Into the Abyss
For the last four years, since May of 2016, Soulbound Studios has been a crowdfunded company. Our first game, Chronicles of Elyria, has been funded, thus far, almost entirely through the pledges and generosity of our backers. But that was never our intent. When we launched our Kickstarter back in 2016, it was with the plan to use the money to hire additional staff, put together a playable demo, and quickly attract publishers who would be willing to fund the remainder of development. So our plan was to use Kickstarter to, you know, kick-start the development process.
We were fortunate, or unfortunate as it turned out, to attract publishers very early on in our development process. We had publishers from all over the world flying in to meet the team, see our development progress, and get hands-on with the game. But after being in production for just a few months, there wasn’t enough to show yet. So the conversations generally went something like “Either work faster, show us more, or we’re going to want to take over development and make changes to the business model.” This was unacceptable to us, and one by one the conversations with publishers fell silent. Fortunately, we were able to continue crowdfunding for another couple years, at which point we felt like we were finally ready to start talking with investors. The problem was, by two years into development, and two years being crowdfunded, our inability to get a large influx of several million in cash meant development was going slower than we’d have liked. It was all good development, necessary, and even appropriate for our team size, but slower than we’d have liked.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find investors who understood that operating in a cash-lean environment doesn’t allow for growth, and stifles velocity. What we did find were several investors who said “Why are you talking with us? If you’re confident crowdfunding will sustain you, then you don’t need us. And if you’re not confident it’ll sustain you, then we’re not confident enough to invest.” For better or worse, we suspected that in order to get an investor, development was going to have to be far enough long that they simply couldn’t refuse because we were so close to being done. So our goal for the last year or more has been to push forward as hard and fast as we could, relying solely on crowdfunding, until at least the Alpha 1 was complete. And up until now, we were successful….
But to our great sadness…. with the failure of Settlers of Elyria, and five long months of only limited crowdfunding revenue coming in, Soulbound Studios has officially run out of money. Last night I was forced to do something I never thought I’d have to do. I closed the online store, put the SoE map back into read-only mode, and laid off all the employees…
Before taking the store down and laying off all the employees I had a long conversation with Vye and Snipehunter. We considered long and hard about launching our Kickstarterversary early this year, and being open with the community about our need for additional funding. We were pretty confident that if we made all of our previous promo items available for sale on the store, and were transparent about our needs, that the community would rally behind us, pledge more support, and sustain us long enough to get more playable content into the hands of our backers. With gameplay that was directly relevant to the aristocracy and nobility, with more information about kingdom and land management, that might have been enough to sustain us until we could get to Alpha 1 and land some investors.
But we decided not to. While we had no doubt that our backers would come to our aid, we’re living in a volatile period in our world’s history. With unprecedented changes to society caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, and with economies beginning to suffer all around the world, I made the hard decision not to try and get additional crowdfunding. I knew doing so would mean having to close the studio. But it was the right thing to do. I’d rather people spend their money on games they can play now, or better yet, food and shelter, rather than on the continuned development of Chronicles of Elyria.
So, with no additional funding, the Chronicles now descend into what is often referred to in the monomyth or the Hero’s Journey as “The Abyss” or “The Ordeal.” It’s the period in a story where the protagonist reaches their lowest point, and is often marked by a figurative or even literal death, allowing them to travel into the underworld. And so, for the time being, Chronicles of Elyria heads into the darkness…
What essentially is being said here is that regardless of the successful crowd funding project and the continued shop purchases made by supporters the project has failed.
A lot of people have considered this project as a con or scam for some time and this has now given weight to their opinions with comments in the forums and social media platforms giving a very unflattering view of the post and the company.
An additional factor causing poor opinions was a new Settlers of Elyria sales release that allowed players to buy domains. This started on the 12 March and ended on the 26th March in what people believe to be a last push to gouge money from people who had put faith in the company.
The post ends with a suggestion that they may be continuing work on it when they can, which sounds like an empty promise at this stage.