‘Animal Well’ Demonstrates What Gaming Stands to Lose Amid Indie Studio Closures

Animal Well also comes at a turbulent time for the game industry. Outfits like Gastrow’s and developers like Basso are getting hit hard. Every month this year has included new headline-making layoffs at big game companies, while smaller studios without the name recognition have faded away quietly or gone on some kind of “hiatus.”

Even indies that have been acquired by major publishers are struggling. Two days before Animal Well’s release, Microsoft announced it would shutter several studios, including Tango Gameworks, best known for the beloved Hi-Fi Rush.

Animal Well has started its life as something of an endangered species. Perhaps that’s why efforts to protect the game and its secrets feel so urgent. It is, unfortunately, impossible to talk about what makes its post-game so good without ruining it, and every other post on its subreddit seems to be diligently marked with a spoiler tag as a result. Even as new gamers discover it, they’re implored to participate, and keep mum.

Sure, this is a lot to hoist onto one title. Hades II’s early-access release, for example, generated as much, if not more, excitement. But coming at a rough time for scrappy upstarts, its success—universal acclaim and a time as a top seller—looks like survival of the fittest.