It’s now been nearly 5 months since Rebirth was released and it’s high time we come to you with an update, don’t you think? But let’s start with an announcement that is even more overdue:
SOMA – sold over 1 million copies on PC
We’re of course delighted to announce that SOMA has sold more than 1 million copies on PC and quite a lot more if you combine it with sales on PS4 and XBOX One. We passed the milestone some time ago but we just haven’t gotten around to announcing it until now.
For those of you who have been following our blog you might have read Thomas’ previous blog posts, such as the one made 6 months after the release of SOMA. There he mentions the fact that the game wasn’t really selling to its full potential but that we were hopeful that sales would continue growing over time. Reaching the one million milestone once again shows that our games have a really long tail and the way we like to interpret that is as a seal of quality and that our games receive a strong push over time through word of mouth. The game even sold quite a lot more last year than it did the year before that, but that has probably a lot to do with the buzz surrounding our studio thanks to the Rebirth release.
Anyway, we are truly happy and grateful that so many seem to have taken SOMA to their hearts. The project has generated revenue far greater than the investment but it’s the amazing reactions and feedback that we receive from our players that we cherish the most!
Amnesia: Rebirth – Sales
Now, looking to our latest game, Amnesia: Rebirth and how sales are going some 5 months after release.
Let’s start with the release date on the 20th of October last year. That day is by far the single best selling day in the studio’s history. The hype for Rebirth had built up, and as great reviews and wonderful “Let’s plays” started emerging just before the release, the game went to the top of Steam’s best seller list and stayed there for a few days. From that point onwards the game took on a similar sales trajectory as SOMA had, but during a pretty cluttered release period (with some big releases such as Cyberpunk 2077 in December for example) the sales went down a bit from there. The daily sales in the beginning of 2021 were a bit lower than what SOMA had at the start of 2016 – and it stayed like that for a while. However, sometime around mid february the sales really picked up again and we’re now back on a very similar trajectory as the one SOMA had.
As of today we’ve sold more than a hundred thousand copies of Amnesia: Rebirth and we feel really optimistic about the future for the game. We’ve seen a recent increase in “chatter” about the game and it is receiving a lot of love and praise. This combined with future sales events as well as a bigger update that we’re currently working on (news will follow shortly) we feel certain that the project will turn profitable in the not too distant future.
Amnesia: Rebirth – Reactions
The weeks following the release of Rebirth was a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to reactions. While articles, reviews and a lot of streamers were predominantly very positive, there was undoubtedly a group of players who did not appreciate the direction in which we took the game. Quite a few people had their expectations and predetermined conceptions of what a followup to Amnesia: The Dark Descent should be like. Many hold The Dark Descent up to be one of the scariest games ever made and that is often attributed to its strong tension and many physiological scares. Of course Rebirth has sections of that as well but in general we took a different approach and wanted the horror to emerge more from how the narrative resonated with the player throughout the game. It’s probably true to say that Rebirth is more like a mix of SOMA and The Dark Descent while at the same time being a much more personal story.
We have set out to become a studio renowned for making people think and feel, not only while playing our games but also long after the game has finished. Just like SOMA talks about consciousness, we wanted to center the experience around a clear and central theme that a lot of players can recognize and we hope resonates with them. We wanted to see if we could get the player to care for something other than themselves and then have them face some really hard decisions as to how one values one life over another. Our hope was that this would remain with players long after the end credits had rolled. The key here, however, is to not only tell a story but to allow for the player to truly experience that story through interactive means. We believe we have succeeded in doing something really powerful in that regard with Rebirth.
So, while our efforts were put on creating a more overall psychological experience rather than the more short-term scares and tension, it was also extremely obvious to us that an attempt to outperform the success of The Dark Descent (on its home turf) would most likely lead to failure. Instead we decided to expand on the foundations of The Dark Descent and use this opportunity to explore some deeper themes. The outcome was a game with a strong identity of its own, but with a lot of recognizable elements from the first game. Apart from the expansion of the gameplay and the lore (from The Dark Descent) the highlights for most players seem to have been the story, the environments and Tasi as a character.
Pregnancy – is it a thing?
