Tale of Tales isn’t dead, but they aren’t doing video games any more either. In a blog post (over here) from earlier today the developer duo of Tale of Tales, Michaël Samyn and Auriea Harvey, announced that Sunset is the last game they’ll be making for the forseeable future. It turns out that despite plenty of press, good reviews, a successful Kickstarter, and even a prime spot on the Steam summer sale, Sunset had about the same audience as any of their other games. Seeing as they went for broke, literally, on Sunset, that’s a bit of a problem.
Tale of Tales has had a fantastic and influential career in gaming, but it was never a commercial one. There was a conflict-free MMORPG where you played as a deer in a magical forest, a semi-sequel to Oscar Wilde’s Salome, a sex-allegory game about bringing a flowing tunnel to life by stroking it, and many other stories and tales told in a gaming format. With a change to the way Tale of Tales home country of Belgium funds the arts, it was time to start reaching beyond the art-audience and go for something with better market penetration, and Sunset seemed like the game to do it. It would have been great if the game had reached a decent fraction of the sales of Dear Esther, Stanley Parable, Proteus, or any number of other “walking simulators” that have broken through to semi-mainstream success, but in the end the fraction’s numerator was too big and denominator too small. 4,000 copies sold among Kickstarter backers, regular purchases, and the Steam sale means Tale of Tales has a lot of nice reviews to go with their debt.
So that didn’t work, but nothing ever really ends either. Michaël Samyn and Auriea Harvey still live and aren’t going to stop creating any time soon, but seeing as the things they build will only reach a certain audience no matter what kind of adjustments or changes they make to the presentation there’s not much reason to do anything but what they love, in the way they love to do it. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear gaming is the place to do this any more, so it’s time to look at other opportunities. Maybe they’ll be back and maybe they won’t. Maybe someday they’ll do something for themselves that somehow reaches the public’s attention in a big way. Maybe they’ll do interesting things that only ever catch the artistic community’s eyes. Maybe a lot of things, really.
The recovery from this particular financial wrecking ball is going to be hard but, hopefully, they’ll manage it. Personally, I just spent $10 on Sunset in the Steam sale, not because I’ll ever play the game but because I always admired Tale of Tales for existing and think the gaming landscape will be noticeably less interesting with them gone. Kind of like a tip for being awesome, and less than I’ve given waiters who have only dropped off a few plates of food. Whatever the Tale of Tales duo ends up doing next I’ll be paying attention to because, though it may not be something I personally need, it will at the very least make the world a more interesting place.