its "about" page) in order to reduce overhead cost, which also resulted in the game getting delayed. The UK based developer confirmed that an updated released window will be announced by the end of this month.

After the remarkable high of the Kickstarter, the response to Sunless Skies in Early Access hasn’t met the level of Sunless Sea in terms of sales. It sold about 15% as many copies as Sunless Sea in the comparable time period.

We think there are a few reasons for this. In hindsight, we went into Early Access too early. The game wasn’t immediately ready for media attention, we lost a key promotional moment; people aren’t talking about the game as much as we’d hope.

The marketplace is also hugely different to the last time we launched an Early Access game (in 2014), and Sunless Skies just isn’t as visible as Sunless Sea was. The success of our Kickstarter probably also led to fewer people buying it at EA launch, which will have made it less visible on storefronts; thousands of people had already picked up their copy. 

What does this mean? Development is progressing rapidly (check out our latest Exploration build if you want to see more), and there's no danger of us failing to deliver the project you backed. But the business has a lot less cash in the bank than we wanted to have at this point. Late last year we made some hard decisions to ensure a couple of things: that we don’t reach launch in a financial state that would put the studio in danger of closing before we can make another game, and that we continue with a better structure for a business making games of our kind. With much regret, we have just completed a redundancy consultancy process and four of us are leaving as a result.  

Fallen London 

In 2017 we rejuvenated Fallen London, and we received much heartwarming feedback from players who returned to the game for Christmas to find the fruits of a lot of hard work. 

Something that hasn’t been working as well is the Fallen London mobile app. Despite our best efforts during development, it just doesn’t function as we wanted it to, and we’ve reluctantly concluded that much of this is due to some fundamental architectural decisions that it’s not now practical to change. It also hasn’t been as popular as we’d hoped, and every update we make to the game needs to be duplicated for the app, making it harder and slower for us to improve the game overall. Sadly, for these reasons, we plan to close it down in Q2 2018. 

Some good news: work is almost complete that will make Fallen London web look much more like a modern website! 

It will provide a much better experience than the current website on mobile, and not impose the same development burdens as the mobile app. We’re hopeful that it’s a better solution for players and for us. We’ll have more news about this soon. 

What’s next? 

  • Sunless Skies continues on its path to launch, but we won’t be releasing in May. Right now we’re working on updates that will improve Movement and Combat (due this month) and the release of Albion. We’ll have a revised launch window within the month. 
  • We’re retiring the Fallen London app in Q2, and Fallen London on web will be re-launched. There will be a further announcement about this soon, but in the meantime if you have any questions please send them to 
  • We’re also officially retiring Fundbetter, our fund for small narrative games, until business improves for us. Giving back to the community was very rewarding, and we have some ideas for how we’d do it again in future, but right now we just don’t have the spare funds or bandwidth. 
  • Three years since its initial release, we’ll be tying up loose ends in Sunless Sea (including releasing the special Blemmigan unlocked by this Kickstarter). We will continue to support the game, but it will be the last update for a while as we focus on Sunless Skies

Into the Fog 

We’re keenly aware that, like all indie studios, we are a small and vulnerable vessel. We’re committed to keeping this studio open and making games. We’re in no danger of failing to deliver Sunless Skies, and never have been. The decisions we’ve made over the last few months will enable us to make more games after Sunless Skies and be around for many years to come. Your support, be it financial, on social media, in Steam reviews, or simply by talking about our games, is as always so welcome. We look forward to telling you more about the relaunch of Fallen London, and especially to welcome you to Albion!

Key Features:

  • Travel between distant ports, unravelling stories, bearing passengers and news, and trading in exotic celestial cargoes.
  • Your every foray into space is as precarious as a Polar expedition. You’ll need to balance your resources carefully and keep an eye on your crew’s Terror to avoid mutiny and death.
  • Your captain's actions could tip the precarious political balance of a region. Will you run guns for the Independents? Or spies for the Empire? Choose wisely – your decisions will affect the story; not just for yourself, but for your future captains as well.
  • Leave your mark on the universe, and be marked in return. When you are creating your captain, every decision is a story, and every story has a consequence.
  • Equip your vessel as you see fit. Would you benefit more from reinforced armour plating, or the additional manpower allowed by external crew pods? ("Soundproof! Cosy! Detachable!")
  • It is not safe in the skies. A captain will need to defend themselves against pirates, scorn-flukes, the Cyst of Faces, and worse.
  • Recruit a gallery of unpredictable characters to crew your locomotive as First Officer, Chief Engineer, Signaller, or Surgeon. Each brings their own skills and stories to your adventures.

Sunless Skies is currently available on Steam Early Access for $24.99.

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