By avoiding to mention the pregnancy aspect of Rebirth (before the launch) we aimed to create a certain type of experience for our players. The pregnancy is the core vehicle for a lot of things in the game, and the theme itself requires the player to have built up a strong bond with their unborn baby by the time they reach the end. Already during pre-launch playtesting we could see that players going in without the knowledge of the pregnancy would get a really strong reaction and some even started adjusting their behavior after the reveal. Falling from heights, getting crushed under rubble or getting caught in a grenade explosion felt like devastating scenarios, and simple things like jumping down smaller ledges felt like less compelling actions.
It was important that the baby didn’t feel like a burden, but a helpful companion. By allowing the player to decrease their fear by talking to it we created a sense of helpfulness from the baby. It was no longer a one way street where the baby was relying on the player to make it through, but the relationship was more symbiotic. We also tried to establish the bond further by channelling Tasi’s feelings about the baby through her talks with it. Tasi’s comments during these sessions were always different depending on the context, situation, what the player had experienced so far and what the current goal was – something meant to make those moments extra interesting. Through the loading screens we also tried to set forth a certain understanding as to what Tasi has gone through and what was really at stake. The aim was to create a strong emotional setup for the final quarter of the game.
There’s no doubt whatsoever that the approach we took with the pregnancy and establishing the bond between a player and an unborn baby – was a huge risk and we spent a great amount of effort trying to make this work. A big part of the game relied on players immersing themselves in the role in order for the whole experience to work. We didn’t know if we would succeed with it and how it would be received.
As expected, playing as a pregnant woman and caring for your unborn baby didn’t resonate with everyone. Even though we knew this going in we probably underestimated how big of a turn-off the pregnancy aspect would be for some people, to the point where it completely overshadowed the rest of the game.
However, when it all worked, it did so with extreme potency and the result was a very powerful experience. For many players the pregnancy aspect evoked exactly the sort of feelings and raised the type of questions we were hoping for. These players identified fully with Tasi as a character and cared about the baby and its wellbeing, to the point where “checking in with the baby” became a thing they did even when they weren’t reminded by it kicking.
Consequences – are they worth dying for?
One of the most challenging things when you design a horror game is to make the player afraid of dying/failing and to maintain that feeling throughout the game. There has to be consequences to failure otherwise a lot of the horror and tension will go out the door. You also want to avoid too many repeated unsuccessful attempts as that shifts the feeling from fear over to frustration. The player shouldn’t end up in a “trial and error mode” and lose all the tension going forward.
In Rebirth the core death mechanic is what we call the “fear mechanic”. Tasi suffers from a weird affliction that gradually transforms here into a monster. If the player lets Tasi’s fear reach too high, she will eventually collapse, lose control and then come out of it having taken another step in her transformation. These moments allowed us to put the player in a different location and change the monster encounters to provide variety. Sometimes this made the path forward easier, but the consequence of the failure (excelled monster transformation) had still occurred and you were worse off for it.
The monster transformation aspect of the game has a strong narrative connection as part of the central dilemma the player is facing; whether they can be a suitable mother to their child or not. How much you had transformed into a monster also had various effects on the final parts of the game. Some were cosmetic in the way that your reflection changed if you looked into the fountain. There were also slight differences in the endings and you would fail more easily in the final fight of the game if you were further gone in your monster transformation.
We’re seeing a lot of mixed reactions when it comes to these types of consequences. For some people the mechanics we opted for worked out great. They felt a true sense of something big being at stake. For others, however, the whole narrative implication seems to have slipped past them completely. Instead they felt the opposite; that caving in to the fear mostly led to benefits such as monsters disappearing. In hindsight I think our intentions were right but even if it worked out well for a lot of people, we could have put more effort into making the “death moments” more tangible and clear. We could also have created a stronger sense of losing control (to your inner monster) and further enforced the threat it posed on your unborn child.
Frictional – A two project studio
Looking to the future we are truly hyped. The project of developing Rebirth has really laid the organizational groundwork for how we as a studio can work moving forward and we have just initiated production on the next game (which has now had tons of pre-production time during Rebirth) and we’re kicking off pre-production on a second project as we speak.
