We hear often about how games becoming available via subscription services end up benefitting in several ways, from increased visibility to stronger word of mouth to, at times, even boosted sales. It seems, however, that that’s not always the case, and some games actually end up struggling on a financial level as part of subscription service deals.
Oddworld: Soulstorm, it turns out, was one of those games. Speaking recently in an interview with YouTube channel Xbox Expansion Pass, Oddworld Inhabitants CEO and co-founder Lorne Lanning explained that as a result of circumstances beyond anyone’s control, Oddworld: Soulstorm being free on PlayStation Plus for a month after its launch turned out to be “devastating” for the studio.
Lanning stated that the developer entered into an agreement with Sony for financial reasons after struggling with “technical debt, legacy issues, and talent issues” during development, following which the plan was to launch the game by January 2021, at which point Oddworld Inhabitants didn’t expect the game to be downloaded by a large number of people, thus leaving plenty of scope for actual sales (and the resulting revenue) down the road. However, when COVID hit and brought about workplace restrictions, several things were impacted.
“We needed the money to complete the project and we thought we did a pretty good deal because we got this much money,” Lanning said (transcribed by Wccftech). “We thought in January there was no way we’ll sell more than this, the most we could sell is less than the money we could get, so we did the deal. Now through no fault of Sony’s COVID happened and this delayed us from January to April.
“The deal was still for one free month. What we thought was that we might maybe sell 50K units at launch or maybe a hundred thousand; it was pretty small numbers because it wasn’t going to be a lot of PS5s and lockdown looked like it was going to affect the number of machines manufactured as well, so there would be shortages at retail which for our deal would be kind of a good thing.
“Then there wouldn’t be as many game machines out there to get the free game, but because it slipped to April, we had the highest downloaded game on PlayStation 5 with Oddworld: Soulstorm. It was approaching at the end of the day close to four million units or something like that for free because they were all subscribers. For us it was devastating and so that’s how kind of the economies work.”
Later on in 2021, Oddworld: Soulstorm Enhanced Edition also came out, and launched for Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One in addition to PS5, PS4, and PC as well. There’s no word yet on how (or if) the game’s launch on additional platforms affected its sales.