Arcen Games to Reduce Staff

Most of the time, when we bring you news about the gaming industry here at eXplorminate, it is a joy. This time, however, it isn’t. Arcen Games announced last Thursday that they would be laying off much of their staff.

01 Arcen Logo

For those who might not be familiar, Arcen Games is producer of renowned games such as AI War, The Last Federation, and most recently, Starward Rogue (currently at 99% positive approval on Steam).

Chris Park, CEO of Arcen who made the announcement, largely blamed himself for Arcen’s financial troubles. He said he was very proud of how Starward Rogue turned out but regretted that his company had no marketing budget left to promote it. Even though Starward Rogue has been a critical success, it hasn’t been a financial success for Arcen, and that is what has – in part – lead to Arcen’s current situation according to Park.

02 SBR Logo.png

Arcen is also in the process of developing their highly anticipated 4X title, Stars Beyond Reach. Park stated in his announcement that development will continue on that title. They still expect a Q2 2016 launch. We at eXplorminate are certainly hopeful that this game will see the light of day.

Despite the staff restructuring, Arcen’s entire catalogue of games will still be available both on Steam and on GOG. Park assures his fans that support for the games will continue even with the reduced staff thanks to the help of volunteers. You can read the full announcement on Arcen’s main site.

13 replies »

  1. Unfortunately SBR may face the same marketing challenges that Starward Rogue did. One can only hope that isn’t the case. But without any money left in the bank, it may be difficult for SBR to be properly marketed.

    Arcen news may explode a little all over the web, spurring an additional income from new sales. That might help.


    • Personally, I’d like to see Arcen do an Early Access for SBR. If it’s “missing that something” and the 250 beta testers they have now aren’t finding it, it seems to me that they need to open up the game to more testers. EA would bring in loads more people to play the game and give them a little cash infusion to help out. They might even be able to get in on GOG’s new Early Access program if they don’t want to use up their Steam debut.


    • I would not worry about it. Stars Beyond Reach is a strategy and it has already an established player base among Arcen Games fans while Starward Rogue is an arcade. Which was BTW an odd move to reach to a new audience without any marketing effort. Also SBR is marketed properly already (I have it on my wishlist :D), it’s destined to do *much* better sales wise.


  2. This is why Obsidian farmed out the marketing to Paradox on Pillars of Eternity. Scale of economy issues, I believe, due to specialized firms having a better buck to product ratio on their specializations.

    Arcen, since they already have a brand and record attached to them, would easily be able to seek additional funding from crowd funding.


      • Kickstarter has a 10% fee for them, and all the physical goods have to be shipped from Arcen’s side, of course. Which is why Obsidian relied on Paradox’s distribution pipelines in Europe and the US. That was a lot of physical goodies moving around.

        Digital distribution, sure, that’s very cost efficient. But the reason why Kickstarter feeds into the marketing word by mouth is because of the physical goods. There are a lot of really devoted fans, who will pay to get their stuff, and who will also spread the word, for free, merely due to their passion.

        For Arcen, I would recommend finding an alternative crowd sourcing method, even if it is just their website or social media using paypal. That’s because they are not a new company, and thus do not need to be “kickstarted” in the market niche. They already have a niche or two. I don’t know how passionate their consumer fans are, but their games have quite a good quality to them.


      • I don’t buy that physical goods help a Kickstarter at all. In fact, I think that is the path to destruction since international shipping costs can be obscene. What backers really crave is having a chance to put their stamp on the game. Allowing them to design a faction flag, design a magic item, name a hero, create a quest, or whatever really draws in the pledges. Backers don’t just want to preorder and get the T-shirt, they want to add a piece of themselves to the game.


  3. Most of the design inputs are at higher tiers and investments, which also includes the lower ones. Generally the physical goods are extremely popular due to an artwork focus or universe building focus.

    It is precisely because of the fixed costs to set it up, that allows them to carve into a market. Because the physical goods distribution is a market untapped, one normally that would be licensed to distributors for big cash deals, because only the big distributors could handle the pipelines. But this is more on an Ebay level, something individuals can deal with, since they have a list of preorders and it’s limited issue. Really limited, no mass reproduction to retailers or wholesalers.

    Star Citizen also had people who invested early on, then sold their items or ships or whatever, for a 100-200% cash return, on the open markets. There’s a lot of things that start going on, which brings in more of the market share that is invisible and under developed.

    Kickstarter rewards have gone beyond T shirts. You can see the MLA Kickstarter and the Eternity one for stuff that wouldn’t be easily available to an audience, which means they are tapping an untapped market without a lot of the investments normally required.

    It would be interesting to see how many people who go for the top tier, would do so if they could opt out of the physical goods. Obsidian created their own backer’s portal, to allow micro transactions to upgrade or downgrade pledges, for certain item combinations that wasn’t in the initial tier. Certain fandoms or markets place a higher priority on the physical goods, for RPGs it might be background ebooks and new npcs. That’s part of the marketing, figuring out what people would like, and how to adjust the supply to ensure demand produces a good price.

    As for the costs in shipping, publishers like Paradox may have a better deal for that. Otherwise, I consider it a cost sunk into promoting the community, and is recouped usually in the long term when the game is finished. Cost cutting will still have to be done, otherwise people go wild like in Star Citizen. For MLA kickstarter, the shipping costs were rather more than predicted by the managing companies. Compared to other costs though, it can be easily absorbed once the project is finished, if it allows the project to finish.

    The MLA had more demand for the physical products, because they were rare products that doesn’t usually have a counterpart in the West. Obsidian had a few design inputs for people, but they were limited in size and only brought in a few backers, totalling a few 10s of thousands US dollars together. The $25 digital download tier pulled in 500,000 by itself, in comparison. The 35 and 60 tier pulled in 250,000 each, so about 500+ k.

    For unknown companies, more people will hit the lower barrier of entry at the lower tiers, I predict, than the high tiers.



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