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Development on Towns abandoned again, but may be picked up

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Development on Towns, an early Steam Greenlight title, has been abandoned for the second time this year, but there's a chance that a third party may pick up the rights, its former developers said this week.

Towns is a city-building role-playing game that was released on Steam in November 2012 for $14.99, with the promise of future updates that would fill out the title with more features. This was well before Valve officially kicked off its Steam Early Access program — that didn't happen until March 2013.

the developers have sold more than 200,000 copies of Towns

The game did well: As of the end of July 2013, the developers said they had sold more than 200,000 copies for revenue in excess of $2 million. But updates on Towns' progress were sporadic, and this past February, co-creator Xavi Canal announced that he was ending further development because he was "really burned about the game and all it involves." Later that month, Canal chose a new developer, Florian Frankenberger, to take over stewardship of Towns. Frankenberger, who goes by the moniker Moebius, said earlier this week that he, too, was leaving the project because it wasn't financially sustainable for him to continue working on it.

According to Frankenberger, he agreed to work on Towns for 15 percent of the developers' monthly income from sales of the game — an amount that was "already well below my normal salary," he said. But that figure was based on a certain number of copies sold per month, and sales of Towns have plummeted since Frankenberger came on board; according to him, they're now one-third of what they were when he joined the Towns team.

"To be completely honest, I can't work for that little amount. I have to pay for the rent and food and this doesn't really suffice for any of it," said Frankenberger. "I hope you are not too disappointed. And if you are: I'm really sorry."

While Frankenberger and Canal are abandoning Towns, they have some alternate plans. Instead of continuing development on a game that hundreds of thousands of people have paid for, they're considering a sequel.

"Towns as an idea has a lot of further potential"

"Towns as an idea has a lot of further potential. But the current game would need a lot of heavy changes to make them happen," Frankenberger explained. He added that he and Canal have discussed a possible Towns 2, but it's not a sure thing yet. Their hope, said Frankenberger, is that a full sequel would allow them to "implement all the cool things that are not possible at the moment [in the original Towns]; generate new buzz for a new game; and "have a financially sound basis for a long development of Towns 2." He added that Towns players would be rewarded "in some way" if a sequel is released.

In a separate forum post that went up a day after Frankenberger's, Canal announced that an outside party — "a well-known player who works for one of the bigger gaming companies," according to Canal — is interested in acquiring the rights to Towns and continuing development. Canal hopes to come to an agreement with that individual, but he said that if that doesn't happen, he will look into hiring someone else to keep working on the game.

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