Toki Tori developer Two Tribes will be closing its doors this autumn, but not before releasing shmup Rive in September.
So why shut down the studio when it still has one final game on the docket? According to Two Tribes, it's because they're "dinosaurs".
The studio explained in a new blog post that when the company launched in 2000 it was a different world. A world without digital distribution, middleware, or Let's Play videos. Instead, it was all about scrappy developers building their games from scratch and signing deals with publishers. That was the industry Two Tribes was born into, and that's where it thrived.
"Back then, there were maybe a dozen game developers here in The Netherlands," Two Tribes reminisced. "It was extremely difficult to enter the global games industry, as you needed to have a track record and experience. Even if you took a shot, you still had to secure backing from a publisher, since the only way to reach gamers was through physical distribution.
"The technological bar was also set very high, as there were no middleware engines available. There were severe hardware limitations and most of today's sophisticated design tools were non-existent. You basically had to make everything yourself. We felt comfortable working in such an environment, and we actually still cling to this DIY mentality."
Alas, this was not to last. Game development became a young person's game with all sorts of new avenues popping up for aspiring developers, leaving Two Tribes' more conventional model in the dust.
"The big change happened around 2008, when new technologies and tools allowed developers to make games way more easily and faster," Two Tribes said. "Suddenly, because of digital distribution, small developers were able to create and publish their own games without the help of big publishers. Initially this was great for us, as we were one of the first developers to enter the Steam, WiiWare and iOS markets. Business was good. We were on the shortlists of companies like Nintendo and Valve."
This didn't last, however, as the industry became increasingly competitive. "The market was flooded with games by developers from all around the world," Two Tribes said. "Game development schools were erected, and every year thousands of students tried their luck under increasingly difficult conditions. With game changers such as the Humble Bundle, the ever-continuing race to the bottom and a growing focus on free-to-play games, it became tough for a game to even hit the break-even point."
Last year Two Tribes co-founder Collin van Ginkel explained to Eurogamer that Toki Tori 2 sold so poorly that it bankrupted the publishing side of the company. The development side remained as a skeleton crew of three working on Rive.
Yet Two Tribes seems humble about its defeat in the mercurial market. "We are used to working with our own proprietary engine. It's technology that works great for us, but is by no means competitive with tools like Unity or the Unreal Engine," the company admitted. "And then there are monetisation strategies like free-to-play. We only know, and feel comfortable working with, the traditional model of full-priced games. The same goes for marketing: we know how to make a decent trailer and send out a press release... but have no clue how to get traction on YouTube and Twitch."
"We've been working in the games industry since early 2000, making us dinosaurs, old farts, grandfathers or whatever you want to call us," Two Tribes lamented. "We just aren't on top of the games business anymore. Therefore, it makes sense to focus our attention elsewhere, perhaps even outside the games industry."
It's a sad state of affairs for the Dutch studio, but it's not going down without a fight as Two Tribes is exceptionally proud of its impending swan song Rive.
"We've saved the best for last," Two Tribes said. This echoes the studio's sentiment from last year when Ginkel told us "We tried to make everybody happy [with Toki Tor 2]. And now we're just making ourselves happy."