25 Replies to “Amnesia: Rebirth – Five months later and SOMA sells 1M+ copies”
Amnesia: Rebirth was a surprise experience for me. I went in with my expectations of being an Amnesia game but what I got was much more than that. Great work! Can’t wait to hear about your next projects
I felt that lying (for lack of a better word) to the player as they’re playing (by allowing us to look down and see our very much NOT pregnant stomach) is kind of…rude. Subverting expectations is one thing, but providing blatantly false information is another thing entirely. Had Tasi been prevented from seeing her stomach somehow, maybe it’d have felt better for the reveal. Or maybe she had already given birth and forgot she had a child, having to find the person that had the baby who was trying to take it back to be harvested. As-is, I enjoyed the game, and am all for well-written female leads (Tasi is a great character), but I don’t feel that lying to the player about the character they’re playing is an effective way to get them to empathize or relate to that character or their experiences. It can make the player feel as if nothing matters, because at any second the game could pull the rug out from under them again. Just trying to be constructive about the criticism, I don’t mean any ill-will towards anyone that worked on the game. I’m looking forward to whatever the big update contains, as well as your next project! 🙂
they kept it hidden for like 40 minutes lol what are you on about
Truthfully — Rebirth was pretty jarring at first… but it was still a Frictional game. I absolutely loved SOMA… I mean, the initial version where you were totally immersed and couldn’t avoid the evil. Emotional… raised so many questions… great exploration.
Keep innovating and making Frictional games. Thank you.
I very much liked Rebirth. When I finished The Dark Descent the first time, I immediately started a second playthrough. I was not able to do so with Rebirth, as the darkness and desperation that this story conveys is much more profound and touching. I sat on the final choice for about 30 minutes before deciding what to do. Not only what I’d do, but what Tasi would do, after all that transpired. It was worth every minutes of it.
I’m happy that the sales are going well, you truly deserve it! Stay safe.
Going into Rebirth I had zero expectation. How could it top Dark Descent right?
Well it did so and that too in many interesting ways. The art direction was just right, better than DD. The story was perfect, although not as dark as DD. The tension was maintained throughout till the credits, something that made me scared to continue but also made me want to see what happens next. Brilliant!
If it had been like DD, I wouldnt have been scared, because I knew all the tricks by now, so thanks to you guys for upping the game and delivering something fantastic.
After finishing the game I got on to read some reviews and I couldn’t believe how different my playtrough could be compared to some others. It was obvious many people didn’t play the game as intended – running all the time resulting in getting killed multiple times in the same area. Really loved the game and that you dared doing something different. Thanks for a great experience as usual!
Many thanks for this statement. But the fact that Rebirth selling numbers went down in december had nothing to do with Cyberpunk 2077. The reason was Rebirth didn’t have the horror of The Dark Descent nor the intelligent story telling of SOMA. It broke many of the design standard your company normally stands for! It broke almost every rules of what Thomas wrote in older blog posts about horror game design ideology. Rebirth felt like it was made by a different company – and in fact 80 % of the people were new company members and I’m sure even Thomas Grip gave his leading position to another person. Rebirth felt for me if Thomas Grip was absent all the time during this project. So what went wrong? As you mentioned the after death sequence is one part of it. It is boring and repititive. It broke the immersion and didn’t have any interesting and logical content. It teleports you to another place – without a sense – and during that sequence tons of loud and cheapest jump scares or fear flashing effects were thrown into your face. In these parts I had the feeling to play the worst video game ever created and that from Frictional Games, normally known as one of the very best video game companies in the world! Also the flashbacks that are designed as mini-cutscenes filling the screen with pictures and stopped you to play the game, was really disappointing.
Many people have the same opinion. So, the hype went down very fast after release. Everything became quiet about new Amnesia game and reviews were mixed. The result was no more mouth propaganda.
Of course Rebirth is a good game, but by far the worst game your company ever released.
I’m looking forward for your “big update” and interested in what it will add or change.
Regarding other issues:
Yeah, lots more that could have been brought up, but we felt that consequences and pregnancy where the ones that had most effect on players. Would be interesting to go over other aspects of the game (good and bad) in another blog.
Regarding my involvement:
I have been very much involved in Rebirth. However, since we are working on two projects I haven’t been able to devote 100% of my time on it. But blaming any issue you might have on my lack of involvement is not at accurate in the least. Again, would be interesting to write another blog on how the effects of two projects and so forth. This is what we had time for this time 🙂
Thomas, I very much appreciate that you care and take time to read and even reply to comments. I agree with Vincent here for most part, this game wasn’t the best FG can do. Rebirth was a very forgettable experience for me unfortunately. I, however, do appreciate your efforts to stay innovative and creative.
