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The Days Before This Day In The Day Before

The rise and fall and fall and fall of a video game

Fntastic, the studio behind the highly-anticipated game The Day Before, announced on Monday that it’s shutting down following the game’s launch ::checks:: last week. This is not the 2023 story we’re used to, where a bunch of developers work hard on something only to be kneecapped by corporate greed. How did we get here?

Below is a timeline of events. Let’s go on a journey.

January 2021

The Day Before gets an announcement trailer, calling itself an “open world survival game.” It has some Last of Us zombie outbreak vibes, as well as some Division multiplayer-in-a-destroyed-city vibes, and it looks pretty good! It’s from the studio behind survival game The Wild Eight, which I played a little of in 2017 because it’s a survival game with snow, and also behind a multiplayer horror game called Propnight. The trailer says “coming soon.” 

The Day Before quickly becomes Steam’s most wishlisted game, which means a lot of people are really excited about it. It eventually gets a release date of June 2022. Normal video game stuff!

April 2021

Fntastic shows off 13 minutes of the game, still heavy on the Last of Us x Division vibes. Oh boy, a video game! Spoilers: it’s the last anyone will see of the game itself for a while.

May 2022

Fntastic tells IGN that the game is moving to Unreal Engine 5, but that means it will be delayed to March 2023. That’s a pretty long delay, but not terribly unusual for video games post 2020. Nothing to see here!

June 2022

Now things start to get spicy. It comes to light that Fntastic is using volunteer labor to make the game. While its site says “every Fntastic member is a volunteer,” it also notes that “full-time volunteers work for salaries,” which is called being employed. Part-time volunteers, meanwhile, “get cool rewards, participation certificates, and free codes.” Fans aren’t super psyched about this, needless to say. 

January 2023

Barely a month before its proposed launch, Fntastic promises to show some more footage, telling folks in its Discord that “This footage will showcase a majority of the features and gameplay elements requested by our community and will provide a clear glimpse into the current state of development." People are eager to see the game, especially since so much of it–such as the answers to questions like whether it will have quests, or what kinds of vehicles might be available– is shrouded in mystery.

But before that can happen, Fntastic announces that “Steam blocked our game page at the request of a private individual, because of the name The Day Before” and that the game will be delayed to November 10. The claim was apparently filed by a Korean calendar app (good name for an app, though!). 

Making things even weirder, two days later, Fntastic tells IGN that “we planned to move the game's release before and plan to announce it… in a 10-minute gameplay video… And then you all know what happened.” So was a delay always in the works and Fntastic was just building up hype for it (not a great plan, if you ask me), or had the trademark controversy pushed things back and Fntastic was just trying to save face? 

The mystery raises a lot of eyebrows among eager fans, with many beginning to wonder (or continuing to wonder) whether the whole game is just a scam, given how little anyone has actually seen of it and how little information Fntastic has provided about what's actually in it. The developers note to IGN that “We didn't take a penny from people: no crowdfunding, no pre-orders, no donations,” something they will remind fans of a lot in the coming months.

February 2023

But then, a twist: the gameplay reveal is back on! Fntastic promises a “10-minute gameplay extravaganza,” oh boy!

But what fans eventually get doesn’t quite meet their expectations. Fans find the trailer boring and derivative, not the kind of stuff you’d expect for something so hotly anticipated and so long in development. The game’s UI is underbaked or missing altogether, and while the trailer ends with the exhortation to wishlist on Steam, fans of course can not wishlist it on Steam, since there still isn’t a Steam page, because of the whole calendar app thing.

Fans also point out the trailer’s similarity to other trailers, notably Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Fntastic eventually tweets that “we all live in a time of disinformation… Anyone can say anything for views, and everyone will believe it.”

Meanwhile, the game’s videos are also delisted from YouTube, seemingly as part of this whole copyright saga. In the future, this will prove very annoying for me, specifically, but I digress.

April 2023

Fntastic promises a beta test, though no window for when it might occur. Definitely a thing a real video game that is definitely going to launch does.

August 2023

It seems like the game is looking for a new title, itself already the title of a book series. OK then!

November 2023

The Day Before comes back to Steam as The Day Before, but announces another delay, this time promising to launch in early access in December. “Full version release will happen when we are certain this is the best version of the game possible,” Fntastic tweets optimistically, alongside a price reveal of $39 for early access and $49 upon full release. 

An early access trailer features a deeply off-putting computerized voice. Fans note that the trailer’s language contains similarities to language used in trailers for Cyberpunk 2077 and Red Dead Redemption 2. Hhhmm!

December 2023

On December 4, Fntastic makes a deeply weird but impassioned tweet called “Revelations from Fntastic.” In it, the company denies that the game is a scam or an asset flip, apologizing for “not doing the best marketing and teasers” and reiterating that “we didn’t take a penny from anyone.” In a statement directed at “a person who didn’t believe in us,” Fntastic writes, “We accept any kind of criticism and don’t hold a grudge against you.” The company thanks supporters for “protecting us from injustice and fakes.” 

On December 7, the game finally launches in Steam early access. Players aren’t happy: many of its “mostly negative” Steam reviews outright call it a scam. Players accuse it of not being the promised open-world survival game,  but rather an empty and broken extraction shooter. On the one hand, it’s a letdown after so many years of hype; on the other, insert “I don’t know what I expectedArrested Development meme.

Simon Carless tweets sales data purportedly from Fntastic’s CEO citing that the game has 201,076 Steam purchases and 91,694 returns, which is not great!

And that brings us to today, when Fntastic announces it’s shutting down. The company writes, “The Day Before has failed financially, and we lack the funds to continue… It’s important to note that we didn’t take any money from the public during the development of The Day Before; there were no pre-orders or crowdfunding campaigns… We apologize if we didn’t meet your expectations. We did everything within our power, but unfortunately, we miscalculated our capabilities. Creating games is an incredibly challenging endeavor.”

Fntastic says “the future of The Day Before and Propnight remain unknown, but the servers will remain operational.”

And there you have it! The whole thing is a bit of a headscratcher to me; as Fntastic repeatedly notes, it didn’t take anyone’s money in pre-release, so if it was always meant to be a scam, it wasn't a very lucrative one on its face, unless there’s something going on behind the scenes. I’m prone to believe the developers just got in over their heads, but then again, they have a track record of releasing games, so that theory doesn’t hold much water. We’ll just have to wait to see what the next iteration of the saga brings.

Update 12/22/23, 9:30am: The next iteration of the saga is here. Fntastic tweeted this morning that it has "officially ceased operations, and as a result The Day Before will be retired and the servers will be turned off on 22 January 20234."

Fntastic notes that "Steam will now proactively refund all remaining players" if they haven't asked for a refund already.

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