In July, Sold Out Games announced their stunning looking walking-simulator/adventure game The Occupation would release October 9, 2018. The news was carried not on the back of a tough work-horse, nor the wings of a thousand doves, only a single press release. No official announcement on their website or blog, just the date being added as if it had always been there.
October 9 was yesterday at the time of this posting. You may notice the game isn’t out though, despite the Steam page still listing October 9th as its release. Well, go to the Steam discussion page, click on the top thread there, and you’ll find a moderator linking you to developer White Paper Games’ blog. The top post there is announcing a delay for The Occupation. It’s no longer coming out October 9, or in October at all, or even this year. Instead, we have to wait until February 5, 2019.
There’s no mention of this anywhere on the internet except this obscure blog post, which only has three “note” on Tumblr. Developer White Paper Games and their publishers Humble Bundle and Sold Out have forgotten to mention this delay to anybody. A move not at all surprising, considering White Paper Games never announced the game’s release date themselves, it was their publisher. Nor was an announcement made for the game’s first delay, pushed from late 2017 to 2018 by way of a subtle edit on their website.
What Even is This Even?
There’s a good chance this is the first time you’ve ever even heard of The Occupation. It’s not a well-known, highly anticipated indie darling, and has only gained interest because IGN featured the first 15 minutes of the game in a video. Again, Humble Bundle, owned by IGN, is one of the game’s publishers, so naturally they’ll push the game.
The Occupation looks and sounds stunning. Just going by the visuals and the elaborate scenario the game presents, you could be forgiven for thinking this is a AAA game. If this is the first time you’ve stumbled upon this game, here’s a basic rundown:
It’s 1980’s Britain and there was a devastating terrorist attack in London. Now the government is just four hours away from voting on the “Union Act,” which they say will prevent future terror attacks, but in truth gives authorities the right to freely spy on citizens. You play as a freelance journalist assigned to cover the terror attack, but learn the real threat is the Union Act, and must gather evidence to stop the bill from passing.
Here’s the thing though: that “four hours away from going to a vote” thing isn’t just a narrative device. You only have four real-time hours to find sufficient evidence to stop the vote, or convince British MP’s to vote against it. There’s where your decision making comes into play, and how this various from most walking-simulators.
Marketing and PR 101
The Occupation has been largely kept under wraps since it was announced in 2017. This is nothing new, as video game developers all shroud their games in mystery and plug up leaks as if they were protecting nuclear codes. For AAA games, it doesn’t matter. They’ve got the marketing to overcome any problem the game might have. But for indie games, that level of secrecy is a killer.
Indie games rely on word-of-mouth marketing, and the biggest killer in this kind of guerilla marketing is a lack of interest. Right now, there are two camps of people when it comes to The Occupation: those who have never heard of the game, and those who have been waiting for so long and are so put off by the constant delays and lack of updates that they’re losing interest. You can see it in the very thread where the page’s moderated posted the link to the blog.
The Scourge of Apathy
How can you blame them? The game has been delayed twice now, and in neither instance was it ever communicated to the public. The same thing happened with YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG. We interviewed the developers last year who told us the game was closed, we had it listed in our most anticipated indie games of 2018 video, and we’ve heard about it being finished for months now on the developer’s Twitter. Yet, for whatever reason, the game has been in a holding pattern, unavailable for months and months with no concrete news. We’ve heard how it’s done and dusted and how we’re going to get a release date any day now for just as long. Yet nothing is happening. The game is just being forgotten by more and more people every day.
The same thing is now happening with The Occupation. Whether this is the fault of White Paper Games themselves or their publishers is irrelevant. Whoever is to blame for the game’s poor publicity is only hurting the game itself. From what we’ve seen and heard, it could be a great game, yet because White Paper Games or their publisher refuses to face the public about its delays, it may end up being another forgotten classic.