But also at the same time even though I understand it would be near impossible to outperform TDD’s success, I really hope you will attempt to sometime in the future, in some new project.
I’m happy to hear that the game is doing well sales-wise. I’d say that I did mostly enjoy it, though I wouldn’t say that the more immediate narrative was one of the main reasons for it. Rather, visiting the impressive but dismal and desolate alien environments was probably my favourite part of Rebirth.
The proven horror formula also still worked very well for me, as clearly shown by some absolutely horrifying crawling around the Cistern and Hunting Grounds especially. I felt like the pacing enforced by the very fast descent into insanity was questionable though. Knowing that I couldn’t carry more than ten matchsticks and also knowing that there would always be more, as well as fear always putting on pressure, made me use them up at a constant pace without really having a choice about any of it. I think the game communicated the threat of fear more clearly than in Dark Descent , but the resource management ended up being too streamlined.
The QTEs are another problem. I can’t say that I find it particularly immersive having to hammer on this or that key. It felt more natural simply resuming my flight in Dark Descent after being hit by a blow. The gameplay function seems similar, but is implemented in a more annoying manner.
Similarly and frankly more egregiously, the hand-drawn cutscenes were very immersion-breaking. It didn’t help that most of the people we hear about mean very little to the player or to our character. It got better later once the number of interruptions became less, but even so I do not understand why this means of delivery was chosen. The way Daniel and Alexander communicated information worked perfectlly well, did also have the advantage of probably having been easier and less costly to implement and did not suddenly change the means of delivery. Just voice-acting and some indication of what is happening. The drawn cutscenes were way too heavy-handed.
As said, I still mostly liked it and I also enjoyed learning about the larger context of Alexander’s experiments, but I was a bit disappointed as well. Partially about the issues mentioned, but also about what seems like a lack of innovation to me. Apsulov for instance was a bit more adventurous in terms of mixing up the gameplay.
In any case, I’m already looking forward to whatever you are going to do next!
I’m really glad to hear Rebirth has been doing well. Personally it’s my favourite Frictional game so far as its main theme resonated very strongly with me, while still keeping a lot of the tension you’d expect from an Amnesia game. Loved every minute of it.
First of all, congrats on reaching such an insane milestone on probably my favorite horror game ever created! It couldn’t be more deserved.
I’m so glad you’re writing about the issues people had with Amnesia: Rebirth after launch. I could tell that the game was trying to be very innovative, and in certain ways it really was. I think that having consequences for death is one of the coolest ideas I’ve seen in a horror game, and I truly hope this mechanic stays in future titles. I could easily see a Hard Mode for this game using this concept in a unique way. I’m very excited to see what comes next from this studio and how you guys tweak and perfect some of the ideas introduced in Rebirth. Thanks for being such an inspiring studio and congrats on everything you’ve achieved!
bleh frictional is too stuck in their own heads, theres been plenty of criticism that goes much deeper and is not just “we expected le epic jumpscares, we don’t like deep artsy horror” “we dont like pregnant woman wa”
Rebirth was a big step back for frictional and if they can’t see that and reflect and learn I don’t think there is much hope for their next game either.
Thanks a lot for the update! I’m looking forward to the patch you have planned for Rebirth and will surely do another playthrough once that comes out.
I’m a huge fan of all your games but have to say Rebirth did not work out for me as well as your previous titles did, even though I tried to immerse myself as best as I could. I just could not identify with a pregnant woman and thus did not care as much about the unborn child as you intended to. Unfortunately, I also was among the group of players who did not get the connection between “dying” and the monster transformation. All in all, it lead to a subpar experience for me but it’s great to hear that it worked out well for others.
I am pumped about your next two games and hope they will get as much recognition and praise as SOMA and your earlier works 🙂
Rebirth was just overall a boring experience. I had a great time with all your previous games, but this time you really didn’t succeed. Amnesia: TDD had a good balance to story and gameplay. Rebirth on the other hand interrupts the gameplay constantly, with over usage of flashbacks, cut-scenes and what not.
The story is ridiculous too. I’m apparently expected to care about the missing crew when I never had a chance to get to know them before hand. It’s a poor motivation to go look for them when I can’t be bothered to care about them. The references to TDD are absurd as well, like Herbert going into the future somehow and died here because he didn’t “heed Brennenburgs warnings”, constant references to vitae and what have you. It’s like you wanted to create a unique story, while simultaneously making it “Amnesia”, and it just doesn’t work very well.
And dont get me started on the pregnancy. How do you see your belly and realise an hour into the game that you’re pregnant, even if you’re amnesiac? And how does the baby not die by all the falling and other dangers Tasi goes through, really?
It’s also not scary at all. Especially not when you take into account that getting caught by enemies actually makes you progress further sometimes. :clap:
I love reading these blog posts. Very few companies do them, and I find it highly interesting to hear about your thoughts on our thoughts.
To me Rebirth is one of those games no one else dares to make. And I definitely connected with Tasi and the baby and what they had to endure. The story is masterfully paced and told. It’s more unnerving than scary I would say. And to me that’s a good thing. I don’t scare easily, if at all. But Rebirth, just like SOMA, got under my skin.
I am so happy game companies such as Frictional exists.
For me Rebirth put Soma and Amnesia DD ideas and mechanics together in wonderful way.
With my playtrough i learned more about the lore and Events in the game and somehow i was able to identificate with Tasi Trianon suffered with Amnesia. Also this Baby shock! It really made me care for it. I am very happy about These an all previos games. Games to think about it. WELL DONE
It does really pain me to see that the general reception for Rebirth hasn’t been as great as I think it should be. It had been a long time since TDD and my expectations weren’t high, but it genuinely managed to give me the same terrified feelings as playing the original again; even better than SOMA did. Probably the best horror game I’ve played in a long time. The ending gave me some pretty strong feelings.
I’ll admit, I hadn’t even realized how much my mindset on things was altered by the pregnancy aspect. Dying and injury became a more pronounced form of consequence to me, and Tasi felt a bit more ‘exposed’ and vulnerable. To others, somehow it just evoked the idea that horror media is so often based around babies (including some particularly low-brow efforts by things like PT and Death Stranding)
There’s a player suggestion right at the start of the game to remind people they shouldn’t play to win, but that’s not quite enough for a lot of people to get into the right mindset.
I loved Rebirth, if anything because of the risks it took in both Narrative and Mechanics. Its understandable that some areas may not predominantly resonate with the audiences, and I think you hit the nail on the head with how it in some cases achieved the opposite effect with the pregnancy, the death mechanics and difficulty of the title.
Personally I loved some of the gutwrenching tension you managed to create, especially early on in the caves, or the escape from the factory. Some of the puzzles and enemies make for some mad dashes and push the player forward.
I run a Games Design qualification in the UK, and since you released this title, I have used some of your Design and High concept elements to reinforce what is needed to create a level, or artwork within the industry, so keep doing what you’re doing, and I cant wait for this big update.
Also, if you have any more resources that you can share to help our students, that would be incredible 😀
Hugely well deserved. SOMA stayed with me long after completing it (I played on the ‘tourist’ mode for the story) and for my money it’s one of the top 5 horror games ever made. I replayed it again after watching Noah Caldwell-Gervais’ excellent YouTube video about SOMA, and got even more out of it the second time around. It’s so rare that a game has such a strong philosophical storyline with no easy answers, and for the horror in a game to be existential rather than just from scary monsters.
I’m greatly looking forward to your next project(s).
Any chance for developer/director’s commentary nodes like TDD had? I always loved that feature. Feels like games never do it any more
For me, the game didn’t work on a number of levels when compared to SOMA.
To me, the interstitial plot dumps in between areas were over-dramatic, sometimes saccharine, and just not really believable on an emotional level. The husband character, especially, is written and voiced in a way that really irritated me in a way I can’t quite pin down.
I just fundamentally didn’t really care or identify with the protagonist or the cast of characters I was being told about. Admittedly, being a 32 year-old male without an affinity for children probably has something to do with that, but I think the problems lay deeper than that.
