We are thrilled to finally announce that We Happy Few will be launching worldwide both digitally and at retail on April 13, 2018, for Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4! Mac and Linux will be arriving on or shortly after that date.
We’re also (breathe now) announcing today that to come to retail, We Happy Few is growing in scope, and is being published by the awesome folks over at Gearbox Publishing. We’ll be retailing at US$60, although until launch you’ll be able to buy We Happy Few at 15% off (hence the somewhat unusual US$50.99 current price). We are very excited to partner with Gearbox to bring We Happy Few to gamers worldwide, and we’re happy to finally confirm to you all “Yes it is coming to your platform and yes it will be available in your language!” and much more.
We have been working towards this scope increase and announcement for almost a year, and we’ve been itching to tell you all about this for a long time now. We’re going to explain everything, and as this is a pretty big announcement, and a pretty big blog post, we’re dividing it up into a few sections:
Scope increase, aka, our fiendish goal to create a bigger, better We Happy Few
Retail, PS4 and Gearbox
DLC and why it’s exciting for us
Kickstarter backers and Early Access players - what this means for you
Life in Technicolour
So, the first thing on many people’s minds is “holy crap $60?” Yep, $60.
We Happy Few wasn’t built like other games. It didn’t start as a big game - it started very, very small. We went to PAX East in 2015, after roughly a year of development (what you’d probably call pre-production), with a procedurally generated Village of Hamlyn, a skeletal universe, and some very basic mechanics to introduce the idea of what “social conformity” was all about. At the time, the game was basically a roguelite - a procedural, systemic game, intended to be highly replayable. It also had a story, which was intended to be optional and just provide a little bit of extra flavour to the world. Think of FTL’s story (really), except with a few small cutscenes, and three characters who would have a different perspective on events.
So we went to PAX with this tiny little thing, and… frankly what happened wasn’t what we expected. While people were excited about the procedural world (no one had ever done procedural urban areas like that) and the gameplay, they were blown away by the atmosphere, the world, and the possibility of the stories that could be told. So, roughly a year into development, we had a decision to make: do we respond to feedback, increase the scope of the game, and grow our team, to build the game that we thought people wanted? Or, do we keep it small?
In the end, we chose to see what you guys thought. That was the purpose of the Kickstarter in 2015. We felt that if we were successful with the Kickstarter, then we had something that we could find investment for, and build into a game that had the story and experience that you wanted. After being successful on Kickstarter, and signing on to Microsoft’s ID@Xbox program, around the time of E3 2015, we knuckled down and began the hard work of planning and building this game.
Fast forward to early 2016, we had a very small part of the story ready to go. The intro. We had built it based on what we thought would be a good “vertical slice” - a good snapshot of the increased story we wanted to tell. We showed it to Microsoft, who asked us not to reveal it at PAX 2016, and instead go on the big stage at E3 2016. Before this point, relatively few gamers had heard of We Happy Few.
So Guillaume (our CEO and Creative Director) went on stage at E3 2016, and suddenly we exploded. Obviously we had hoped this would happen, but we weren’t really prepared for it. We were one of the most searched games on Google during that briefing, and people playing the game at the show were having a great time playing the demo. We were nominated for and won over a dozen awards during that show.
And then we released on Early Access, with a much expanded version of our sandbox world, along with the intro we showed at E3, and while a good number of you saw the promise and the potential of the game, some of you were disappointed that the sandbox experience didn't match the first minutes of the game. The standards set by that intro were higher than we were building for the rest of the game, and we realised that we had the same choice facing us: expand, and make the game that most of you were hoping for, or keep it small, stick to our guns, and run the risk of not living up to that expectation.
After we launched on Early Access, we were approached by Gearbox. They basically said to us, if we can make a game like that, then they thought we had a good shot at a retail game. We felt that in order to do that, we needed to reinvest and make the game bigger - as you can well imagine - and so that is what we have been working towards for almost a year. It’s why instead of spending 6-12 months in Early Access, it’s going to be closer to 20.
The game we are now planning for 1.0 is a full sized, retail game. The stories of our three characters were rewritten, the quality of our encounters and world has been dramatically increased (that’s what the Clockwork Update was all about - refactoring to make sure we could begin to deliver on that increased quality), and the remnants of that little sandbox game at PAX 2015 were slowly overtaken by a much larger, story-driven experience.
To do this, we sought additional funding, based on the enthusiasm showed by everyone at E3, and grew the team to make the game you wanted. We’re now a fantastic team of 40 people, up from the ~10 we were at PAX. The game that we’re planning to ship in April is roughly 2.5x the size of the Life in Technicolour Update (which has just gone live)in terms of pure content, and we’re confident that we will meet the quality and scope expectations that you guys have. And we’re still confident that We Happy Few is going to be unlike anything you’ve seen. Although it’ll probably, inevitably, still be compared to Bioshock.
Retail, PS4 and Gearbox
So! Enter Gearbox Publishing. We really like these guys. They’re a new publishing team, and are highly ambitious about what they want to do. Until we met Steve and his team, we turned down every publisher that approached us. This team has something that no one else had - they believed in us and gave us the confidence to say “you can definitely do this, and we want to be there with you”. We won’t get all romantic on you, but they’ve been open, positive and great to work with so far.
