We Happy Few: Selling Out to Gearbox

http://store.steampowered.com/app/320240/We_Happy_Few/

Any gamer who’s active in the Early Access survival game scene knows about We Happy Few, a title about blending into a dystopian 1960’s Britain.

Though We Happy Few is usually in the press because it’s a highly anticipated title, the game has stirred the pot most recently for developer Compulsion Games’ decision to publish through Gearbox. The decision didn’t seem all that controversial on paper, until gamers saw the part about the game doubling in price.

To hear Compulsion tell it, the 100% jack-up in price was due solely to the team’s internal desires. Apparently the game blew up to a scale far larger than anyone was expecting (an excuse usually used to explain away why an Early Access game is taking so damn long), and wanting to make enough money to survive as a firm.

Even if Compulsion is telling the truth and Gearbox had nothing to do with doubling the game’s price from thirty dollars to sixty, the timing of the two events is a little suspicious.

The decision seems all the more suspicious when glancing at Compulsion’s other “internal” decisions that apparently came about at the same time as the choice to partner with Gearbox. For instance, the game will now feature a season pass (ugh) complete with DLC.

Gamers rarely enjoy hearing that there’s going to be DLC before the game is even released; if a dev really wants to do DLC, save that announcement for after the game is out and at least pretend that it didn’t occur earlier.

Additionally, Compulsion’s press release parrots other talking points far more commonly spoken by big-budget devs than a small indie studio. The release goes on at length to discuss the team’s excitement to develop downloadable content and espouses pre-order bonuses.

The announcement takes plenty of time to stress that all of these things had little to nothing to do with Gearbox and everything to do with the team’s desire to see We Happy Few do well.

Whoever wrote Compulsion’s press release is not a very good liar.

Meet our Downers! 18 days left on our Kickstarter! #WeHappyFew

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Look, studios are allowed to access publisher resources if they want. To be fair, the press release also states that partnering with Gearbox will allow Compulsion to release We Happy Few in more regions and more languages; that’s wonderful, because even the game’s Early Access version is quite good.

The real tragedy is that Compulsion expects everyone to believe that the studio adopted all of these triple-A publishing conventions of its own accord and that Gearbox had absolutely nothing to do with it. Frankly, players have good reason to be suspicious of Gearbox, too.

C’mon, Compulsion. Just admit that Gearbox’s offer looked good. That admission wouldn’t pass over with gamers terribly well either, but it’s better to be truthful with customers than playing these cutesy ambitious dreams games.

It also wouldn’t look so conspicuous if the sixty-dollar price had been implemented at some time other than six months before We Happy Few makes landfall next April. Customers can, and should, keep a lookout for We Happy Few when it releases; just don’t doubt that the studio has sold out to the big boys.

We Happy Few is no longer an indie game.