Alexis Kennedy on Weather Factory's Next Game - and Their 2019 in Review
In early 2019, Alexis Kennedy had an idea. He had just wrapped up the New Game+ endings that would bring Cultist Simulator to a close and wanted to create something more "relaxed" as its follow-up.
He tweeted that he wanted to create a game in which the player is a librarian tasked with examining, cataloging, arranging, and lending books out to visitors - one that is low-challenge and requires players to be extremely careful as they organise their game board.
The response was immediate and extremely positive, and Alexis decided he would pitch the game to his studio in the event that 1000 people retweeted his idea - something that happened in about one day.
This meant changing a handful of plans in order to satisfy prospective customer demand, shifting ideas around pre-production on other titles, and conceptualising what a Kickstarter for this new title could look like. Alexis and Lottie connected with concept artist Adrien Deggan and visual director Catherine Unger to start crafting the look of the game, while Alexis started to design, Lottie and Claire began planning the Kickstarter launch, and new hires Marc and Hannah began to tool and framework the game. It ultimately received the title Book of Hours.
The game was considerably more substantial than Cultist Simulator. The studio aimed to receive at least 150-200% of Cultist's budget - around £250,000 - with the funding threshold set to £100,000. This was done for a reason. It gave the studio the opportunity to raise the bare minimum needed to produce the game using leftover funds from Cultist to make up for the difference, also allowed for overfunding, and provided a clear benchmark in the event that the Kickstarter failed - a sign that the team needed to revisit their initial pitch and rework it into something stronger.
With four previous Kickstarter projects (out of five) behind them, Alexis and Lottie were confident that Book of Hours would achieve funding, and the community was excited about the game, as were a number of potential backers who provided extensive feedback. With the expanded team, the company had a strong promo and publicity plan in place, with the goal being to have their strongest launch in their history as developers.
Unfortunately, the game had to be indefinitely postponed in its original form, and the studio's more ambitious second project had to be cancelled altogether. Due to these external circumstances, the studio was effectively put on a near-hiatus, but something helped keep them afloat in this difficult time: the Chinese localisation of Cultist Simulator, which saw release in September and led to a significant uptick in sales.
Looking back on 2019, when compared to 2018, the company had brought in industry-recognised awards, increased their revenue substantially across platforms, and reevaluated their expectations across the board. Alexis initially predicted 157,000 units sold for the PC version of Cultist Simulator, ultimately selling 110,000 in their first year. On mobile, the story is different - the game shipped over 120,000 copies on mobile, a net of over £350,000 split between Weather Factory and Playdigious.
Finally, since external circumstances returned the company to the duo of just Alexis and Lottie, there are no plans to expand, become a studio that works on more than one project at a time, or one that can tackle a project as ambitious as the game they had been outlining for some time that was not Book of Hours. However, they do plan to continue creating small games driven by interesting, experimental narratives as a small developer, and to spend 2020 achieving new goals, including launching Book of Hours in beta and releasing the game in 2021, new merchandise, and continuing to work on a book and a podcast.
Read the Alexis Kennedy's full State of the Factory: Year 2 recap here.