Blaming A ‘Hate Campaign’ For 2023’s Biggest Failed Game Downplays A Huge Gaming Problem
Fntastic only has itself to blame.
The Day Before was one of the biggest gaming debacles of 2023, and despite shutting down shortly after launch, it’s back to further complicate the story in 2024. Developer Fntastic took to social media early on January 24 to combat what it calls “misinformation” about the game and company, but its statement only raises more questions.
Fntastic did not immediately respond to Inverse’s request for comment.
In its new statement, Fntastic defends itself from accusations that The Day Before was a scam and that Fntastic deceived its publisher. It also blames the game’s failure on “the negative bias instilled by certain bloggers making money on hate.”
As the statement points out, Fntastic did not use crowdfunding or take preorders for The Day Before, and it offered refunds to players who purchased the game within the four days that it was available. It also says that The Day Before didn’t affect the developer’s relationship with publisher Mytona. Mytona did not immediately respond to Inverse’s request for comment.
While Fntastic did return the money it got from players, the rest of its statement is a bit harder to take in good faith. According to Fntastic, the only people who made money on The Day Before were pesky “certain bloggers,” who “made huge money by creating false content with huge titles from the very beginning to gain views and followers, exploiting the lack of information about the game’s development.” I certainly wasn’t aware that bloggers are making “huge money” writing about games, but the statement is clearly playing on widespread antipathy toward the media that’s been simmering since Gamergate to draw attention away from the publisher.
It’s true that there was a surprising lack of information about The Day Before leading up to its release, but the only thing keeping Fntastic from releasing more information was Fntastic itself. The developer repeatedly delayed trailers and held off on sharing much about the game publicly until just before release. It’s also true that public perception of The Day Before was largely negative in the months before launch, but again, that feels less like a smear campaign than people reacting to what seemed like a suspicious lack of concrete details about the game.
When Fntastic did show off The Day Before, players claimed that gameplay and even specific voiceover lines in the trailer seemed to be pulled from trailers of other games, like Cyberpunk 2077 and The Division. Its reputation wasn’t helped by the reveal that the studio was using unpaid labor along with its paid employees to make The Day Before. Well before its eventual release, accusations were already flying that The Day Before was a scam, with many players skeptical that it would ever see the light of day.
But the game did eventually launch, getting universally panned by critics and receiving overwhelmingly negative reviews on Steam. Along with a host of other problems including rampant bugs, it turned out that The Day Before wasn’t even an MMO, as its developer had previously claimed. Just four days later, Fntastic announced that it was shutting down, and that servers for The Day Before would go offline 45 days after launch. As for how the game went so dramatically wrong, Fntastic offered the reassuring statement that, “Sh-t happens.”
Given all that, the nefarious actions of “certain bloggers” seem like the least of The Day Before’s problems. Fntastic points to a stream from Dr Disrespect, of all people, as an example of “unbiased gameplay” and claims that plenty of players — themselves as anonymous as the cabal of bloggers who brought the game down — wrote to the developer to say how much they liked the game.
Fntastic's statement isn’t out of line for communication from the developer, which has a history of distorting the truth. What makes it so objectionable is how it raises the specter of a “hate campaign” to explain the game’s failings. Actual hate campaigns are extremely common in development, with highly publicized harassment against the Sony Santa Monica Studio developers and Destiny 2 devs at Bungie in recent years.
The most recent GDC State of the Game Industry survey found that 91 percent of developers see harassment by players as a serious issue, with most of the hate directed at women and developers in the LGBTQ+ community. In many cases, it goes far beyond expressing hurtful comments about a game and into actual threats against developers.
Nowhere in its statement does Fntastic even allude to a situation like that, instead relying on the vague insinuation that members of the media and content creators just had it out for the developer and decided to ruin its reputation in undisclosed ways for unknown reasons. It’s simply not representative of how hate and harassment work in the real world, and plays into resentments that a section of the gaming audience already has against the media.
“We are grateful to all the senders of mails who expressed support and appealed not to give up and to continue our work,” Fntastic writes at the end of its statement. “Finally, we encourage you to subscribe to our social networks to know what will happen next.”
With Fntastic insisting that the studio was dissolved after the release of The Day Before, it’s not clear what that could mean. But given the saga that’s unfolded so far, anything the developer says should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism.