One of the most interesting things to come from the past few years of working with Lucky Frame is the idea of “success”. I have lost count of the number of times people have mentioned to me what they perceive as our success – you are clearly successful, they would say, you have awards and great critical reception and people talk about your games all of the time! It naturally follows that they think we are sitting on a pile of money and don’t know what to do with it.
Somehow, since the release of Bad Hotel in particular, this idea of our success became so engrained that I have had innumerable surreal conversations where it took me a certain amount of time to ascertain that they were in fact looking for employment, money, or some sort of partnership that they clearly thought Lucky Frame could afford.
However, on a certain level I must agree that Lucky Frame is successful, though perhaps on a scale of success that can not be measured by money.
For three years we outsold the average game releases on the market, which was enough to sustain us and allow us to make the games we wanted to make. Some of those games sold well (Bad Hotel is owned by around 100,000 people) some of them sold very little (Nightmare Cooperative has sold around 7,000 copies across all platforms). One day perhaps I’ll go into all of the possible reasons for this, as well as the different implications these kinds of sales numbers can have.
What is important is that with very few exceptions, for three years we were uncompromising about the games we wanted to make, we made them as well as we possibly could, and we marketed them to the best of our ability. While we didn’t make very much money, I think anyone who has worked in any creative field will agree that making enough to cover your costs and continue creating is a massive success. We certainly felt that way.
And now, we’ve decided to move on. Lucky Frame is no longer working on any games, and won’t be releasing anything in the foreseeable future.
This was a very hard decision to take. I am enormously proud of the games (and other projects) we made. I believe that they were fun, original, and they explored some new ideas. We got amazing feedback on everything we made, positive and negative, which helped us grow creatively and learn from our mistakes and our triumphs. We developed a community of followers and fellow creators who motivated and challenged us, and our work evolved accordingly. Our last commercial release, The Nightmare Cooperative, is almost certainly our best game, albeit our lowest-selling.
Certainly, the fact that it did not sell well was a major factor in this change. We could probably have scraped by and figured out a way to make another game, but the time was right to move on. It had become increasingly clear to me personally that I did not have the burning desire to sell games. My primary concern has always been to make creatively interesting work. It’s no surprise, then, that our Tacos, Bluegrass, & Videogames event, or even Roflpillar in particular, was arguably more successful than our last few commercial releases. I have never been interested in growing Lucky Frame – for me the studio was entirely about creative output, and as such I devoted far more time making things than trying to sell them.
Money is only a small part of the picture, however. If anything, a lack of money is usually a good way of showing where priorities lie. I can’t speak for the others, but certainly in my case my own projects have started to take up more and more time over the past year. I was unfortunately starting to find that both my own work and my Lucky Frame work was starting to suffer in my attempts to do both all of the time.
Our games will continue to be available for purchase (buy buy buy!), and Lucky Frame as an entity is not getting dissolved or anything. However, Sean has moved on to work with Blazing Griffin in Edinburgh, and Jonathan has moved back to the USA to freelance (hire him!). It is highly likely that we will collaborate on future projects, with or without the ‘Lucky Frame’ moniker. I will be concentrating on my music and sound projects in Edinburgh (hire me!).
We have also reached an agreement with Blazing Griffin for them to continue to market The Nightmare Cooperative and Gentlemen!, so you should hopefully see them a bit more from here on out.
It is no accident that I mention Tacos, Bluegrass, & Videogames. I am in the early stages of doing some planning around developing the work we did early this year with that event into a regular programme. If all goes well, I am thinking about transitioning Lucky Frame into a studio that focuses entirely on experimental game events and workshops. I’m not entirely sure yet if it is something that I want to do, or if it’s worth the effort, but it seems promising. If you would like to be involved in this somehow, please let me know.
As I’ve discussed this change with various friends, they often express regret and sadness. I would like to stress that this is not a tragedy, or even a failure. Though we did not make a lot of money, we definitely did what we set out to do. Lucky Frame absolutely fulfilled my vision of success, in fact in many ways it surpassed it beyond my wildest dreams. I am unbelievably lucky to have been able to work with Jonathan and Sean, and less directly with dozens of others, to bring our strange and wonderful ideas to life. I am fully aware that there are thousands of people who would give anything to have the opportunity to do what we did. Now, having achieved everything we achieved, I am incredibly excited and motivated to start work on the projects I have ahead of me.
We leave Lucky Frame with half a dozen critically acclaimed games under our belts, we have travelled the world and met amazing people, shown our work in California, Seattle, Nottingham, Dundee, London, Stuttgart, Berlin, and more. We spoke our minds, refused to make violent or sexist games, we avoided exploitative design models and we paid all our bills on time. We won a BAFTA, we were nominated for two IGF Awards, and most importantly for three years we made our own games and released them to the world. I would call that success.
Thanks to everyone who helped us along this far, you are far too many to name. Let’s all go ahead and keep on making awesome things.