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In-depth: The decision to un-publish Afro Samurai 2 and refund buyers

Versus Evil has yanked the game down from the PlayStation Network and Steam, and is completely refunding all customers who purchased the game -- general manager Steve Escalante explains.

Last week it emerged that not only is publisher Versus Evil is cancelling further development of Afro Samurai 2 (a planned slate of new chapters has been axed) but is going so far as to yank the game down from the PlayStation Network and Steam, and to completely refund all customers who purchased the game.

The game has been labeled a "failure" by Versus Evil general manager Steve Escalante, who speaks to Gamasutra in further depth about the decision to pull the game and refund consumers, and why it makes sense for his company despite the cost.

Is Versus Evil refunding people who bought the game?

Yes. The refunds will be handled directly by the retailer that people bought their game from.

Is Versus Evil giving money back to external funders/investors? If so, who? 

Versus Evil is the SOLE funder and investor. We paid for the entire development, marketing, testing and licensing of this project so we are very much aware of the financial impact of this decision. 

For a small company like Versus Evil this means we are consciously deciding to make no money back on this game. But we are Versus Evil, which was set up to have relationships with our partners and developers that is transparent, friendly and mutually beneficial. Simply put this must extend to our customers, otherwise it’s just an empty ideal.

How can the company afford to do refund people?

The nature of a refund is you are giving customers their money back, however there are still other costs associated to this decision that will hit Versus Evil. Regardless of this, we are accepting of our losses and feel it’s the right thing to do. 

Were very few copies purchased?

Given the game quality was not what people were expecting, it didn’t sell like hot cakes, let’s just put it like that. Fans still bought it despite the negative reviews from press and consumers and we are not the company that will simply say, “they bought it, they didn’t like it, that’s tough.” That’s not who Versus Evil is.

Have you figured out how Sony / Valve will facilitate these publisher-driven refunds?

Once Versus Evil decided to do this, we needed to understand exactly how this was to be done. We immediately began working with our partners on the best course of action. Some of this has already been put into action.  We will have a section on our website to explain to people how they can get their money returned.

Why’d Versus Evil believe it’d be worse to leave the game up, rather than pulling it down completely?

The nature of this business is that you will have good games and bad games released. Our goal as an indie publisher is to release quality games, even more specifically the games the developers want to create. Some of these are niche games that we know up front will only sell so many copies. That’s okay; we just need to go into it with that understanding. 

There are some companies that will release tons of products in the hope and desire that one of them will “stick.” I would rather launch a handful of titles that we are proud of and can stand out amongst a very creative, very competitive indie development market. Despite best efforts, Afro Samurai did not meet the quality standards that we require, and as a result, we cannot in good conscience proceed with our planned future content releases. Leaving it up there just wasn’t part of this decision.

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