With SOMA, the player character’s back-story is told right at the beginning and serves to reinforce the major themes and questions the game is asking for the full duration of the game. In Rebirth, the game keeps returning to and drip-feeding a story about people who have no impact on the present-tense plotting. This constant interruption and focus on things that have already happened and do not matter made me feel very much like I was tagging along with a character whose story had already been written, rather than inhabiting the character.
I’d imagine that players probably had a much stronger response to SOMA because it deals with universalist themes that everyone grapples with: What does it mean to be human? What’s the point of continuing to go on in the face of existential hopelessness? Rebirth, instead, focuses on the fate of one woman and her baby, and that’s kind of the beginning and the end of it. If I can’t bring myself to care about the character or the baby, I really have nothing left to care about in the game aside from getting to the end.
Despite my misgivings for the latest game, I’m eagerly awaiting the next title from Frictional. Good luck!
Before I played SOMA, when people asked me what my favorite game was I never really had an answer. But now I do! I love SOMA. I have never seen a game marry gameplay and narrative so well. Its a game I might even see myself play again because the experience was a blast and executed so well.
As for Rebirth. Something felt off about it? I wish I could be more constructive about it. Either way I really look forward to your next game. Rebirth might not be my favorite but I truly appreciate what it tried to do.
I love Frictional games. They achieve a sense of immersion not seen in most other games. The puzzles make sense as an integrated part of the world, and they walk the perfect line where they are not so easy that they feel pointless (i.e. walking simulator) and they are never so hard that I need a walkthrough. Which adds to the immersion (because looking up a walkthrough takes you out of the experience of the game). Or maybe I’m confusing the cause and effect. It’s possible that because I’m so immersed in the game it doesn’t even occur to me to look up a walkthrough. I’m roleplaying the character so deeply that if I can’t immediately figure out a puzzle, I wind up thinking “great, what do I do now? Guess I’ll have to wander around in the dark some more.” This adds to the fear.
Thomas Grip said in an interview that horror movies and horror games help us explore ideas and discuss questions that are too terrible to think about in our everyday lives. For example with The Dark Descent, it explores themes of “what is good and evil?” In particular what situation could cause an ordinary person to torture and kill another person and think they were completely justified and it was the right thing to do. And if they later lost their memory of ever doing it, then found out about their past actions and were disgusted by them, could you still consider that person to be evil. I think he also said in that interview that while Rebirth shares the same world as The Dark Descent, the story and themes being explored would be all new. But after playing Rebirth it does seem like it retread a lot of the same ideas. Although it does a good job of bringing them closer to the player. The Dark Descent asks would you murder an innocent person to save yourself from an otherworldly curse? Which is not a question that people can really relate to in their everyday lives. Whereas Rebirth asks if you were a parent, would you murder an innocent person to save the life of your child? Now that is a question that is much closer to people and probably 90% of people would say yes. So then the implication is how are you any different from the evil alien civilization that harvests humans and murders them to produce the energy they need to sustain their technology and society? If having someone precious to protect justifies survival at ANY cost, how are you not a monster?
Anyway, parts of Rebirth feel a bit unnecessary, like parts of the Myst sequels, where it just feels like an excuse to have the player see things and places that were only mentioned in the first game. Going to Alexander’s alien world and exploring it was fascinating, but not necessarily scary. It probably detracts from the horror of The Dark Descent, So people might not be as scared by The Dark Descent if they played Rebirth first. But Rebirth is definitely the better game in my opinion. Although the scariest parts of Rebirth for me were the return of the shadow, which was also the scariest part of The Dark Descent to me (not the monster encounters).
It’s possible that I was only deeply impacted by the themes of the story because I have very young kids. For someone who is not a parent, I could see how they could have trouble developing feelings of attachment and protection to their unborn child in a video game.
Similar to what other people mentioned, the only problem with the death mechanics is that multiple times I would see a monster coming toward me and start looking for a way to hide or escape. But if I wasn’t able to figure it out in a few seconds, then I “died” and the game respawned me in such a way that it basically skipped the monster encounter. So I was left wondering the rest of the game, what I was supposed to do at that point to avoid dying. I would have to reload the entire chapter or watch a playthrough on youtube to figure it out. It just felt like I missed something. But maybe that’s me trying to “play to win.” I guess if I was really immersed then I would have just been happy to have gotten out of there.
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