(Full disclosure: Victor contributed to Sunset's Kickstarter. Not very much though. Because he's very poor.)
In an announcement on their website, indie game developer Tale of Tales has announced that due to the poor sales of last month's Sunset they will be leaving game development to pursue other artistic avenues.
Sunset is a first-person adventure game that puts players in the role of Angela Burnes, a 30-something, college-educated black woman who has become the housekeeper for an influential man in the fictional nation of Anchuria in the 70s. The gameplay loop revolves around Angela being given one hour a day to maintain the man's penthouse apartment. Through player choice and environmental story-telling a tale of fascism, rebellion and intimacy begins to unfold.
The announcement in it's entirety along with reasons behind the decision to leave game development can be read here.
Sunset's lack of commercial success is surprising. After a successful Kickstarter last year, a steady flow of critical acclaim, and a timely arrival on the scene when people are looking for more substance and agency in what some describe as 'walking simulators', Sunset seemed to poised to become a cult hit. What's more depressing is the amount of hate being thrown at Tale of Tales in comments sections regarding their closure. A few dashes of 'these guys sound pretentious' mixed with a healthy misunderstanding of what it means to fund a game's development. The usual.
So what happens when there isn't a space for games like this? Do we just accept that the market has spoken? Do we say that it's Tale of Tales' fault for trying to be too political or by not marketing well enough or that they tried too hard to be different or that they should have known it wouldn't sell or whatever other reason the average internet commenter/armchair industry expert can come up with?
This isn't a formal review but I have no reservations saying that this is a game that should be played by as many people as possible. It is thoughtful, clever, challenging, unique, progressive, and incredibly well designed. It's not without blemishes, but it showcases ideas that have never been presented in a commercial game before and for that it deserves it's place in the pantheon of indie gems. It is a master class in ambient storytelling and a much needed look at the world from the perspective of someone in a position perceived by the outside as relatively powerless.
The bottom line is this: People should play Sunset. And we should pour one out for the loss of some truly creative people in the game space. We all just got a little less interesting.