The sci-fi fleet-building strategy game Gratuitous Space Battles was pretty good, but the sequel, released earlier this year, didn’t measure up. We criticized it for technical problems and “easy cheese strategies” in our review, although we also said it could be saved with a combination of bug fixes and “a huge change to the game’s core mechanics,” through either patches or unofficial mods. And it has been updated more than a half-dozen times since then, and now stands at version 1.40. But that’s where it will stop.
“Iâ€™ve been asked if I am still working on Gratuitous Space Battles 2. And I am not,” developer Cliff “Cliffski” Harris revealed on his blog. “Iâ€™ve been accused of all sorts of stuff as a result. I wont repeat that here. What I want to talk about is the economics of this question, why people get angry, and why it makes sense that I am not working on Gratuitous Space Battles 2 right now.”
The problem, as he explained it, is one of simple economics. GSB2 began development in November 2013 and launched in April 2015, and has earned a little over $150,000 in total. That sounds like a pretty good chunk of change for less than two years of work, but it doesn’t take into account the development and marketing costs, which ran to $115,000, leaving just $40,000 in profit—the money he actually gets to keep. That works out to about $12.74 an hour, not taking into account the time he spent after release working on patches and updates. “If you think $12.74 an hour is good for a software developer with more than twenty years experience you are flat out wrong,” he said.
Despite the “mixed” reaction to GSB2, Harris said he believes that it’s a “darned good game,” and superior to the original in every way. He acknowledged that at this point it’s doomed to be a “relative flop,” but blamed that failure in being “released into a sea of space strategy games that are so numerous I cannot possibly list them all.” He also seemed resigned to facing “abuse and vitriol” as a result of his decision to move on to other things.
“Of course I am moving on, that is why I am still in business, and that is why I am able to pay the rent for the server on which this blog post resides,” he wrote. “Some games are hits, some are flops. Almost all indie game studios have flops and it normally puts them out of business. I am not asking for any sympathy, I do not want any, I am not blaming anyone but myself.”
Harris said that he’s currently working on a new game.