At last, I can breathe! Anodyne 2’s been out for almost 3 weeks. The excitement and stress has died down, and I’ve returned to more of a ‘research’ and ‘planning’ phase for my next project.
First, I’m happy that Anodyne 2 has had universal praise. Countless videos, podcasts, streams, tweets, comments, etc – confirm that Marina and I succeeded in creating something valuable, unique, inspiring, humanistic. Something that communicates at the surface as a fantastical tale, but directly draws upon our experience with family, love, and our lives’ overlaps with the worlds of academia, the art industry, local activism, service industry, and even things from analyses of wrestling to Taiwanese cultural practices.
Soo….that post title. “Anodyne 2 Is Not A Niche Game.” What do I mean? Let’s put the focus on something that people who like the game have also said:
“Anodyne 2 is niche / Anodyne 2 is not for everyone”
We see this sometimes when reading reviews. Occasionally it’s at the end of a review that gave us like a 73 or something and then said the music was pretty bad, or like at the end of a highly praising review that then somehow turns out to be an 82 even though on the same site an AAA game with ‘a few flaws’ gets a 96, but sometimes we hear it from people who otherwise like the game!
Our running theory is that this is a way of expressing that you liked the game but inherently understand that the game is odd relative to today’s popular games.
To that line of thought, I’d like to also ask: what kind of game is “for everyone?” For what it’s worth, I’d like to assume for that something “not being niche” means it’s “for everyone”. I can see how that assumption falls apart but let’s just assume it doesn’t, because I’m tired.
Usually the type of game being contrasted here is something made by Nintendo – something that’s so well-known, so common, that we don’t really question the nature of it, we accept it as is, accept it as being the norm. Okay. Let’s do a quick comparison experiment, of Anodyne 2, Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey and Animal Crossing. In my experience I’ve never or rarely seen someone (being reasonable) say the last three “Are not for everyone” or “are niche”.
Ano2: Move, jump, spark, talk, turn into a car. Also has 2D controls: move, suck, shoot, talk.
BOTW: Move, jump, attack, pick up, talk, glide, super jump, bow and arrow, throwing, swimming, etc, often under combat pressure.
Odyssey: Move, jump, long jump, high jump, triple jump, hat throw, hat jump, spin, not to mention 10 other movesets from things you possess. Often under pressure to perform with platforming.
AC: Move, jump, talk, pickup, arrange furniture.
Ano2: Talk to characters, find character to enter, walk around a 2D dungeon with light puzzles and combat. Explore 3D to find cards. Turn into a car and ride around. Follow a single main questline. Read a lot of words.
BOTW: Manage health, temperature, armor, durability resources. Scavenge and craft for items. Manage multiple overlapping side quests and questlines. Fight in real-time combat. Search for shrines with physics or combat puzzles. Survive. Ride a horse. Explore dungeons that move and rotate in 3D. Talk to townsfolk. Complex, multi-detail-layered map. Read a moderate number of words.
Odyssey: Explore complex 3D environments in search of Moons. Use many moves to find them. Avoid dying by falling into pits or being hurt. Fight bosses in real time combat. Read map markers and follow side quests. Read a few words.
AC: Manage your time and money resources to accumulate the correct furniture and items to decorate one’s house with. Meet and manage relationships with multiple townspeople while also paying off a loan. Search for items to complete museum galleries with. Engage in t-shirt making and maybe the stalk market.
Note: AC is less demanding dexterity wise than A2, but I’d say AC has more complex things to remember.
A2: 8-12 hours.
BOTW: 50-60+ hours.
Odyssey: 20+ hours.
AC: Eternity, if you’d like.
An interesting thing to notice is that rarely someone might say Anodyne 2 had poor pacing… because we changed the texture of the gameplay for 45 minutes. But inherent in here is that for some reason, indie games don’t get free passes to be spend time in certain ways. Sure, an AAA game can blow 2 hours on like making you talk to every single minor character in the game before progressing, but if we don’t get our pacing perfectly right for a little bit it’s a tragic misstep or something!
A2: Straightforward storyline, themes complex enough for adults.
BOTW: Multiple characters and historical storyline, though still simple.
Odyssey: There is no story, until you read into The Cap
AC: None since it’s a life sim, other than the story you craft yourself about the town
While A2 is more inaccessible reading-wise than the other games I chose here, and I have read various valid and interesting critiques of the plot, it’s not like this is a unique problem – there are plenty of popular JRPGS with complex writing/reading (Nier Automata, Final Fantasy 10, etc).
Someone said the story in Anodyne 2 is confusing, and, besides the fact that it is remarkably straightforward, have you played Dark Souls (which I love) and see what *that* game’s vague story gets away with being praised for?
To me, it seems like those other games generally have more complex requirements and expectations. Anodyne 2 on the other hand is much more relatively beginner friendly, other than having a lot of words to read.
In conclusion, it may be better to say is that “Anodyne 2 feels unfamiliar, and may be uncomfortable *if* you’re looking for an experience similar to the more popular console games.”
If you’re reading this and did write a review saying niche or ‘not for everyone’… I’m not mad at you personally, please don’t worry! I just wanted to bring up this issue I’ve seen in a few places.
Okay, Sean’s lecture time over! Let’s end with a quick chart to summarize my points. Basically, I do think that what is “for everyone” and what is “not niche” is generally defined by what is selling the most and the most heavily ingrained in our culture, but I find it more valuable to redefine or interrogate what those terms mean.
Well, let’s end this with some reviews I quite liked reading.
- Rebind.io https://www.rebind.io/from-dust-to-dust-previewing-anodyne-2-2239/
- Nitro Rad’s video review https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCMPWxuWkiM
- indiehellzone https://indiehellzone.com/2019/08/14/anodyne-2-return-to-dust/
- Eurogamer https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2019-08-08-anodyne-2-return-to-dust-review
- Vice https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/vb5g83/anodyne-2-zelda-3d-adventure
- This resetera thread https://www.resetera.com/threads/anodyne-2-is-the-best-2019-game-you-probably-arent-playing.137967/
- This nice twitter thread https://twitter.com/griffski/status/1163553206569439236
- PC Gamer https://www.pcgamer.com/in-anodyne-2s-3d-world-characters-have-2d-interiors-of-their-own/?utm_content=buffer5ea56&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=buffer-pcgamertw
- The hundreds of positive reviews on Steam!
- Everyone’s really nice tweets!!
And some reviews of the OST, a first for me!
- Not a review, but I really enjoy whenever a song of mine is added to SupraDarky’s “Best VGM” playlist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcPvMbGpka0
Other than that, I did prepare a bunch of data on sales… but nowadays I feel uncomfortable with that level of transparency. So I haven’t decided what/how much data to share, but I will say (giving vague ranges)
- We’ve sold between 1k-10k copies across all platforms
- Our Steam wishlist to first week sales conversion rate was about 0.2 (in case you’ve read Jake Birkett’s blog posts)
- We did a coupon campaign for owners of Anodyne 1 getting discounts on Anodyne 2, where possible. In particular on Steam it drove a lot of sales so I’d recommend it.
- We paid off our development costs already (a number in-between $40-90k)
- We’re not, and are nowhere near being indie millionaires
- We do have middle/upper class backgrounds and should be held accountable for that, should we ever accumulate a ridiculous amount of money or power. I’ve recently amassed a sizeable twitter following so I’m still learning the best way to handle using that outlet since I’m not in the promotional phase for one of my games anymore. My current intuition is it would be better to put our money towards existing game organizing efforts (rebind.io, other criticism sites, perhaps localization funds for non-English games), versus building up Analgesic Productions (our company.)