The biggest advantage of working with them is that we’re coming to retail, and we have a partner that understands how to do that. So, if you want to buy a retail PS4/Xbox One version, you can. Also, we’re finally able to commit to a PS4 version, and we are delighted to bring the game to the many, many people who have asked for this. It’s been a little hard keeping quiet about it, but we’re glad to be here now.
Retail comes with a few side effects. We’re learning as we go, and figured we would try to do something that relatively few teams do in this situation: we’re going to be blatantly honest with you. So strap yourself in for a ride through the games business.
First, the price. Straight up, we think $60 gives us the best chance of earning back the huge investment we, and the people that believe in us, are making. Retail, and a retail marketing campaign, is expensive. If you’ve invested $10m into a game, there is no reasonable alternative. And, the truth is, we want to make money too. We want to be able to continue to make great games after this one, and making enough money to keep growing and thriving is essential to allow us to deliver that. The right approach here is to make sure that you build a game that’s worth $60, and that’s what we’re doing. Building a great team is the other part of creating great games, but if our company isn’t a success, we’re done.
Second, we have to list at that price on every store, regardless of the type of distribution. If we list at a different price digitally to physically, it causes an imbalance in purchasing intent, and digital and retail stores do not like this. It makes sense - if you sell something at a different price between two stores, and you like each store just as much and it’s just as convenient, then you’re going to go with the lowest price.
Third, pre-order bonuses can be a bee in a bonnet for some people. We have created the Jolly Brolly because in-game items are an established practice in retail channels - and we chose a comical umbrella because we thought it was cool, but not integral to the game. While we’re going to have a lot of fun creating the Jolly Brolly, ultimately we’re doing it to be good partners to the folks in retail. However, we felt it was good to offer a 15% discount as well so there was a more tangible benefit for buying in early.
Fourth, DLC and Season Passes! The reason Season Passes exist is, again, it’s an established part of retail. Retail stores can’t sell individual pieces of DLC easily, because the game tends not to be on shelves once DLC actually comes out and there’s no physical box for most DLC. So, Seasons Passes are a way to sell DLC in retail. On digital, DLC is easier to go piecemeal. In all cases, DLC/Season passes are a way for people to say “I like this enough that I want to spend as much time in this world as I can” and, as we’ll explain below, it’s a great thing for developers too. We are stuck with the name - “DLC” and “Season Passes” are industry terms now, and even “expansions” on Steam are packaged as DLC. That’s a bigger debate for another time.
Gearbox has been really cool about all of this too. They are a-okay with us telling you guys all of this. They gave us the choice to do a Season Pass or not. In the end, the onus is on us to deliver good DLC. If you’re not sure about DLC, please hold off on buying until we talk more about it (post release) and you have seen what we’ve done with the main game.
DLC and what it means for us
We’re really excited about DLC. Sounds weird, but it’s an opportunity for us and is really great from a studio management perspective. We want to explain a bit about why.
In our case, work on DLC will begin once people finish their work on the main game. When we ship on retail, we have months between “content lock” and seeing the game on shelves. This time is for ratings, submission, and manufacturing. During this time, our art, design and animation teams can’t build new content - no new locations, audio, narrative, or anything. We can fix bugs, but inevitably these teams run out of work. Towards the end of the project, you have only programmers working on it.
So, what do you do during this time? You could start on another project. Problem is, you need your programmers to do that. And, even if they were available, we would need to have a core concept ready to go - something that, for example, Guillaume and Whitney had been working on for a while. However, while we’re shipping, they’re focused almost exclusively on the current game.
In the meantime, our artists, LDs and animators twiddle their thumbs. With DLC, they can get started immediately on creating random, crazy shit that we couldn’t put in the game. It can be non-canon, we can try out new ideas, although of course each of these has to turn out as a really cool piece of content to explore. And, it’s efficient - we can create cool new things without the stress of creating a new universe, and as a bonus, we can keep everyone busy doing fun things.
DLC for us is not “carving out existing content”; it’s building new content that we wouldn’t have been able to do as part of the main game. It’s risky, because now that we’ve announced it we’ve committed to it. It’s our first time doing it, so maybe in a year we’ll have a different opinion. In the meantime, once work on the game finishes up, we’ll have a bit of a rest, and then dive into the wacky world of DLC.
We hope this helps explain why we’re doing all of these things, and why it’s such a positive thing for us and for you. In the end, We Happy Few on 1.0 is going to be a much, much bigger We Happy Few than we originally planned, and the DLC will be extra content for those of you who are interested in spending more time in the universe.
Kickstarter Backers and Early Access Players
Alright team! So many of you have been with us since the early days. The increase in scope to the game just means Kickstarter and Early Access players are getting a bigger version of the game than you did previously. You’ll also receive the Jolly Brolly weapon! It’s a silly item which should make for some fun gameplay moments.
For Kickstarter backers, we wanted to make sure that you received the Season Pass for free. None of this would be possible without you. And, as a small surprise for the beer tier, to prove that even a little support has a big impact, we’re sending all of you a free digital copy of the game. Thank you for believing in us.
Life In Technicolour
Today has a bunch of major announcements, and last but not least is that the Life in Technicolour update is now live! This is our last major update in Early Access, and contains a major overhaul to AI, UI, Joy mechanics, and much more. You can check out the update video here:
And the full update notes are available here.
Thank you all for your continued support. We couldn’t be here, doing this crazy thing, without you. As always, we are very happy to respond to any questions, positive or negative comments. Although bear with us, as it’s likely going to be a busy couple of days for us.
Discuss this post here