Unfinished Steam Game Abandoned After Thousands Bought It

Illustration for article titled Unfinished Steam Game Abandoned After Thousands Bought It

The creators of the PC game Towns have given up on development, choosing to leave the game unfinished for good—even though it's been on sale for the past 18 months and had sold over 200,000 copies as of last summer.


The folks behind Towns have no plans to give out refunds to anyone who purchased the city-building game, which has faced development issues for over a year now.

It's yet another cautionary tale for anyone who's considering putting money into a game that's not quite complete. Towns launched on PC in November of 2012 as part of the first batch of games on Steam Greenlight, and even then, there were some red flags. Towns was an ambitious undertaking, a game that promised to combine ideas from SimCity, Dungeon Keeper, Dwarf Fortress, and even Diablo, but not all of those ideas had been implemented when it went live.

"Towns is currently in a stable and fully playable state, seeing constant updates and additions of new and exciting features with each coming build," the creators wrote then.

Still, people voted for the game on Greenlight, and purchased it when it came out on Steam for $15, despite terrible reviews calling Towns buggy and unfinished. "Unless you want to buy an unfinished game and are willing to bite your fingernails off of frustration, don't buy the game," one reviewer wrote in March.

Towns was released before Valve launched the Steam Early Access program, which allows developers to sell unfinished games in "alpha" or "beta" stages with the promise that they will be completed eventually. Unlike those Early Access games, Towns launched with no indication that it was an unfinished product, which has led to reviewers slamming the game on Steam and elsewhere.

Today, development on Towns has officially come to a halt. Lead developer Xavi Canal gave up in February, citing burnout, and handed over the reigns to another programmer, Florian "Moebius" Frankenberger, who called it quits today, saying he wasn't making enough money off Towns to be able to live.


"I'm really sorry," Frankenberger wrote. "I'm quite new to indie game dev and I couldn't really see that the game sales were declining that rapidly. I guess if I had more experience I would have seen it coming..."

Frankenberger went on to talk about a potential sequel—yes, sequel!—writing that they could implement all of their original ideas for Towns in this new form. "Xavi and I were talking about a possible Towns 2," he wrote. "At the moment this is just in an idea stage and we can't really say if he, I or eventually Ben have the time to create a Towns 2. As faithful fans of Towns we would of course reward you in some way, when/if the new game is released."


As expected, many fans are not pleased about this.

Illustration for article titled Unfinished Steam Game Abandoned After Thousands Bought It

And on Steam, people have been accusing the people behind Towns of scamming gamers out of their money:

Illustration for article titled Unfinished Steam Game Abandoned After Thousands Bought It

Towns is still on sale for $15. As always, be careful what you buy.


Jason Schreier

Seconds before this story went live, Florian Frankenberger got back to my e-mailed questions. Here's the whole e-mail, for some additional context to this story:

JS: How many copies of the game did you actually sell? How much did you wind up making?

Frankenberger: This is a complicated topic, as I'm legally not allowed to tell the exact figures, but it is publicly known that we sold a total of more than 200k copies of the game.

JS: Do you plan to give out any refunds to players who bought the game expecting it to be finished? If not, why not?

Frankenberger: First of all I have to tell you that I only had an interest of 15% of the game and only for the period that I worked on Towns. So even if I wanted I couldn't give back any refunds because I already was paid much less than I agreed to. Furthermore I think that the game is more or less finished. Granted there could be a lot of enhancements in for example the NPC's behaviour or how the whole hero system is implemented but I also can't really say that the game still feels like an alpha or beta version. So I think after all the players got a fun to play game back for the money they paid.

JS: It seems strange that you're already talking about a sequel to Towns - how do gamers know that you guys won't cancel that one too?

Frankenberger: I think "cancel" is a too harsh word here. I'd say at one point we just had to decide that the game is finished. I agree that it is bad that this decision was now forced upon us by the declining sales. But at some point the development is over and the game is finished, and there will always be players that think that there are still features missing.

And the sequel I talked about in the forum is basically just an idea that Xavi and I talked about. I just wanted the people in the forum to know that we still love the idea of Towns and that we are searching for ways to make the development financially doable again. At least for me, as I wasn't in the development from the beginning and just got a very very small piece of what the game made in total, I just can't continue to work for that small amount. Just let me make a comparison: if I worked in the super market across the street for the same time I worked on the game, I would have made at least three times of what I got.