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Tale of Tales studio will no longer make games after 'commercial failure' of Sunset

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Tale of Tales, the art games studio behind such critically praised experiences as The Path and Bientôt l’été will no longer make video games. In a blog post made yesterday, the two-person team of Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn cited the complete commercial failure of their latest game, called Sunset, as the final blow that pushed them out of the business.

The slightly more than 4,000 copies of the game sold so far — including those sent to Kickstarter backers — will in no way cover the debts the studio incurred to bring the game to market. And so, the company has decided to effectively close its doors.

"We really did our best with Sunset, our very best," Tale of Tales wrote. "And we failed. So that’s one thing we never need to do again."

Famous for creating challenging digital experiences that broadened the theoretical scope of electronic gaming, Tale of Tales pointed to a series of unfortunate events that finally knocked them out. When funding for video games in Belgium was cut off, the team elected to try and make a more traditional game that would appeal to traditional gamers. The result was Sunset, an adventure game set in a fictional South American country during a period of upheaval.

"We studied [other, successful games] and figured out how to make our next project more accessible," the post said. "At least more accessible to people who actually play and buy games (the others, we decided, can just go to hell for the moment since they apparently didn’t care as much about us as we do about them).

Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn

"Nevertheless, even within Sunset’s carefully constructed context of conventional controls, three-act story and well defined activities, we deeply enjoyed the exploration of themes, the creation of atmosphere, the development of characters, and so on. Abandoning some of our more extreme artistic ambitions actually made work easier and more enjoyable. And that’s when we should have realized that we were on the wrong path. Because whatever we enjoy is never, ever, what the gaming masses enjoy."

"Creativity still burns wildly in our hearts," the post said, "but we don’t think we will be making videogames after this. And if we do, definitely not commercial ones."

In the short term Tale of Tales is moving on through two Patreon campaigns, one for each of its constituent members.

Auriae Harvey's project will be a series of podcasts, blog posts and live Periscope broadcasts focusing on taking her "lifetime of knowledge" as an artist and using it to make "analog and digital artworks."

"We are transitioning Tale of Tales," Harvey writes on her Patreon page, "to be the home for all of our activities and interests."

Michaël Samyn, for his part, will be indulging in a series of articles he describes as "an unfettered commentary on video games and the world."

"Nothing much has changed in videogames," he wrote on his Patreon. "I don't see a bright future for this medium if some radical changes don't happen soon. I am ready to share my views on this and the broader economic, political and social context. I have no commercial interest in the game industry anymore. I have nothing to lose. I can safely bite the hand that was unable to feed me."