In 2001, in the country of Netherlands a video game company was born: Two Tribes. Their debut game was Toki Tori, a Game Boy Color puzzle platformer that was originally noted for being one of the last releases on the system, but later was praised as a great game. Two Tribes would continue to develop games for the next 15 years, sometimes making sequels to existing franchise, like Worms: Open Warfare 2 while other times they helped with ports such as bringing Swords & Soldiers to the Nintendo Wii U. They also made their own original games, like cube-based puzzle games (and stuck with caps lock on) EDGE and RUSH.
In 2013 Two Tribes finally made a sequel to their debut game with Toki Tori 2. Yet despite a generally good reception, the game didn’t sell. Ports to the Nintendo Wii U and PlayStation 4 didn’t help it, an updated re-release named Toki Tori 2+ didn’t sell, and at last an iOS port was canceled. Before 2013 ended Two Tribes had to lay off the majority of their staff and declare bankruptcy. The company did survive in the end, but clearly something was wrong.
Two Tribes has one more game planned. Its been described as their dream game, and now is also their swan song of sorts. RIVE is a fast-paced platformer shooter hybrid. In RIVE you’ll be taking on swarms of enemies and giant bosses, and utilizing a hacking mechanic to take control of enemies and gain access to new areas with them. It’s explosive, loud, and not quite the normal thing you’d see out of Two Tribes, but it’s clear they’re putting their hearts into it.
But what about Two Tribes? Well they spent a long time talking about their exit from the game industry. They claim that things changed around 2008, when digital distribution became huge, the ability to self-publish games was a reality, and game development became easier with pre-made engines. At first they thrived, and there was early success on Steam, WiiWare, and iOS.
Then Toki Tori 2 happened. During the two years they were making it the game industry changed a lot. By the time it came out in 2013 there was all sorts of new competition. They claim things like Humble Bundle, free to play games, and the flood of new developers with a “race to the bottom” in prices meant that Toki Tori 2 couldn’t get any traction. Their insistence on utilizing an in-house engine meant that their engine was noticeably not as good as something like Unity or Unreal yet was harder to use. The change to the way of marketing requiring interacting with new media like Twitch and Youtube escaped them leaving them with no understanding of how to get traction there. Lastly, they admit they were just uncomfortable making anything that strays from traditional pricing and business strategy of releasing a game for sale and seeing how it did.
Two Tribes will still be a company, but they’re done with making games. Discussing it they say that it’s just not a business they can keep up with anymore. The games may be fine, but their ability to stay on top of the market is not. While they have yet to decide what their future plans are, they are moving on and hopefully to something that works out better for them. They plan to keep supporting the games they have already released, as well as working with their partners going forward as they look ahead to whatever their next project may be.
RIVE is releasing September 2016 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Wii U, and on Steam. There is no current price point for it.
No one wants to see a game studio shut down, but the good news is that Two Tribes can choose to do this rather than be forced closed due to a lack of money. I don’t have much experience with their games, but I was into EDGE for a while and actually brought it into a game design class as an example of puzzle game mechanics. Whatever Two Tribes’ next venture is I hope all employees the best and I’m looking forward to RIVE.