Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons shouldn’t have been a success. It’s a small title from Starbreeze Studios, a company more commonly associated with big games like Syndicate and Payday 2 than whimsical indie titles. The game’s controls are odd, too; in Brothers, each side of the gamepad guides a different character, allowing gamers to control both Naiee and Nyaa, simultaneously. It’s intentionally awkward, and should’ve turned off gamers immediately
Yet somehow, the whole thing works. The controls come into their own later in the game, when they’re used to create a profoundly emotional experience, and the game’s charming fairy-tale aesthetic quickly takes a turn into something much darker and more mature.
The public noticed, too. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons won Downloadable Game of the Year at the 17th annual DICE awards, and was nominated for a number of other categories, including Achievement in Game Direction and Achievement in Story. Many critics called Brothers a must-play game, and people listened; since its release in fall 2013, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons has sold over 800,000 copies. Those aren’t Grand Theft Auto numbers, but they’re perfectly respectable for an artsy game based on a brand-new IP.
Given the way the game ends, it’s hard to imagine a sequel, but publisher 505 Games clearly has something in the works: they just bought Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons from Starbreeze for a cool $500,000. The sale covers the game itself, as well as all related domain names and trademarks, essentially giving 505 – who published the original title – full control of the Brothers IP.
Andersson Klint, CEO of Starbreeze, seems pleased about the sale, noting that Starbreeze can now focus exclusively on “expansive design” games like Payday. As for what 505 has planned, executives aren’t saying, although President Ian Howe hints that he’s got something up his sleeve:
This acquisition reflects 505 Games’ stated strategy of owning and controlling its own IP, and, moreover, IP that can contribute something meaningful to the world of interactive entertainment.
For what it’s worth, the sale does not include the Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons creative team. Brothers director (and acclaimed filmmaker) Josef Fares recently opened his own studio, Hazelight, alongside a few of the other Brothers developers.
Hazelight teased its first title at The Game Awards last December with a moody trailer, but released no details about the story or gameplay. The new game, which will be published by Electronic Arts, won’t be coming out any time soon; Fares estimates that development still has around two years to go.